Knowledge-based systems and Software Engineering
The work described was carried out as part of a collaborative Alvey software engineering project (project number SE057). The project collaborators were the Inter-Disciplinary Higher Degrees Scheme of the University of Aston in Birmingham, BIS Applied Systems Ltd. (BIS) and the British Steel Corporation. The aim of the project was to investigate the potential application of knowledge-based systems (KBSs) to the design of commercial data processing (DP) systems. The work was primarily concerned with BIS's Structured Systems Design (SSD) methodology for DP systems development and how users of this methodology could be supported using KBS tools. The problems encountered by users of SSD are discussed and potential forms of computer-based support for inexpert designers are identified. The architecture for a support environment for SSD is proposed based on the integration of KBS and non-KBS tools for individual design tasks within SSD - The Intellipse system. The Intellipse system has two modes of operation - Advisor and Designer. The design, implementation and user-evaluation of Advisor are discussed. The results of a Designer feasibility study, the aim of which was to analyse major design tasks in SSD to assess their suitability for KBS support, are reported. The potential role of KBS tools in the domain of database design is discussed. The project involved extensive knowledge engineering sessions with expert DP systems designers. Some practical lessons in relation to KBS development are derived from this experience. The nature of the expertise possessed by expert designers is discussed. The need for operational KBSs to be built to the same standards as other commercial and industrial software is identified. A comparison between current KBS and conventional DP systems development is made. On the basis of this analysis, a structured development method for KBSs in proposed - the POLITE model. Some initial results of applying this method to KBS development are discussed. Several areas for further research and development are identified.