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This version of SWEHB is associated with NPR 7150.2B. Click for the latest version of the SWEHB based on NPR7150.2C

Return to 7.18 - Documentation Guidance

SAP - Software Assurance Plan

1. Minimum Recommended Content

The Software Assurance Plan(s) shall be developed and documented per NASA-STD-8739.8, Software Assurance Standard.              

2. Rationale

Software assurance activities ensure that the project team implements software engineering products and processes according to the plans established by the project and that these products and projects comply with requirements in NASA-STD-8739.8. NASA-STD-8739.8 278 captures the assurance requirements in a single place for more uniform application across projects where software is developed or acquired for NASA.

The Software Assurance Plan (SAP) represents an agreement between the project, the software developers, and the software assurance personnel. It describes the activities, roles, and responsibilities of software assurance on the project. As with any task, a plan helps ensure that the team performs all necessary and required tasks. Development of the plan provides the opportunity for stakeholders to give input and assist with the documentation and tailoring of the planned activities for the project.

Specific to software assurance, NASA-STD-8739.8  278 provides requirements that the team can use as the basis for development of a project's SAP. Using this previously thought-out, defined set of requirements gives plan development teams a common starting point for their activities and ensures that all SAPs include and address the same key tasks and assurance activities.

3. Guidance

There must be a software assurance plan. "Most Project Managers feel they have too many plans, and the suggestion of another one for Software Quality Assurance might be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back! But the success of any undertaking is to know what one is trying to achieve and how one expects to accomplish it, hence, the necessity of a plan for SQA. The plan will specify the goals, what is to be performed, standards against which the development work is to be measured, all relevant procedures, and the organizational structure of the Quality Assurance within the project. At NASA a software assurance plan is required." (Lesson 4 of 12, SoftwareTech News 433). 

The Software Assurance Plan details the procedures, reviews, and audits required to accomplish software assurance. The project office should coordinate with the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance for help in scoping and adapting the effort appropriately, and to designate the individual responsible for software assurance on the project.

For projects that involve contracted work, both the acquirer and the provider (subcontractor) need SAPs, and those plans must work together to accomplish the required level of software assurance. The preliminary acquirer plan is developed at the same time that the Request for Proposal (RFP) or Memorandum of Agreement/Memorandum of Understanding (MOA/MOU) is created. Both acquirer and provider plans are to be completed by the time the contract is awarded, though an update of the provider plan is expected at the Software Requirements Review (SwRR).

As with many project plans, the SAP may be a separate document or may be combined with another project plan such as the Software Development Plan (SDP). However, the independent software assurance organization of the acquirer Safety and Mission Assurance (SMA) Office needs to have sign-off authority on the content no matter into what document the SAP contents may be incorporated. The SAP is a joint agreement between acquirer SMA and the project/facility for software assurance activities.

While NASA-STD-8739.8  278 contains requirements for software assurance in general, it also contains minimum content requirements for the SAP. The following requirements, identified by NASA-STD-8739.8 paragraph numbers, apply specifically to the development and documentation of a SAP. These requirements, shown here without their associated project life-cycle phase, provide a high-level content overview of both the acquirer and provider SAPs. When carrying out these requirements, consult NASA-STD-8739.8 278 to determine the specific life-cycle phase in which they are to be completed.

Acquirer SAP:

  • 5.1.2.8 - Prepare a preliminary acquirer program/project software assurance plan documenting the planned level of software assurance effort and activities required and the necessary resources using the template provided in Appendix B [of NASA-STD-8739.8 278].
  • 5.3.1.1 - Verify that the provider's software assurance plan meets contractual requirements.
  • 5.3.1.2 - Verify that the acquirer's software assurance plan and the provider's software assurance plan are consistent, compatible, and are baselined.

Provider SAP:

  • 6.3.1 - Each software provider shall establish and maintain a software assurance plan that addresses all software development and maintenance activities.
    NOTE: For smaller projects, this plan may be incorporated in another project-planning document or may be a separate document. Larger projects may have a separate plan or more than one software assurance plan.
  • 6.3.2 - The software assurance plan shall:
  • 6.3.2.1 - Conform to IEEE 730-2002, IEEE Standard for Software Quality Assurance Plans 218.
  • 6.3.2.2 - In addition, address how the provider will implement the requirements of Sections 6.0 and 7.0 of this Standard [NASA-STD-8739.8 278].

Before writing a SAP, it is recommended that the team review the following material as preparation:

  • Software assurance lessons learned from similar projects.
  • Existing software assurance processes, standards, procedures, etc.
  • Software assurance deliverables (records, reports, etc.) for similar projects.

