Barry Boehm, "Software and Its Impact: A Quantitative Assessment," Datamition, May 1973, pp. 48-59 (pdf)
Recently, the Air Force Systems Command completed a study, "Information Processing/Data Automation Implications of Air Force Command and Control Requirements in the 1980s," or CCIP-85 for short. The study projected future Air Force command and control information processing requirements and likely future information processing capabilities into the 1980s, and developed an Air Force R&D plan to correct the mismatches found between likely capabilities and needs.
Although many of the CCIP-85 conclusions are specific to the Air Force, there are a number of points which hold at least as well elsewhere. This article summarizes those transferable facts and conclusions.
Basically, the study showed that for almost all applications, software (as opposed to computer hardware, displays, architecture, etc.) was "the tall pole in the tent"-the major source of difficult future problems and operational performance penalties. However, we found it difficult to convince people outside the software business of this. This was primarily because of the scarcity of solid quantitative data to demonstrate the impact of software on operational performance or to provide perspective on R&D priorities.
The study did find and develop some data which helped illuminate the problems and convince people that the problems were significant. Surprisingly, though, we found that these data are almost unknown even to software practitioners. The main purpose of this article is to make these scanty but important data and their implications better known, and to convince people to collect more of it.
Added June 6th, 2008
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