When we think of the challenges in software engineering, we focus on the various technical activities: requirements, architecture, design, implementation, verification etc. Various management dimensions also receive attention: processes, planning, change management, quality, teamwork, competency, domain understanding, customer interaction, value focus and so on. Clearly, each one of these is very important, even critical, to successful software engineering.
However, there is another dimension that is central to software engineering: contextual knowledge and how it flows through the engineering process, into the final product. It is easy to see why this dimension is central if we examine the nature and role of software. Software is the agent of operations for systems. It implements/enables the concept of functioning of its target system, which could be a business function, embedded system and/or user task. The technical activity stream in software engineering as a whole is aimed at developing this contextual knowledge about the target system, and then ensuring that it is addressed accurately and consistently by the resulting software solution.
This book introduces Knowledge Driven Development (KDD), a path-breaking software engineering technology (best practice) that manages and ensures the systematic flow of contextual knowledge into software solution. As the author Manoj Kumar Lal illustrates beautifully through the case studies in Chapter 1, even software projects that diligently follow modern best practices are extremely likely to face challenges associated with managing this flow. The problem is that contextual knowledge evolves continuously as the project progresses (In Agile, this means that knowledge relating to software generated by a particular Sprint continues to evolve even after the Sprint completes), and that consistent shared understanding of relevant contextual knowledge needs to be maintained across all team members (even in large distributed teams) to avoid quality problems. Readers will find that the typical problems described by him are familiar to them as commonplace in the projects that they execute, and that these problems lead to significant productivity losses and quality problems. Every project, large or small, will benefit substantially from a structured approach to managing the consistent flow of contextual knowledge into software solutions.
The book goes on to introduce precisely such a structured approach. Contextual knowledge about the target system is captured through a Project Knowledge Model (PKM) classified into 18 ‘building block’ types, and a further n2matrix of 171 possible relationships among them.