AuthorsA. Al-Emran, P. Kapur, D. Pfahl and G. Ruhe
TitleStudying the Impact of Uncertainty in Operational Release Planning - an Integrated Method and Its Initial Evaluation
AfilliationSoftware Engineering, Software Engineering
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
JournalInformation and Software Technology
Date PublishedApril

Context: Uncertainty is an unavoidable issue in software engineering and an important area of investigation. This paper studies the impact of uncertainty on total duration (i.e., make-span) for implementing all features in operational release planning. Objective: The uncertainty factors under investigation are: (1) the number of new features arriving during release construction, (2) the estimated effort needed to implement features, (3) the availability of developers, and (4) the productivity of developers. Method: An integrated method is presented combining Monte-Carlo simulation (to model uncertainty in the operational release planning (ORP) process) with process simulation (to model the ORP process steps and their dependencies as well as an associated optimization heuristic representing an organization-specific staffing policy for make-span minimization). The method allows for evaluating the impact of uncertainty on make-span. The impact of uncertainty factors both in isolation and in combination are studied in three different pessimism levels through comparison with a baseline plan. Initial evaluation of the method is done by an explorative case study at Chartwell Technology Inc. to demonstrate its applicability and its usefulness. Results: The impact of uncertainty on release make-span increases - both in terms of magnitude and variance - with an increase of pessimism level as well as with an increase of the number of uncertainty factors. Among the four uncertainty factors, we found that the strongest impact stems from the number of new features arriving during release construction. We have also demonstrated that for any combination of uncertainty factors their combined (i.e., simultaneous) impact is bigger than the addition of their individual impacts. Conclusion: The added value of the presented method is that managers are able to study the impact of uncertainty on existing (i.e., baseline) operational release plans pro-actively.