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Manage verification with success

Posted: 16 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:verification management? design and verification? design process management? verification management? verification process management?

Project management and automation are quickly becoming the most critical elements of the design and verification process. The key ingredients are good specification development and metric-based checkpoints. The ability to "begin with the end in mind" allows for optimal resource usage, much higher design quality and realistic schedule estimates for customers.

Today's design and verification flows often miss cross-functional problems. The flows tend to focus primarily on individual tasks, engine performance or languages, rather than on defining the entire verification challenge or team interdependencies. In fact, most verification plans are merely a set of incomplete discussion notes that atrophy as the project moves forward.

Good management of the design and verification process starts with specific goals that focus on what needs to be verified. Using those guidelines, an experienced verification team can develop and implement a plan that includes everything. Stakeholders can capture and review the verification plan to drive the design safely and smoothly to closure.

Successful verification management requires good analysis of the specification, an awareness of the scope of the job at hand, and a firm decision on what coverage models and metrics to track.

Do

  • Have a plan that measures specific progress and completion checkpoints?and make sure that the plan is executable. It is important that you work with a concise and precise plan. Have a verification plan that you can manage, and measure progress toward closure on a daily and weekly basis, against every milestone.

  • Identify all parts of the system that are affected by each change, and incorporate those into the overall plan before making any changes to the specification. It is easy to preach new planning methods, but a lot more challenging to put them into practice and follow them closely. The only way to take full advantage of a verification plan is to keep it in use and leverage the guidance and checkpoints as the project moves toward closure.

  • Identify an owner of the change process who is committed to following the process to completion. This person needs to have a good overall view of the project and maintain a high attention to detail. The health of the plan depends on a good schedule manager. The owner of the change process is critical to the project's success.

  • Measure the impact of changes by the scope of the change to the verification plan. Don't forget the impact of dependencies outside of your control, such as third-party IP blocks, or support from an IC vendor or contract service provider.

  • Review the effectiveness and quality of the process regularly during the project and at its conclusion. Use each change forced by errors in the past as a learning experience.

Automatic identification and verification of handshake schemes can eliminate many false violations.

Don't

  • Assume a change is completed until specific system behaviors exhibiting the change have been verified. In particular, take care of changes up and down the entire process that reach far within other areas of specialization.

  • Believe one person can implement a change to completion. Effectiveness in verification is a lot higher with redundancy and cross checks. As in extreme programming, it is a lot better to work in pairs, albeit with primary responsibility resting on one person's shoulders.

  • Proceed as if a "simple change" is the best solution. At times, a simple change may create a "butterfly effect" and morph the system being verified from relatively stable to utterly chaotic. Watch out for the fallacy of simple solutions by reviewing changes with all adjacent groups and the architecture team.

  • Take shortcuts by failing to update plans and all the necessary metrics of quality. Shortcuts may lessen quality, and they often affect predictability and productivity. Cutting costs on prevention often results in expensive cures.

  • Change multiple parts of the system all at once without first assessing dependencies. In some cases, it may be prudent to verify the design in a few well-defined iterations. Making multiple changes at once is something that happens quite often. And what it leads to?more often than not?is a classic case of Murphy's Law.

- Ilana Golan
Principal Product Engineer, Cadence Design Systems Inc.




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