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Artefacts in software engineering: a fundamental positioning

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Artefacts play a vital role in software and systems development processes. Other terms like documents, deliverables, or work products are widely used in software development communities instead of the term artefact. In the following, we use the term ‘artefact’ including all these other terms. Despite its relevance, the exact denotation of the term ‘artefact’ is still not clear due to a variety of different understandings of the term and to a careless negligent usage. This often leads to approaches being grounded in a fuzzy, unclear understanding of the essential concepts involved. In fact, there does not exist a common terminology. Therefore, it is our goal that the term artefact be standardised so that researchers and practitioners have a common understanding for discussions and contributions. In this position paper, we provide a positioning and critical reflection upon the notion of artefacts in software engineering at different levels of perception and how these relate to each other. We further contribute a metamodel that provides a description of an artefact that is independent from any underlying process model. This metamodel defines artefacts at three levels. Abstraction and refinement relations between these levels allow correlating artefacts to each other and defining the notion of related, refined, and equivalent artefacts. Our contribution shall foster the long overdue and too often underestimated terminological discussion on what artefacts are to provide a common ground with clearer concepts and principles for future software engineering contributions, such as the design of artefact-oriented development processes and tools.

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  1. In this context, we use the term ‘stakeholder’ to denote humans building artefacts as well as humans making use of artefacts.


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Correspondence to Daniel Méndez Fernández.

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Méndez Fernández, D., Böhm, W., Vogelsang, A. et al. Artefacts in software engineering: a fundamental positioning. Softw Syst Model 18, 2777–2786 (2019).

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