A quest for software excellence...

Venn-like View of Software Quality Attributes

Two days ago I posted Non-Functional Requirements for the Software Architect in which I suggested that quality attributes or non-functional requirements could be categorized into a two by two grid, operational and non-operational by internal and external.

Thinking further along those lines led me to picture the illustration below and hop out of bed to put it to virtual paper.


Most quality attributes will fit into one or two of the big four: security, performance, usability and modifiability. And each of these largely corresponds to its depicted quadrant.

Security is largely an internal concern. Often external stakeholders will profess their concern with this attribute, and hence the Venn-like spill over into the external quadrant. Generally the concern for security and assuring security falls within the domain of internal stakeholders and the implementation team.

External stakeholders are mostly concerned with performance and usability. There are a number of other quality attributes such as availability that fall within or at least are closely related to one or both of those.

Modifiability is almost exclusively a concern of internal stakeholders and implementation teams. Interoperability and testability are largely related to modifiability while interoperability nearly always shares at least some security concerns.

You may mix these differently to match your circumstances and priorities, but the illustration covers the majority of software development efforts but of course does not spell out the details. For guidance on that, I recommend my previous post. If you are concerned with software architecture, perhaps this will help you to visualize how these quality attributes or non-functional requirements compete and compliment one another.

To paraphrase Bass in Software Architecture in Practice, an architecture will either inhibit or enable the achievement of a system’s desired quality attributes. Understanding your desired quality attributes well will drive the critical decisions in your architecture. And your architecture will then provide the requisite containers into which you will place your functionality. To quote, “Functionality is not so much a driver for the architecture as it is a consequence of it.”

While I am not completely certain that is always the case, it is a principle that is well worth considering when creating and refactoring the architectural elements of your system. And it is my hope that by seeing this illustrated, it will get you thinking about how your own desired quality attributes interact with internal and external teams, which are operational and non-operational, and how they may compete with or compliment on another.