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Software Engineering in Startup Companies
Software Engineering in Startup Companies

The discussion about software engineering in the special environment of startup companies continues with a focus on the software life cycle model and the tracking of requirements.

Software Life Cycles
According to classical software engineering (SE), the development of software takes place in stages. Each stage has distinct outputs, which can be tested before you proceed to the next stage. They are:

  • Analysis: The problem and requirements for a solution are identified. Main output: Software requirements document.
  • Design: A software system is designed to fulfill the previously identified requirements. Main output: High- and low-level design documents.
  • Implementation/coding: The software system is implemented according to the previously defined design. Main output: Source code.
  • Testing: Individual components as well as the entire system are tested for fulfillment of the requirements identified during the analysis stage. Main output: Test results.

    Numerous models that describe the arrangement of the individual stages and the feedback among them have been suggested. These are called the software life cycle models. Some examples are the waterfall model, spiral model and incremental model, which are thoroughly discussed in SE literature (for example, Software Engineering: A Practitioner's Approach, 4th ed., by R. Pressman, McGraw-Hill).

    Consciously following a life cycle model lends structure to an otherwise amorphous effort. When you can identify the end of a stage, you know the time has come to perform specific tests, tests that enable you to find errors at an early stage in the development process. A major design flaw that can be fixed with just a stroke of a pen during the design stage may require major recoding if discovered when the software's almost finished. It's therefore important to perform these tests not just at the end of the development effort, but rather from the beginning and throughout the process. A lifecycle model facilitates this.

    By testing the output of a stage, you provide a well-understood and firm foundation for the team to build on. Once such a foundation is set, it's not supposed to change. In the ideal case all team members know what to achieve next, since this was set forth in the previous stage in a nonambiguous manner.

    In a startup company, however, the software life cycle is usually not well ordered. Markets develop swiftly, and requirements change even long after the analysis stage has supposedly been completed. Time and time again the engineering department finds itself under pressure to do whatever it takes to provide new features originally not planned.

    Is there a lifecycle model that not only works under these conditions but also helps to improve them? Of the many models developed, the incremental model seems to lend itself most closely to the way a startup company operates, but it requires a few modifications.

    As you can see in Figure 1, individual releases of the software are developed in a "pipelined" fashion. In theory this allows the rapid release of new features for your software. The incremental model works well for conventional companies operating in established markets, which use it to reduce the complexity of an individual release. Many of the features for the next releases are already known through market observation, feedback from customers of other products, established marketing channels and so forth. The more established companies also have the resources to maintain multiple parallel development streams.

    The startup reality renders this model impractical. Hiring qualified personnel is particularly difficult for a startup. It's unrealistic to assume that you'll hire a team of experienced analysts at the very beginning, followed first by designers and then by developers. In theory, software engineers should be able to handle all phases of product development. Unfortunately, the proliferation of this title throughout the industry has greatly reduced its value. Many people who call themselves software engineers really don't have a thorough software engineering education and often their experience is only in coding and maybe some design. I am in the same situation and am still learning. So while you can find many software engineers, those with the necessary skills, training and experience for all product-development stages are few and far between.

    The overall head count in your company is likely to be very low for an initial period, only to increase quite rapidly later on. Thus, in the beginning, each developer is also in the position of analyst as well as designer. Obviously, given the lack of personnel, you may not be able to do the analysis for the next release during the design phase of the first release. You have neither enough resources nor sufficient market feedback to begin the development cycle of the second release right away. After all, you haven't even released the first version of your product. Occasional feedback is passed on to you by marketing and sales, gathered from discussions with potential customers. But you won't get true customer feedback until you've shipped the first version to beta customers. Compared to established markets that provide a brightly illuminated playing field, a startup operates in the dark.

    During analysis - and design - you may have to perform research to prove technical concepts or ideas on which you plan to base your product. This may be done in the form of a prototype, which provides feedback for the analysis and design stage, adding complexity to the initial development stages.

    Quickly developing markets, initially missing customer feedback and lack of resources as well as analysis and design stages influenced by research lead me to suggest a modified incremental life-cycle model for startup companies.

    As Figure 2 indicates, analysis, research and design are intertwined for the first release. Analysis for the second release begins at a later stage when two conditions have been met:
    1. Requirements for the next release are available.
    2. Enough new developers have been hired to free the most senior developers to work with marketing on the analysis stage of the next release.

