The world of software quality has changed tremendously over the last 5 years. There are many reasons why this has happened, and it is critical that education serve as the primary strategy to influence change in an organization. Here are a few critical areas where the CIO can gain a better understanding of some of the challenges that impact software quality.
Primarily due to Agile, the robust requirements that used to be a cornerstone of the waterfall methology have been thrown in the trash. While there are some organizations that continue to document and provide best practices gathering requirements, most organizations feel this is outdated and no longer necessary. The lack of proper documentation and requirements have a direct correlation on software quality. Here are some specific reasons
- Without proper documentation a developer will code software based upon their understanding. This often will result in buggy code and requires rework after production, which will be very expensive to fix.
- Without proper documentation a tester will write test cases based upon their understanding. This often will result in test cases that have to be written again and will result in the tester missing defects that will go into production.
- Without proper documentation, the test automation engineer, will build automation test cases which will have to be changed once the manual test case changes, and will miss defects that go into production.
- Without proper documentation, the production support developer will fix problems in production and will break other production code, because they didn’t get an accurate picture from the developer that originally built the code.
These are a few examples, but you should start understanding why requirements are critical.
Agile has changed the approach on how software is delivered into production. It has some tremendous benefits, and done properly, it can greatly increase productivity within an organization. It is quick, lean, and provides fantastic feedback from the business. CIO’s love it because it provides rapid return on investment.
There are some challenges from a software quality perspective that need to be incorporated and education needs to happen across all levels of an organization. Unless you are deeply entrenched on an agile team, you will probably make a ton of assumptions that are incorrect. Within an agile team, everyone has a responsibility for software quality. Here are some areas that will have a direct impact on software quality:
- Agile Stories must be well written. It is not enough to throw out tasks without enough detail.
- Agile Planning is critical. There is some real misunderstanding about agile as it relates to planning. The more planning and organizing that can be done, the better the team will respond and be able to pack more work within a given sprint.
- Documentation is needed. This is another area which is often misunderstood. Providing documentation allows the team to understand details and more effectively code and test the desired solution.
- Developers must still test. This is important. Just because the agile team has a tester, doesn’t mean that a developer doesn’t have to test.
- All testing can be automated. Well, perhaps it could. But it might not make sense, especially if the code isn’t stable and will need to change over sprints. ROI, is still important within agile, so just because you can automate a test, doesn’t mean that you should. This is the most misunderstood item that CIO’s need software quality education.
CIO’s often ask why there are so many defects found in production. Well, that is a fairly complicated question. In order to answer that, a full analysis will need to be done on the defects to gain a better understanding. Many years ago, when I began a new job, the same question was asked. In order to come up with the correct answer, the CIO brought in an outside company to perform a software testing assessment. While I was fairly new, it wasn’t uncommon for this to occur. In fact, I welcomed the opportunity, because I already had a hypothesis as to why this was happening. Typically this is primarily due to little or very poor requirements. The company came in and did the assessment and found that there were 38% of defects that were making it into production. That is a really high percentage, most companies will average around 5%. Over a period of time, we started to tackle the problem, and after 1 year of work, we were able to reduce the production defect leakage to 5%. This was a tremendous accomplishment and required a team effort from project managers,business analysts, developers, and testers to make this happen.
CIO’s are very metrics driven. They use data everyday to make better decisions. While there is usually some form of metrics around software quality, it usually does not make it into the CIO’s hand for one reason or another. I believe software quality metrics will tell a story, and provide great insight to those that are willing to look and interpret the data. Several years ago, my team and I started to perform analysis on what data was important and which metrics would help us make decisions. Once we agreed on what those metrics would be, we started to gather that information release over release. We started to see trends that would help us test more thoroughly those areas which where problematic. That resulted in bringing production defects down. We also, built a web based dashboard, that would allow the CIO and anyone else in the company to see how testing was progressing. Using this dashboard, we could determine if we were going to meet our testing timelines, and see what outstanding defects were holding up production deployments. This was a true game changer for the organization.
Educating CIO’s on sofware quality will take time. CIO’s want to have high quality software, they often don’t understand how to get there. They don’t want their business partners to suffer through using software that doesn’t work properly. It is important as a quality champion, you spend time with your CIO and provide software quality education, so that you can avoid having significant issues in production. Software quality can be done effectively and efficiently within an organization.