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ISO 9126 is an international standard for the evaluation of software quality. The fundamental objective of this standard is to address some of the well known human biases that can adversely affect the delivery and perception of a software development project. These biases include changing priorities after the start of a project or not having any clear definitions of "success". By clarifying, then agreeing on the project priorities and subsequently converting abstract priorities (compliance) to measurable values (output data can be validated against schema X with zero intervention), ISO 9126 tries to develop a common understanding of the project's objectives and goals.

The standard is divided into four parts:

  • quality model
  • external metrics
  • internal metrics
  • quality in use metrics.

Contents

Quality Model

The quality model established in the first part of the standard, ISO 9126-1, classifies software quality in a structured set of characteristics and sub-characteristics as follows:

  • Functionality - A set of attributes that bear on the existence of a set of functions and their specified properties. The functions are those that satisfy stated or implied needs.
  • Reliability - A set of attributes that bear on the capability of software to maintain its level of performance under stated conditions for a stated period of time.
  • Usability - A set of attributes that bear on the effort needed for use, and on the individual assessment of such use, by a stated or implied set of users.
  • Efficiency - A set of attributes that bear on the relationship between the level of performance of the software and the amount of resources used, under stated conditions.
    • Time Behaviour
    • Resource Behaviour
  • Maintainability - A set of attributes that bear on the effort needed to make specified modifications.
  • Portability - A set of attributes that bear on the ability of software to be transferred from one environment to another.
    • Installability
    • Replaceability
    • Adaptability
    • Conformance (similar to compliance, above, but here related specifically to portability, e.g. conformance to a particular database standard)

Each quality sub-characteristic (e.g. adaptability) is further divided into attributes. An attribute is an entity which can be verified or measured in the software product. Attributes are not defined in the standard, as they vary between different software products.

Software product is defined in a broad sense: it encompasses executables, source code, architecture descriptions, and so on. As a result, the notion of user extends to operators as well as to programmers, which are users of components as software libraries.

The standard provides a framework for organizations to define a quality model for a software product. On doing so, however, it leaves up to each organization the task of specifying precisely its own model. This may be done, for example, by specifying target values for quality metrics which evaluates the degree of presence of quality attributes.

Internal Metrics

Internal metrics are those which do not rely on software execution (static measures)

External Metrics

External metrics are applicable to running software.

Quality in Use Metrics

Quality in use metrics are only available when the final product is used in real conditions.

Ideally, the internal quality determines the external quality and external quality determines quality in use.

This standard stems from the model established in 1977 by McCall and his colleagues, who proposed a model to specify software quality. The McCall quality model is organized around three types of Quality Characteristics:

  • Factors (To specify): They describe the external view of the software, as viewed by the users.
  • Criteria (To build): They describe the internal view of the software, as seen by the developer.
  • Metrics (To control): They are defined and used to provide a scale and method for measurement.

ISO 9126 distinguishes between a defect and a nonconformity, a defect being The nonfulfilment of intended usage requirements, whereas a nonconformity is The nonfulfilment of specified requirements. A similar distinction is made between validation and verification, known as V&V in the testing trade.

Superseded by

ISO/IEC 9126 is superseded by SQuaRE series of international standards.

See also

Bibliography

Scalet et al., 2000: ISO/IEC 9126 and 14598 integration aspects: A Brazilian viewpoint. The Second World Congress on Software Quality, Yokohama, Japan, 2000.

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