ISO 29110

ISO/IEC 29110: Systems and Software Life Cycle Profiles and Guidelines for Very Small Entities (VSEs) International Standards (IS) and Technical Reports (TR) are targeted at Very Small Entities (VSEs). A Very Small Entity (VSE) is an enterprise, an organization, a department or a project having up to 25 people. The ISO/IEC 29110 is a series of international standards entitled "Systems and Software Engineering — Lifecycle Profiles for Very Small Entities (VSEs)". The standards and technical reports were developed by working group 24 (WG24) of sub-committee 7 (SC7) of Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1) of the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission.

The need for lightweight Systems and Software Engineering standards

Industry recognizes the value of VSEs in contributing valuable products and services. VSEs also develop and/or maintain system and/or software that is used in larger systems, therefore, recognition of VSEs as suppliers of high quality systems and/or software is often required.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)[1] SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook report (2005), Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) constitute the dominant form of business organisation in all countries world-wide, accounting for over 95% and up to 99% of the business population depending on country. The challenge facing OECD governments is to provide a business environment that supports the competitiveness of this large heterogeneous business population and that promotes a vibrant entrepreneurial culture.

From studies and surveys conducted (,[2][3]), it is clear that the majority of International Standards do not address the needs of VSEs. Conformance with these standards is difficult, if not impossible, giving VSEs no way, or very limited ways, to be recognized as entities that produce quality software in their domain. Therefore, VSEs are often cut off from some economic activities.

It has been found that VSEs find it difficult to relate international standards to their business needs and to justify their application to their business practices. Most VSEs can neither afford the resources, in terms of number of employees, budget and time, nor do they see a net benefit in establishing software life cycle processes.To rectify some of these difficulties, a set of standards and technical reports have been developed according to a set of VSE characteristics.(,[4][5]).The documents are based on subsets of appropriate standards elements, referred to as VSE profiles. The purpose of a VSE profile is to define a subset of international Standards relevant to the VSE context, for example, processes elements of ISO/IEC/IEEE 12207 for the software engineering ISO/IEC 29110, ISO/IEC/IEEE 15288 for the systems engineering ISO/IEC 29110, and products of ISO/IEC 15289.

ISO/IEC 29110 series, targeted by audience, have been developed to improve product and/or service quality, and process performance. See Table 1. ISO/IEC 29110 is not intended to preclude the use of different life cycles such as: waterfall, iterative, incremental, evolutionary or agile.

Table 1 - ISO/IEC 29110 target audience
ISO/IEC 29110 Title Target audience
Part 1 Overview VSEs and their customers, assessors, standards producers, tool vendors, and methodology vendors.
Part 2 Framework Standards producers, tool vendors and methodology vendors. Not intended for VSEs
Part 3 Certification and Assessment guide VSEs and their customers, assessors, accreditation bodies
Part 4 Profile specifications Standards producers, tool vendors and methodology vendors.
Part 5 Management and engineering guide VSEs and their customers

If a new profile is needed, ISO/IEC 29110-4[6] and ISO/IEC 29110-5[7] can be developed without impacting existing documents and they become ISO/IEC 29110-4-m and ISO/IEC 29110-5-m-n respectively through the ISO/IEC process.


The core characteristic of the entities targeted by ISO/IEC 29110 is size, however there are other aspects and characteristics of VSEs that may affect profile preparation or selection, such as: Business Models (commercial, contracting, in-house development, etc.); Situational factors (such as criticality, uncertainty environment, etc.); and Risk Levels. Creating one profile for each possible combination of values of the various dimensions introduced above would result in an unmanageable set of profiles. Accordingly, VSE's profiles are grouped in such a way as to be applicable to more than one category. Profile Groups are a collection of profiles which are related either by composition of processes (i.e. activities, tasks), or by capability level, or both.

Generic Profile Group

The Generic Profile Group has been defined as applicable to a vast majority of VSEs that do not develop critical systems and/or software and have typical situational factors. The Generic Profile Group is a collection of four profiles (Entry, Basic, Intermediate, Advanced), providing a progressive approach to satisfying a vast majority of VSEs. The Software Engineering Generic Profile Group is mainly based on the ISO/IEC/IEEE 12207 Software Life Cycle Processes standard. The ISO working group mandated to develop ISO/IEC 29110 used the Mexican software process model MoProSoft[8] to help the development of ISO/IEC 29110.

A process is composed of a set of activities, and an activity is composed of a set of tasks. The figure below illustrates the 2 processes and the activities of the software engineering Basic profile. The 2 processes are described at the task level in the ISO/IEC 29110 Software engineering Management and Engineering Guide of the Basic profile.

The software engineering Entry profile has the same 2 processes and activities. But the number of tasks and the number of documents is lower than the Basic profile.

The figure below illustrates the systems engineering Basic profile. Systems, in the context of ISO/IEC 29110, are typically composed of hardware and software components.

Published Standards and Technical Reports (TR)

ISO/IEC 29110 series is a set of five different Parts. Part 1, ISO/IEC TR 29110-1,[9] defines the business terms common to the VSE Profile Set of Documents. It introduces processes, lifecycle and standardization concepts, and the ISO/IEC 29110 series. It also introduces the characteristics and requirements of a VSE, and clarifies the rationale for VSE-specific profiles, documents, standards and guides.[10] introduces the concepts for software engineering standardized profiles for VSEs, and defines the terms common to the VSE Profile Set of Documents. It establishes the logic behind the definition and application of standardized profiles. It specifies the elements common to all standardized profiles (structure, conformance, assessment) and introduces the taxonomy (catalogue) of ISO/IEC 29110 profiles.