    The analysis for the second release starts after enough customer feedback has been collected to get a good feel for what the market wants. Without that feedback there's really no point in attempting to release yet another version of a product that may have had a lukewarm reception the first time around. The feedback is important and therefore needs to be properly analyzed and prioritized. You have to resist the temptation to stuff all requested features into the next release.

    Once you have a product on the market, you'll get a constant stream of requests. Thus, after the initial lag, you can start working on new releases earlier and earlier as staffing permits. The modified incremental life cycle model reflects this reality.

    Also note that the research component becomes less with each subsequent release. The reason is simply that you've established a core technology with the first release from which you'll continue to leverage. Yours is a commercial company, not a research lab. It's important for you not to have too much research in the critical path of your project as you progress, since research can't be scheduled properly.

    By keeping the first release small and simple, you'll receive market feedback sooner. Such early feedback is important to align the company and its product with the market. The longer it takes you to get feedback, the more time you spend developing "blind," in possibly the wrong direction. Provide the core functionality in the first release. The market will let you know in which direction to go. Potential customers are often willing to negotiate now if the fancy feature they want can be promised to them in an upcoming release. This lifecycle model sets you up for quick releases to satisfy customers without having to drastically change the requirements for an ongoing development cycle.

    Tracking Requirements
    As we discussed in the first part of this series (JDJ, Vol. 3, Issue 7), the analysis stage will not be as rigorous as classical SE would suggest. Many requirements are not known at all, or at least are not understood enough to formulate them in a quantifiable manner.

    Yet it's important not to drop a requirement accidentally through simple oversight. Consequently you have to track as many requirements as possible and as completely as possible. The traditional tool used for this task is the "traceability matrix."

    The matrix is essentially a table. The individual requirements are written from top to bottom and hence label the rows. The individual development stages (analysis, design, implementation, testing) are written from left to right and label the columns. Each cell of the table contains a record of where and how the requirement was addressed in that stage. For the development of product documentation, either a similar table should be created or documentation should become an additional column in the matrix.

    At the end of each development stage each requirement should be checked to see whether it has been addressed during that stage. A look at the table will reveal any omissions, which would be very costly to fix in later stages of product development. Such a matrix can save time and money.

    A traceability matrix will provide a company with an important benefit. Since the matrix records the trace of each requirement throughout the development stages, it shows the team which aspects of the product are affected by requirement changes. If the actual design and implementation takes place in a modular fashion, exhibiting low coupling and high cohesion (see the previously mentioned article), chances are that only those aspects of the product mentioned in that feature's matrix row need to be modified. As discussed earlier, flexibility and quick turnaround is a key point, especially for startup companies. The traceability matrix will facilitate such fast reaction times.

    Startups have two particular problems with maintaining a traceability matrix. First, as already mentioned, not all requirements are known and not all are quantified. The requirement itself may thus have to be formulated in a very unspecific manner, making it difficult to fill the matrix cells with precise information. In that case the matrix should still be maintained. Unquantified requirements should be marked and revisited as soon as more information becomes available. When that occurs the matrix will aid in identifying those parts of the product that need to be tested to see whether the modified requirement is still fulfilled.

    The second startup difficulty with traceability matrices is the work required to maintain them. On complex products a very detailed matrix can fill hundreds if not thousands of pages. Clearly, a compromise needs to be made here. For starters, in many cases it doesn't have to be one monolithic matrix covering the whole product. Even though a complete matrix is always recommended to achieve product completeness, a company might choose to have each team maintain its own matrices. The requirements within one subcomponent or project are identified and listed in a matrix. Maintaining such a smaller matrix is naturally a much less resource-intensive task. On the downside, overall product requirements may suddenly be listed in the matrices of several product teams. In that case some communication overhead is required to keep these matrices in sync.

    One might also choose to leave some of the requirements generally undefined and untraced. This is not at all ideal, but may be necessary due to a lack of resources. In that case the matrix should be limited to requirements that somehow have been deemed more critical than others. This method is risky since it again allows some requirements to be forgotten or not to be traceable if a change is required.

