HCFA begins code checkups

The Health Care Financing Administration has turned to one of the oldest independent
validation and verification vendors in the mission-critical software business to ensure
that Medicare and Medicaid systems will process claims without disruption after Jan. 1.


AverStar Inc. of Burlington, Mass., will work with HCFA’s quality assurance teams
and outside contractors. The company also provides software quality assurance to
NASA’s space shuttle and International Space Station programs.


HCFA contracted for AverStar’s Ready 2000 service, which evaluates the quality of
code fixes and test coverage.


“We’re evaluating their progress, products and processes. We’re not just
doing a clipboard audit,” said James Bowdren, vice president of information
technology migration solutions for AverStar. Bowdren heads the company’s year 2000
center in Warminster, Pa.


AverStar is the company formed by the merger of Intermetrics Inc. and Pacer Infotec
Inc. of Billerica, Mass.


Bruce Burton, AverStar executive vice president, said the Defense Department
popularized the term IV&V for weapons and other defense systems, long before the
concept drew civilian and commercial attention.


AverStar’s Ready 2000 Renovation Quality Evaluation service provides an
independent view of renovated software portfolios. It analyzes the completeness and
correctness of repairs and documents every problem “so a programmer can easily fix
them,” Bowdren said.


The service generates an instrumented copy of the test code with metrics that show code
complexity and how well an agency’s test cases will evaluate the critical date paths.


“After the code is tested, we help tune the test processes to get better code
coverage—it’s incremental,” Bowdren said.


In its work for HCFA and other federal agencies, AverStar uses the Peritus AutoEnhancer
2000 toolset from Peritus Software Services Inc. of Billerica, Mass., for evaluating code
fixes. It uses the McCabe Visual 2000 toolset from McCabe & Associates Inc. of
Columbia, Md., for instrumenting and evaluating code coverage.


AverStar wrote its own tools to feed data from the renovation toolset into the McCabe
software.


Bowdren said his company typically finds 20 to 40 errors per 100,000 lines of renovated
code in an IV&V job.


Only about 20 percent of changed lines of code typically is “exercised” by
the test cases that agencies and businesses create, Bowdren said. “People aren’t
as good at testing as they probably should be,” he said.


With test data, it is difficult to guess which paths in a program will be exercised
“unless you have a tool that can help with the analysis,” Bowdren said.


AverStar, which was scheduled to undergo a final International Standards Organization
9001 certification audit last month, uses a 200-step process to evaluate each system. A
typical evaluation of a code sample of 500,000 to 1 million lines takes three to four
weeks, Bowdren said.


AverStar gives top agency managers Web-based project control panels that display year
2000 progress metrics for multiple information systems.


The company developed the drill-down control panels with code from the
Defense-sponsored Software Program Managers Network, whose Web site is at www.spmn.com.


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