Goodbye to Quality

Does any value quality any more? All over I hear complaints such as “nothing lasts” and “nobody cares” about all manner of products and services, and especially in my industry of bespoke software development. However, in here it more from software engineers, those charged with developing a quality product, than anywhere else.

When I entered the industry over twenty years ago, Software Engineering had reached such a level of sophistication, Quality Assurance (QA) was just part of the everyday production process. To confirm understanding of the terms I amusing: Quality is the process of following well defined processes and Standards. Assurance is the process of confirming the ‘well defined processes’ are being followed and Standards are in place.

Over the past decade I have noticed how Quality is slipping way. First signs are shown when commercial pressures lead to a reduction of any dedicated QA department/staff until it disappears completely; falling back of the capability of experienced development staff to self-regulate. However, this reliance on the discipline of experienced staff gradually becomes untenable as new, less-experienced staff enter the industry.

The issue is of less concern on developments that demand a higher level of rigger, such as safety-related systems, but all systems should be subject to QA scrutiny.

For decades the primary indicators of a successful project were regarded to be Time and Cost, so project managers were most often measured by these factors. Understandably PMs were focused on controlling these aspect in pursuit of the project’s third factor Scope. In the software industry it quickly became apparent that these measures alone were insufficient and often resulted in products that were “unfit for purpose”. In order to address this issue a forth factor “Quality” was introduced. Let’s take a look at the who controls and requires each of these factors.

  • Time: is a strategic driver identified by management to ensure maximum benefit to the business.
  • Cost: Money is a finite resource that limits the amount of effort that can be spent to delivery the product.
  • Scope: defines the features and facilities required in the product to ensure it performs and serves the business purpose. Defined and validated by end-users.
  • Quality: defined by producers (engineers) through the specification of standards, application of assurances and verified through testing.

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