ISO/IEC 15504

Title/definition: ISO/IEC 15504 (SPICE)
The basics: ISO/IEC 15504 Information technology — Process assessment, also known as SPICE (Software Process Improvement and Capability DEtermination) describes a generic framework for process assessment.
A working group was formed in 1993 to draft the international standard and used the acronym SPICE: Software Process Improvement and Capability DEtermination. The subsequent standard, ISO/IEC 15504, is owned by the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
The first versions of the standard focused exclusively on software development processes. This was expanded to cover all related processes in a software business, for example, project management, configuration management, quality assurance, and so on. In a major revision to the draft standard in 2004, the process reference model (Part 2) was removed and is now related to ISO/IEC 12207 (Software Lifecycle Processes).The issued standard now specifies the measurement framework and can use different process reference models. The processes cover six business areas:
·         Organization;
·         Management;
·         Engineering;
·         Acquisition and supply;
·         Support;
·         Operations.
ISO/IEC 15504 comprises six documents (known as Parts). The following parts are available as of January 2012:
Part 1: Concepts and vocabulary
Part 3: Guidance on performing an assessment
Part 4: Guidance on use for process improvement and process capability determination
Part 5: An exemplar Process Assessment Model
Part 6: An exemplar system life cycle process assessment model
Part 7: Assessment of organizational maturity
The standard is often compared to CMMI. They are similar, but there are some significant differences:·         Several processes in ISO/IEC 15504 have no direct equivalent in CMMI (Operation, Audit, Management, Infrastructure and Reuse)·         Organizational capability is explicitly described in CMMI in terms of maturity levels, whereas ISO/IEC 15504 offers a continuous representation in which organizational maturity is implicit in the processes
Target audience:
Quality managers, IT assessors, IT auditors and IT consultants
The scope comprises software development processes and all related processes in a software business.
Strengths and pitfalls:
ISO/IEC 15504 is publicly available through National Standards Bodies;·
It has the support of the international community;·
More than 4000 assessments have been performed to date;·
Major sectors are leading the pace such as automotive, space and medical systems with industry relevant variants;·
Domain-specific models like Automotive SPICEand SPICE 4 SPACE can be derived from it;·
There have been many international initiatives to support take-up such as SPICE for small companies.
ISO/IEC 15504 has not yet been as successful as the CMMI. There may be several reasons for this to be the case:
·         ISO/IEC 15504 is not available as free download but must be purchased from the International Standards Organization (ISO) website;·
CMM and CMMI are available as free downloads from the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) website;·
CMMI is actively sponsored (by the US Department of Defense);·
CMM was created first, and reached critical 'market' share before ISO 15504 became available;·
CMM has subsequently been replaced by CMMI, which incorporates many of the ideas of ISO/IEC 15504, but also retains the benefits of the CMM.
Relevant links (web links):
More information is found at the International Standards Organization (ISO) and SPICE User Group websites.

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