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Make Your Tools Sparkle with Trust: The PICSE Framework for Trust in Software Tools

May 1, 2023
Developer Tools

The day to day of a software engineer involves a variety of tasks. While many of these tasks are collaborative and completed as such, it is not always possible or feasible to engage with other engineers for task completion. Software tools, such as code generators and static analysis tools, aim to fill this gap by providing additional support for developers to effectively complete their tasks. With a steady stream of new tools that emerging to support software engineers, including a new breed of tools that rely on artificial intelligence, there are important questions we should aim to answer regarding the trust engineers can, and should, put into their software tools and what it means to build a trustworthy tool. In this paper, we present findings from an industry interview study conducted with 18 engineers across and external to the Microsoft organization. Based on these interviews, we introduce the PICSE (pronounced “pixie”) framework for trust in software tools to provide preliminary insights into factors that influence engineer trust in their software tools. We also discuss how the PICSE framework can be considered and applied in practice for designing and developing trustworthy software tools.

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Brittany Johnson
Christian Bird
Denae Ford
Nicole Forsgren
Thomas Zimmermann

Nicole Forsgren is a partner at Microsoft Research, where she leads the Developer Velocity Lab. She is lead author of the Shingo Publication Award-winning book Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps. Her work on technical practices and development has been published in industry and academic journals and is used to guide organizational transformations around the world. For more information, visit her website at

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