Journal of Computer Science and Technology ›› 2020, Vol. 35 ›› Issue (5): 1147-1174.doi: 10.1007/s11390-020-9668-1

Special Issue: Surveys; Software Systems

• Regular Paper • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Machine Learning Techniques for Software Maintainability Prediction: Accuracy Analysis

Sara Elmidaoui1, Laila Cheikhi1,*, Ali Idri1, and Alain Abran2   

  1. 1 Software Project Management Team, École Nationale Supérieure d'Informatique et d'Analyse des Systémes, Madinate Al Irfane, Mohammed V University in Rabat, Agdal Rabat, BP 713, Morocco;
    2 Department of Software Engineering & Information Technology, Ecole de Technologie Supérieure (ETS), Montréal H3C IK3, Canada
  • Received:2019-04-24 Revised:2020-02-26 Online:2020-09-20 Published:2020-09-30
  • Contact: Laila Cheikhi E-mail:laila.cheikhi@um5.ac.ma

Maintaining software once implemented on the end-user side is laborious and, over its lifetime, is most often considerably more expensive than the initial software development. The prediction of software maintainability has emerged as an important research topic to address industry expectations for reducing costs, in particular, maintenance costs. Researchers and practitioners have been working on proposing and identifying a variety of techniques ranging from statistical to machine learning (ML) for better prediction of software maintainability. This review has been carried out to analyze the empirical evidence on the accuracy of software product maintainability prediction (SPMP) using ML techniques. This paper analyzes and discusses the findings of 77 selected studies published from 2000 to 2018 according to the following criteria: maintainability prediction techniques, validation methods, accuracy criteria, overall accuracy of ML techniques, and the techniques offering the best performance. The review process followed the well-known systematic review process. The results show that ML techniques are frequently used in predicting maintainability. In particular, artificial neural network (ANN), support vector machine/regression (SVM/R), regression & decision trees (DT), and fuzzy & neuro fuzzy (FNF) techniques are more accurate in terms of PRED and MMRE. The N-fold and leave-one-out cross-validation methods, and the MMRE and PRED accuracy criteria are frequently used in empirical studies. In general, ML techniques outperformed non-machine learning techniques, e.g., regression analysis (RA) techniques, while FNF outperformed SVM/R, DT, and ANN in most experiments. However, while many techniques were reported superior, no specific one can be identified as the best.

Key words: accuracy criterion; accuracy value; machine learning technique; maintainability prediction;

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