Part 3, ISO/IEC TR 29110-3-1,[11] defines the process assessment guidelines and compliance requirements needed to meet the purpose of the defined VSE Profiles. ISO/IEC TR 29110-3-1 also contains information that can be useful to developers of assessment methods and assessment tools. ISO/IEC TR 29110-3-1 is addressed to people who have direct relation with the assessment process, e.g. the assessor and the sponsor of the assessment, who need guidance on ensuring that the requirements for performing an assessment have been met.[12]

Part 4, ISO/IEC 29110-4-1, provides the specification for all the profiles of the Generic Profile Group. The Generic Profile Group is applicable to VSEs that do not develop critical software products. The profiles are based on subsets of appropriate standards elements. VSE Profiles apply and are targeted at authors/providers of guides and authors/providers of tools and other support material.

Part 5, ISO/IEC 29110-5-m-n, provides systems engineering or software engineering project management and engineering guides for the VSE Profile described in ISO/IEC 29110-4-m.

Deployment Packages

A Deployment Package (DP) is a set of artefacts developed to facilitate the implementation of a set of practices, of the selected framework, in a Very Small Entity (VSE). The Deployment Packages, described below, have been developed to help implement the processes of the Generic Profile Group. The Generic profile group is applicable to VSEs that do not develop critical systems or software. The Generic profile group is composed of 4 profiles: Entry, Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. The Generic profile group does not imply any specific application domain.

The content of a typical deployment package is listed in table 2. The mapping to standards and models is given as information to show that a Deployment Package has explicit links to Part 5 and to selected ISO standards, such as ISO/IEC/IEEE 152888, ISO/IEC/IEEE 12207, or models such as the CMMI developed by the Software Engineering Institute. By implementing a deployment package, a VSE can see its concrete step to achieve or demonstrate coverage to ISO/IEC 29110 Part 5. Deployment Packages are designed such that a VSE can implement its content, without having to implement the complete framework at the same time.

Table 2. Content of a Deployment Package (ISO/IEC 29110-5-1-2)
1. Technical Description
         Purpose of this document
         Why this Topic is important?
2. Definitions
3. Relationships with ISO/IEC 29110
4. Overview of Processes, Activities, Tasks, Roles and Products
5. Description of Processes, Activities, Tasks, Steps, Roles and Products
         Role Description
         Product Description
         Artefact Description
6. Template
7. Example
8. Checklist
9. Tool
10. References to other Standards and Models (e.g. ISO 9001, ISO/IEC 12207, CMMI®)
11. References
12. Evaluation Form

The systems engineering or software engineering Basic Profile describes development of a single application by a single project team with no special risk or situational factors. The set of DPs for the software Basic Profile is illustrated in figure 2.

Figure 2. Deployment Packages to support the Software Basic Profile

A set of DPs to support the Systems Engineering Basic profile is under development in collaboration with members of INCOSE as illustrated in the figure below.

Deployment packages as well as other support material, such as a plug-in, are available at no cost on Internet (see below).


In preparation

Articles and other communications

See also


  1. Oecd Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Outlook Report, 2005
  2. Land, S. K., Results of the IEEE Survey of Software Engineering Standards Users. Software Engineering Standards Symposium and Forum, 1997. Emerging International Standards. ISESS 97, Walnut Creek, CA, June 1–6, pp. 242 – 270, 1997.
  3. Laporte, C.Y., Alexandre, S., O'Connor, R., A Software Engineering Lifecycle Standard for Very Small Enterprise, in R.V. O'Connor et al. (Eds.): EuroSPI 2008, CCIS 16, pp. 129–141
  4. Habra, N., Alexandre, S., Desharnais, J-M, Laporte, C.Y., Renault, A., Initiating Software Process Improvement in Very Small Enterprises Experience with a Light Assessment Tool, Information and Software Technology, Volume 50, June 2008, Pages 763-771. (Draft Version)
  5. O'Connor, R., Sanders, M., Software Lifecycle Standards for Very Small Software Companies, Software and Systems Quality Conference, Dublin, Ireland, March 4, 2009.
  6. ISO/IEC 29110-4-1:2011, "Software Engineering -- Lifecycle Profiles for Very Small Entities (VSEs) - Part 4-1: Profile specifications: Generic profile group". Geneva: International Organization for Standardization (ISO), 2011.
  7. ISO/IEC TR 29110-5-1-2:2011, "Software Engineering - Lifecycle Profiles for Very Small Entities (VSEs) - Part 5-1-2: Management and engineering guide: Generic Profile Group: Basic Profile". Geneva: International Organization for Standardization (ISO), 2011.
  8. Oktaba, H., Felix G., Mario P., Francisco R., Francisco P. and Claudia, A.; Software Process Improvement: The Competisoft Project, IEEE Computer, October 2007, Vol. 40, No 10
  9. ISO/IEC TR 29110-1, "Software Engineering - Lifecycle Profiles for Very Small Entities (VSEs) - Part 1: Overview". Geneva: International Organization for Standardization (ISO), 2016.
  10. Part 2-1, ISO/IEC 29110-2-1, Software Engineering - Lifecycle Profiles for Very Small Entities (VSEs) - Part 2-1: Framework and taxonomy, Geneva: International Organization for Standardization (ISO), 2015.
  11. ISO/IEC TR 29110-3-1, "Software Engineering - Lifecycle Profiles for Very Small Entities (VSEs) - Part 3: Assessment Guide". Geneva: International Organization for Standardization (ISO), 2015.
  12. Varkoi, T., Makinen, T., A Process Model for Very Small Software Entities, SPICE conference, 18–20 May 2010 - Pisa, Italy
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