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An international survey on risk management in software development with off-the-shelf (OTS) components is reported upon and discussed. The survey investigated actual risk-management activities and their correlations with the occurrences of typical risks in OTS component-based development. Data from 133 software projects in Norway, Italy, and Germany were collected using a stratified random sample of IT companies. The results show that OTS components normally do not contribute negatively to the quality of the software system as a whole, as is commonly expected. However, issues such as the underestimation of integration effort and inefficient debugging remain problematic and require further investigation. The results also illustrate several promising effective risk-reduction activities, e.g., putting more effort into learning relevant OTS components, integrating unfamiliar components first, thoroughly evaluating the quality of candidate OTS components, and regularly monitoring the support capability of OTS providers. Five hypotheses are proposed regarding these risk-reduction activities. The results also indicate that several other factors, such as project, cultural, and human-social factors, have to be investigated to thoroughly deal with the possible risks of OTS-based projects.
Date of Publication: March-April 2008