    A traceability matrix is a powerful tool to ensure product completeness and a quick trace of a feature's "footprint" within the product. Even though startup companies are likely to compromise on some aspects of the matrix, it's highly recommended to keep it as complete as possible. The payoffs are significant.

    Design, implementation and change control will be the topic of the next installment in this series.

    About Juergen Brendel
    Juergen Brendel is a software architect at Resonate Inc.

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    Solgenia

    GORBA-
    CHEV

    Intelligent
    Systems

    THYKAT-
    TIL

    Navisite

    TRELOAR
    Bebaio

    SIVARAMA-
    KRISHNAN

    Red Hat
    Cloud Expo New York All-Star Speakers Included

    DE SOUZA
    Cisco

    POTTER
    SafeLogic

    ROBINSON
    CompTIA

    WARUSA
    -WITHANA

    WSO2 Inc

    MEINER
    Oracle

    CHOU
    Microsoft

    HARRISON
    Tufin

    BRUNOZZI
    VMware

    KIM
    MapR

    KANE
    Dyn

    SICULAR
    Basho

    TURNER
    Cloudian

    KUMAR
    Liaison

    ADAMIAK
    Liaison

    KHAN
    Solgenia

    BONIFAZI
    Solgenia

    SUSSMAN
    Coalfire

    ISAACSON
    RMS

    LYNN
    CodeFutures

    HEABERLIN
    Windstream

    RAMA
    MURTHY

    Virtusa

    BOSTOCK
    IndependenceIT

    DE MENO
    CommVault

    GRILLI
    Adobe

    WILLIAMS
    Rancher Labs

    CRISWELL
    Alert Logic

    COTY
    Alert Logic

    JACOBS
    SingleHop

    MARAVEI
    Cisco

    JACKSON
    Softlayer

    SINGH
    IBM

    HAZARD
    Softlayer

    GALLO
    Softlayer

    TAMASKAR
    GENBAND

    SUBRA
    -MANIAN

    Emcien

    LEVESQUE
    Windstream

    IVANOV
    StorPool

    BLOOM-
    BERG

    Intellyx

    BUDHANI
    Soha

    HATHAWAY
    IBM Watson

    TOLL
    ProfitBricks

    LANDRY
    Microsoft

    BEARFIELD
    Blue Box

    HERITAGE
    Akana

    PILUSO
    SIASMSP

    HOLT
    IBM Cloudant

    SHAN
    CTS

    PICCIN-
    INNI

    EMC

    BRON-
    GERSMA

    Modulus

    PAIGE
    CenturyLink

    SABHIKHI
    Cognitive Scale

    MILLS
    Green House Data

    KATZEN
    CenturyLink

    SLOPER
    CenturyLink

    SRINIVAS
    EMC

    TALREJA
    Cisco

    GORBACHEV
    Systems Services Inc.