Using an existing template will ensure consistency of plans across projects, as well as ensure all key information is included in the SAP. If a project or Center SAP template or "best-in-class" example does not exist, NASA-STD-8739.8 278 contains a basic outline in its Appendix B. Templates are included in the Resources section of this guidance, including one from Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) based on IEEE 730-2002 noted in NASA-STD-8739.8 278 requirements, which includes suggested content for each section of the SAP.

Other content elements to consider include:

  • Software assurance organization and management structure and responsibilities.
  • Software assurance planning activities.
  • Software classification and safety criticality.
  • Software assurance implementation activities covering all five assurance disciplines:
    • Software Quality (includes software quality assurance, software quality engineering, and software quality control).
    • Software Safety.
    • Software Reliability.
    • Software Verification and Validation.
    • Independent Verification and Validation.
  • Standards and processes to be used, including those used for:
    • Software assurance implementation activities, such as reviews, audits, etc.
    • Problem reporting and tracking.
    • Risk management.
    • Software assurance metrics, e.g., planned versus actual reviews, audits, assessments; open versus closed issues; number of identified risks.
    • Record creation, review, and maintenance.
  • Training for software assurance personnel.
  • Resources, including tools, personnel, and facilities.
  • Identification of products and processes to be reviewed or audited.
  • Identification of deliverables (records) to be created and maintained.
  • Schedule.

Ensure that the SAP is reviewed prior to implementation (see Topic 7.8 - Maturity of Life Cycle Products at Milestone Reviews) and at appropriate life-cycle reviews (see 7.9 - Entrance and Exit Criteria) by personnel with sufficient software assurance knowledge to identify omissions, inadequacies, and other issues. Include stakeholders affected by the plan in the reviews for awareness of planned activities and so that their suggestions can be addressed within the bounds of the project's required level of software assurance. Any identified issues need to be corrected before plan implementation or before carrying out affected software assurance activities in the next life-cycle phase.

The following diagram excerpted from an older Glenn Research Center SQA Process for Software Assurance shows a basic flow of activities for developing and documenting a SAP:


Any changes to the baselined SAP (typically baselined at Preliminary Design Review (PDR)) need to be made via the appropriate formal change request process (internal to the project for the acquirer SAP or via NASA's formal change request process for the provider SAP) and be accompanied by a risk analysis to ensure the project's level of software assurance is not compromised.

The acquirer software assurance personnel are responsible for ensuring the provider software assurance personnel are meeting the contents of the provider SAP. The acquirer SAP describes how this will be done (based on software size, software class, safety criticality, and other factors that may be specific to a project).

Guidance related to software assurance and to be considered for inclusion in the SAP may be found in the following related requirements in this Handbook:

SWE-013

Software Plans

SWE-020

Software Classification

SWE-022

Software Assurance

SWE-132

Independent Software Classification Assessment

SWE-133

Software Safety Determination

4. Small Projects

According to NASA-STD-8739.8 278, smaller projects have the choice of incorporating their SAP in another project-planning document or using a separate document.

 5. Resources

5.1 Tools

Tools relative to this Topic may be found in the table below. You may wish to reference the Tools Table (click here to visit) in this handbook for an evolving list of these and other tools in use at NASA. Note that this table should not be considered all-inclusive, nor is it an endorsement of any particular tool. Check with your Center to see what tools are available to facilitate compliance with this requirement.

No tools have been currently identified for this Topic. If you wish to suggest a tool, please contact the Page Editor listed at the bottom of the page.

 6. Lessons Learned

  • Quality Assurance Access to Critical Areas, Management (Quality Assurance Access). Lesson Number 0332: "If program or engineering management exercises the authority to deny QA access to critical areas, QA oversite will be severely [compromised]." [Note that, while this lesson does not specifically call out software, the lesson remains relevant regarding assurance personnel access to information and areas required to perform software assurance activities.] 503
  • Quality Assurance Expertise in Special Technical Areas (e.g., optics) (Quality Assurance Expertise). Lesson Number 0331: "If quality assurance personnel responsible for oversight of the quality of highly technical state-of-the-art development do not have a degree of expertise in that technical area, the likelihood of discovering QA problems decreases significantly." [Note that, while this lesson does not specifically call out software, the lesson remains relevant regarding assurance personnel access to information and areas required to perform software assurance activities.] 502
  • International Space Station (ISS) Program/Computer Hardware-Software/Software (Schedules). Lesson Number 1062: "The ISS software development schedule is almost impossibly tight. If something else does not cause a further delay in ISS deployment, software development may very well do so. The decision this year to add integrated testing of some modules ... is a very positive step for safety. However, there is no room in the schedule for required changes that may be discovered during this testing." 536



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