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Friday, June 15, 2012

Document Restructuring - an activity involved in software re-engineering process model.

Software re- engineering process model is a generic one and consists of 6 major steps:
  1. Inventory analysis
  2. Documentation reconstruction
  3. Reverse engineering
  4. Code re- structuring
  5. Data re- structuring
  6. Forward Engineering
This article is dedicated to the discussion regarding the second step of the software re- engineering process model i.e., the documentation reconstruction. 

Why Documentation Reconstruction is important?

It has been observed from the inventory analysis of many organizations that most of the documentation attached with the software systems or applications is either outdated or does not pertain to the documentation standards or refers to the earlier versions of the particular software system or application. 

In such cases, reconstructing the entire software documentation becomes very necessary. The need for re- engineering is felt in three typical situations:

1. When the changes made to a system are confined only to the sub system, there is a need to re- engineering the sub system.
2. When the software as well as the hardware support becomes obsolete.
3. When the tools required for supporting the re- structuring are available.

When it comes to restructuring the documentation the below mentioned options are available to the developers:
  1. Keep the weak documentation itself.
  2. Update those parts of the documentation that are needed.
  3. Rewrite the whole documentation on the “essential minimum requirements” for the critical systems.
- Any existing documentation of the software under re- engineering process is gathered and copies of any required third party software are obtained. 
- All the associated data files and the source code files that are required for the execution of the software system or application are documented and this documentation forms the baseline for the existing version of the software system or application. 

Why Documentation is necessary?

- Documentation forms a very important part of the entire re- engineering process since like other resources it is also a primary resource of information regarding the software system or application. 
- Documentation serves as a potential support for the future maintenance of the software system or application. 
- Documentation should be self sufficient enough to the extent that any developer having knowledge of that programming language must be able to speed up the work with the code in a short period of time using the documentation. 
What is to be contained in the documentation depends pretty much up on the type of the software system or application that is being re- engineered and also on the contents of the previously existing documentation. 
- However, the documentation must contain description of the changes that were introduced during the process of re- engineering. 
- The documentation must also highlight the details of the configuration plan and baselines of the software system or application that were created for the re- engineering process. 
Other aspects to be included are mentioned below:
  1. Steps to verify which version of the software system or application is installed.
  2. How to install/ uninstall the software application.
  3. How to use the software system or application (a quick guide).
  4. Overview of the design of the software system or application.
  5. How to build the application software ready for the release.
- After re- engineering process is complete the same documentation must be update and if no documentation exists, one should be created. 
- After the re- engineering the re- engineered software system or application is baselined along with this documentation and the project log and is now considered to be ready for the release. 

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