    COLLISON
    Apcera

    PRABHU
    OpenCrowd

    LYNN
    CodeFutures

    SWARTZ
    Ericsson

    MOSHENKO
    CoreOS

    BERMING-
    HAM

    SIOS

    WILLIS
    Stateless Networks

    MURPHY
    Gridstore

    KHABE
    Vicom

    NIKOLOV
    GetClouder

    DIETZE
    Windstream

    DALRY-
    MPLE

    EnterpriseDB

    MAZZUCCO
    TierPoint

    RIVERA
    WHOA.com

    HERITAGE
    Akana

    SEYMOUR
    6fusion

    GIANNETTO
    Author

    CARTER
    IBM

    ROGERS
    Virtustream
    Cloud Expo Silicon Valley All-Star Speakers

    TESAR
    Microsoft

    MICKOS
    HP

    BHARGAVA
    Intel

    RILEY
    Riverbed

    DEVINE
    IBM

    ISAACSON
    CodeFutures

    LYNN
    HP

    HINKLE
    Citrix

    KHAN
    Solgenia

    SINGH
    Bigdata

    BEACH
    SendGrid

    BOSTOCK
    IndependenceIT

    DE SOUZA
    Cisco

    PATTATHIL
    Harbinger

    O'BRIEN
    Aria Systems

    BONIFAZI
    Solgenia

    BIANCO
    Solgenia

    PROCTOR
    NuoDB

    DUGGAL
    EnterpriseWeb

    TEGETHOFF
    Appcore

    BRUNOZZI
    VMware

    HICKENS
    Parasoft

    KLEBANOV
    Cisco

    PETERS
    Esri

    GOLDBERG
    Vormetric

    CUMBER-
    LAND

    Dimension

    ROSENDAHL
    Quantum

    LOOMIS
    Cloudant

    BRUNO
    StackIQ

    HANNON
    SoftLayer

    JACKSON
    SoftLayer

    HOCH
    Virtustream

    KAPADIA
    Seagate

    PAQUIN
    OnLive

    TSAI
    Innodisk

    BARRALL
    Connected Data

    SHIAH
    AgilePoint

    SEGIL
    Verizon

    PODURI
    Citrix

    COWIE
    Dyn

    RITTEN-
    HOUSE

    Cisco

    FALLOWS
    Kaazing

    THYKATTIL
    TimeWarner

    LEIDUCK
    SAP

    LYNN
    HP

    WAGSTAFF
    BSQUARE

    POLLACK
    AOL

    KAMARAJU
    Vormetric

    BARRY
    Catbird

    MENDEN-
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    SUPERNAP

    SHAN
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    Verizon

    BARNUM
    Voxox

    TURNER
    Cloudian

    CALDERON
    Advanced Systems

    AGARWAL
    SOA Software

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    Quantum

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    Concurrent, Inc.

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    Verizon

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    Autodesk

    CAUTHRON
    NIMBOXX

    BARSOUM
    IBM

    GORDON
    1Plug

    LEWIS
    Verizon

    YEO
    OrionVM

    NAKAGAWA
    Transparent Cloud Computing

    SHIBATA
    Transparent Cloud Computing

    NATH
    GE

    GOKCEN
    GE

    STOICA
    Databricks

    TANKEL
    Pivotal Software


    Testimonials
    This week I had the pleasure of delivering the opening keynote at Cloud Expo New York. It was amazing to be back in the great city of New York with thousands of cloud enthusiasts eager to learn about the next step on their journey to embracing a cloud-first worldl."
    @SteveMar_Msft
    General Manager of Window Azure
     
    How does Cloud Expo do it every year? Another INCREDIBLE show - our heads are spinning - so fun and informative."
    @SOASoftwareInc
     
    Thank you @ThingsExpo for such a great event. All of the people we met over the past three days makes us confident IoT has a bright future."
    Yasser Khan
    CEO of @Cnnct2me
     
    One of the best conferences we have attended in a while. Great job, Cloud Expo team! Keep it going."

    @Peak_Ten


    Who Should Attend?
    Senior Technologists including CIOs, CTOs & Vps of Technology, Chief Systems Engineers, IT Directors and Managers, Network and Storage Managers, Enterprise Architects, Communications and Networking Specialists, Directors of Infrastructure.

    Business Executives including CEOs, CMOs, & CIOs , Presidents & SVPs, Directors of Business Development , Directors of IT Operations, Product and Purchasing Managers, IT Managers.

    Download Cloud Expo Show Guide
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    Join Us as a Media Partner - Together We Can Rock the IT World!
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    To get involved, email Patricia Henderson at patricia@sys-con.com.

