Title page for ETD etd-05142007-214700

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Henry, Troy Steven
Author's Email Address trhenry1@vt.edu
URN etd-05142007-214700
Title Architecture-Centric Project Estimation
Degree Master of Science
Department Computer Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Bohner, Shawn A. Committee Chair
Arthur, James D. Committee Member
Tatar, Deborah Gail Committee Member
  • risk analysis
  • software engineering
  • estimation
  • software architecture
Date of Defense 2007-05-14
Availability unrestricted
In recent years studies have been conducted which suggest that

taking an architecture first approach to managing large software

projects can reduce a significant amount of the uncertainty present

in project estimates. As the project progresses, more concrete

information is known about the planned system and less risk is

present. However, the rate at which risk is alleviated varies

across the life-cycle. Research suggests that there exists a

significant drop off in risk when the architecture is developed.

Software risk assessment techniques have been developed which

attempt to quantify the amount of risk that varying uncertainties

convey to a software project. These techniques can be applied to

architecture specific issues to show that in many cases, conducting

an architecture centric approach to development will remove more

risk than the cost of developing the architecture. By committing to

developing the architecture prior to the formal estimation process,

specific risks can be more tightly bounded, or even removed from the


The premise presented here is that through the process of

architecture-centric management, it is possible to remove

substantial risk from the project. This decrease in risk exceeds

that at other phases of the life-cycle, especially in comparison of

the effort involved. Notably, at architecture, a sufficient amount

knowledge is gained by which effort estimations may be tightly

bounded, yet the project is early enough in the life-cycle for

proper planning and scheduling. Thus, risk is mitigated through the

increase in knowledge and the ability to maintain options at an

early point. Further, architecture development and evaluation has

been shown to incorporate quality factors normally insufficiently

considered in the system design.

The approach taken here is to consider specific knowledge gained

through the architecting process and how this is reflected in

parametric effort estimation models. This added knowledge is

directly reflected in risk reduction. Drawing on experience of

architecture researchers as well as project managers employing this

approach, this thesis considers what benefits to the software

development process are gained by taking this approach. Noting a

strong reluctance of owners to incorporate solid software

engineering practices, the thesis concludes with an outline for an

experiment which goes about proving the reduction in risk at

architecture exceeds the cost of that development.

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