Advanced Decision Support System For Software Evaluation Using Weighted Sum
1.1 Background of the Study
A successful evaluation is not simply picking a product based on intuition. It involves a formal process, the right mixture of evaluators, and a specific quantifiable set of evaluation criteria. The process should include how to handle differences in scoring by the evaluators. The task of choosing a software component for a specific function in order to integrate it in a software system is a typical case of multi-criteria decision making that frequently occurs in Software Engineering. Consider a decision maker with a set of components to fulfill a function in a software system, for example creating digital signatures on files. A number of decision factors will come into play such as functional suitability, security, performance efficiency, interoperability and costs. Some of these may pose conflicts: For example, increased security may come at the price of decreased performance efficiency or increased price. The decision maker has to follow a trustworthy and repeatable procedure to choose the component that best fulfills the objectives at hand (Becker et al, 2013). The domain of component selection presents an interesting case of multiple criteria decision support systems (MCDSS) since it exhibits a number of peculiarities:
- A comparably large number of decisions of a very similar kind is made.
- The number of alternatives and decision criteria can be quite large.
- The decision criteria are rather well understood in terms of the facets and quality aspects that are evaluated.
However, the individual assessment of each criterion’s utility towards these aspects varies substantially among cases. In these scenarios, the problem of eliciting, specifying, evaluating and weighing the criteria becomes challenging, and the complexity of making a choice is correspondingly high. Given the scale of the decision making problem, the primary goals for improving decision support are the decision makers’ efficiency and effectiveness in reaching a choice on software components evaluation and selection (Becker et al, 2013).
- Evaluation as a general endeavor can be characterized by the following features:
- Evaluation is a task, which results in one or more reported outcomes.
- Evaluation is an aid for planning, and therefore the outcome is an evaluation of different possible actions.
- Evaluation is goal oriented. The primary goal is to check results of actions or interventions, in order to improve the quality of the actions or to choose the best action alternative.
Software can be evaluated with respect to different aspects, for example, functionality, reliability, usability, efficiency, maintainability, portability. In earlier times evaluation of software took place at the end of the developing phase, using experimental designs and statistical analysis, evaluation is nowadays used as a tool for information gathering within iterative design: “Explicit human-factors evaluations of early interactive systems (when they were done at all) were poorly integrated with development and therefore ineffective. They tended to be done too late for any substantial changes to the system still be feasible and, in common with other human-factors contributions to development, they were often unfavourably received. Instruments for evaluation are not primarily used for global evaluation of an accomplished product, but these instruments are applied during the development of a product. Indeed, most experts agree nowadays that the development of usable software can only be done by a systematic consideration of usability aspects within the life-cycle model. One prominent part is the evaluation of prototypes with respect to usability aspects, employing suitable evaluation techniques in order to find usability errors and weaknesses of the software at an early stage (Bandor, 2006).
Decision Supports Systems (DSS) are computer-based information systems designed in such a way that help managers to select one of the many alternative solutions to a problem. It is possible to automate some of the decision making processes in a large, computer-based DSS which is sophisticated and analyze huge amount of information fast. It helps corporate to increase market share, reduce costs, increase profitability and enhance quality. The nature of problem itself plays the main role in a process of decision making. A DSS is an interactive computer based information system with an organized collection of models, people, procedures, software, databases, telecommunication, and devices, which helps decision makers to solve unstructured or semi-structured business problems. Adopting decision support system to software evaluation guarantees accurate evaluation of the software (Abdelkader, 2006).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
As institutions and organizations spend huge amount on Enterprise resource planning (ERP) packages and other computer software that cost hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars, purchasing a software solution is a high expenditure activity that consumes a significant portion of companies’ capital budgets. Selecting the right solution is an exhausting process for companies. Therefore, selecting a software package that meets the requirements needs a full examination of many conflicting factors and it is a difficult task. Most times the software bought do not meet the needs of the institution or organization despite the huge amount. To avoid the problem of software ineffectiveness, this has led researchers to investigate better ways of evaluating and selecting software packages.
1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study
The aim of the study is to develop an improved decision support system for software evaluation that will help organizations to determine the effectiveness of a software product based on its features and capabilities. The following are the objectives of the study:
- To design a decision support system for software evaluation using quantitative method for software evaluation and selection .
- To develop a software that will assess the software features to determine their level of effectiveness?