    @CloudExpo Blogs
    @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.
    All organizations that did not originate this moment have a pre-existing culture as well as legacy technology and processes that can be more or less amenable to DevOps implementation. That organizational culture is influenced by the personalities and management styles of Executive Management, the wider culture in which the organization is situated, and the personalities of key team members at all levels of the organization. This culture and entrenched interests usually throw a wrench in the works because of misaligned incentives.
    As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enterprise.
    DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Kevin Jackson joined the faculty of CloudEXPO's "10-Year Anniversary Event" which will take place on November 11-13, 2018 in New York City. Kevin L. Jackson is a globally recognized cloud computing expert and Founder/Author of the award winning "Cloud Musings" blog. Mr. Jackson has also been recognized as a "Top 100 Cybersecurity Influencer and Brand" by Onalytica (2015), a Huffington Post "Top 100 Cloud Computing Experts on Twitter" (2013) and a "Top 50 Cloud Computing Blogger for IT Integrators" by CRN (2015). Mr. Jackson's professional career includes...
    We all know that end users experience the internet primarily with mobile devices. From an app development perspective, we know that successfully responding to the needs of mobile customers depends on rapid DevOps – failing fast, in short, until the right solution evolves in your customers' relationship to your business. Whether you’re decomposing an SOA monolith, or developing a new application cloud natively, it’s not a question of using microservices - not doing so will be a path to eventual business failure. The real and more difficult question, in developing microservices-based applicatio...
    "We were founded in 2003 and the way we were founded was about good backup and good disaster recovery for our clients, and for the last 20 years we've been pretty consistent with that," noted Marc Malafronte, Territory Manager at StorageCraft, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
    We all know that end users experience the Internet primarily with mobile devices. From an app development perspective, we know that successfully responding to the needs of mobile customers depends on rapid DevOps – failing fast, in short, until the right solution evolves in your customers' relationship to your business. Whether you’re decomposing an SOA monolith, or developing a new application cloud natively, it’s not a question of using microservices – not doing so will be a path to eventual business failure.
    DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of computational needs for many industries. Their solutions provide benefits across many environments, ...
    Vulnerability management is vital for large companies that need to secure containers across thousands of hosts, but many struggle to understand how exposed they are when they discover a new high security vulnerability. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, John Morello, CTO of Twistlock, addressed this pressing concern by introducing the concept of the “Vulnerability Risk Tree API,” which brings all the data together in a simple REST endpoint, allowing companies to easily grasp the severity of the vulnerability. He provided attendees with actionable advice related to understanding and acting on e...
    More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smart's sake," and many brands remain in that corner. But many brands are also gradually opting for more ...
    As Cybric's Chief Technology Officer, Mike D. Kail is responsible for the strategic vision and technical direction of the platform. Prior to founding Cybric, Mike was Yahoo's CIO and SVP of Infrastructure, where he led the IT and Data Center functions for the company. He has more than 24 years of IT Operations experience with a focus on highly-scalable architectures.
    Headquartered in Plainsboro, NJ, Synametrics Technologies has provided IT professionals and computer systems developers since 1997. Based on the success of their initial product offerings (WinSQL and DeltaCopy), the company continues to create and hone innovative products that help its customers get more from their computer applications, databases and infrastructure. To date, over one million users around the world have chosen Synametrics solutions to help power their accelerated business or personal computing needs.
    The goal of Microservices is to improve software delivery speed and increase system safety as scale increases. Microservices being modular these are faster to change and enables an evolutionary architecture where systems can change, as the business needs change. Microservices can scale elastically and by being service oriented can enable APIs natively. Microservices also reduce implementation and release cycle time and enables continuous delivery. This paper provides a logical overview of the Microservices Reference Architecture that highlights various sub systems needed to support Microservic...
    Founded in 2000, Chetu Inc. is a global provider of customized software development solutions and IT staff augmentation services for software technology providers. By providing clients with unparalleled niche technology expertise and industry experience, Chetu has become the premiere long-term, back-end software development partner for start-ups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies. Chetu is headquartered in Plantation, Florida, with thirteen offices throughout the U.S. and abroad.
    Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
    In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and GM, will discuss how clients in this new era of innovation can apply data, technology, plus human in...
    Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogger and is a frequent speaker on the use of Big Data and data science to power the organization's key ...
    DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Dez Blanchfield joined the faculty of CloudEXPO's "10-Year Anniversary Event" which will take place on November 11-13, 2018 in New York City. Dez is a strategic leader in business and digital transformation with 25 years of experience in the IT and telecommunications industries developing strategies and implementing business initiatives. He has a breadth of expertise spanning technologies such as cloud computing, big data and analytics, cognitive computing, machine learning and the Internet of Things.
    Hiring a digital marketer starts as soon as you plan to launch a prototype of your innovative idea. But, without knowing anything about digital marketing, you may not be able to reach out to investors and target audiences. You can follow the following basic points to know the significance of digital marketing even if you are not doing it on your own.
    HyperConvergence came to market with the objective of being simple, flexible and to help drive down operating expenses. It reduced the footprint by bundling the compute/storage/network into one box. This brought a new set of challenges as the HyperConverged vendors are very focused on their own proprietary building blocks. If you want to scale in a certain way, let's say you identified a need for more storage and want to add a device that is not sold by the HyperConverged vendor, forget about it. This meant that up to now the HyperConverged vendors were in charge of the requirements.