- To compare a system that will maintain record of software evaluation records
1.4 Scope of the Study
This study covers advanced decision support system for software evaluation using weighted sum. It is limited to the capturing of the weighted sum of software features and the determination of the best software option based on the total weight of its features. Evaluation is based on three different criteria categories which are: The vendor, hardware/ software requirements and cost/benefits of the software system.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The significance of the study is that it will help institutions and organizations evaluate the effectiveness of a software product. The study will also serve as a useful reference material to other researchers seeking for information concerning the subject.
1.6 Organization of Research
This research work is organized into five chapters.
Chapter one is concerned with the introduction of the research study and it presents the preliminaries, theoretical background, statement of the problem, aim and objectives of the study, significance of the study, scope of the study, organization of the research and definition of terms.
Chapter two focuses on the literature review, the contributions of other scholars on the subject matter is discussed.
Chapter three is concerned with the system analysis and design. It presents the research methodology used in the development of the system, it analyzes the present system to identify the problems and provides information on the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed system. The system design is also presented in this chapter.
Chapter four presents the system implementation and documentation, the choice of programming language, analysis of modules, choice of programming language and system requirements for implementation.
Chapter five focuses on the summary, constraints of the study, conclusion and recommendations are provided in this chapter based on the study carried out.
1.7 Definition of Terms
Programs and applications that can be run on a computer system, e.g. word processing or database packages
The act of considering or examining something in order to judge its value, quality, importance, extent, or condition
An assembly of computer hardware, software, and peripherals functioning together to solve a common problem.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation
Software companies want to make sure they provide software solutions that are reliable and can meet the needs of users. This cannot be achieved without an effective decision support system for software evaluation. The need to evaluate the reliability of software system has become clearer in this era of intensive software application in different sectors of life.
Many papers provide a preferred list of evaluation criteria for evaluation of specific software package; however, a lack of common list is apparent. Software evaluation criteria may differ from one evaluator to another. The exact meaning of a criterion is open to the evaluator’s own interpretation. Sometimes the terminology used by author(s) for a criterion in one literature is different than another author(s) for the same criterion. This may lead to ambiguity and gives unclear picture to the evaluator.
To address this issue a generic lists of evaluation criteria and their meaning, which can be used for evaluation of any type of the software package is presented. Although, functional criteria for software selection vary from software to software, criteria related to cost, vendor and quality of the software may be common and can be used for selection of any software package. The standard list of evaluation criteria and their definition could overcome some of the pitfalls in software evaluation and selection process.
There is need to develop a framework including a software selection methodology, an evaluation technique, an evaluation criteria, and a system to support evaluation and selection of any software package.
A common evaluation technique than can be adopted by software evaluators to determine the effectiveness of the software is weighted sum evaluation technique. In this approach values or weights are assigned to the criteria used in determining the effectiveness of the software and the total weight is used to determine which is more effective than the other.
From the foregoing, it can be seen that a successful evaluation is not simply picking a product based on intuition. It involves a formal process, the right mixture of evaluators, and a specific quantifiable set of evaluation criteria. The process should include how to handle differences in scoring by the evaluators. Defining the evaluation technique used for the evaluation is very important.
Weighted sum evaluation technique can be adopted to easily ascertain the effectiveness of software based on defined criteria. From the foregoing, it can be seen that, requirements drive selection criteria, careful consideration must be given to the identification of selection criteria, pilots and demonstrations are essential selection tools, product and technology maturity must be considered. By systematically analyzing co-occurrence, correlation and impact of decision criteria across cases, it should be possible to integrate recommender systems into the decision making workflow that can provide increased guidance and warn decision makers of potential risks and opportunities based on others’ experiences.
The following recommendations are offered based on the study:
- More research should be conducted on decision support system for software evaluation/assessment.
- Software development companies should conduct survey programs to assess the reliability of their software product.
- Raw data used for the assessment should be obtained from users of the software system.
- The criteria utilized in making decision on the effectiveness of a software should be expanded to include more aspects so as to improve the reliability information.
- Proper testing and debugging should be done before software systems are published or placed in the market.
- Trial versions of software are important for users to assess the effectiveness of the software.
5.4 Contributions to Knowledge
This research work is relevant due to the fact that it contributes to the knowledge of software evaluation in the following ways:
- It provides an improved decision support system for software evaluation.
- It provides well defined evaluation criteria for assessing or evaluating the performance of software systems.
- The study has provided a software solution that can enable users to select the best software among alternatives, that carry out related functions.
- The study aids quick decision making in the selection of efficient software system.
- The study contributes generally to the body of knowledge of software evaluation by providing a comprehensive literature review and the development of software to facilitate the process of software evaluation and selection.
Advanced Decision Support System For Software Evaluation Using Weighted Sum
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