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Topics: Recent, All, Agile, ConfigMgmt, ITIL®, Management, Metrics, Planning, Process, Quality, Requirements, Risk, Standards  
 
 
  Quality Articles    

"A" is for "Assurance"
Topic: Quality   •   Date Published: 2003
How can we truly assure quality? In this article we will explore the various dimensions of software quality (e.g. Usability, Maintainability, Lack of Defects) and identify the variety of actions that are necessary to truly assuring each dimension of quality.

Affordable Peer Reviews
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Quality, Metrics, Planning   •   Date Published: 14 Feb 2006
Many people know that peer reviews can help them to produce better-quality products. But most organizations do not use this potent tool because they can't justify the costs they would incur. But we can do Peer Reviews that pay back more than they cost by ensuring that they are focused on finding the kinds of defects that are difficult and much more expensive to find using other methods.

Agility and Quality
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Agile, Quality   •   Date Published: 12 Apr 2006

What constitutes high quality on this project? Don't ask me! Ask your customer! There are many competing definitions, mainly because the one that makes the most sense, "Quality is in the eye of the beholder," is hard to make workable in a real business situation. Some would say it is impossible to use. But the Agile methods beg to differ.

Assuring Quality: Beyond Testing & Reviews
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Quality, Metrics   •   Date Published: 19 Feb 2007

There is much more to QA than testing and reviews. In fact, testing and reviews don't assure quality; they merely check the quality and keep the product from going into production if it is too bad. Quality Assurance involves the proactive activities that can actually assure that we will build better quality than we have in the past.

Blurring the Line Between Dev & QA
This article is also published on Project Connections.
Topic: Management, Quality   •   Date Published: 25 Oct 2010

What's the difference between development and QA? It's been decades since we began distinguishing between these two project roles, and in most organizations the fact that they are necessary and distinct from each other is taken as an article of faith. But new voices have arisen in recent years. Most of them do not suggest that we go back to the 1960s, but they do raise interesting questions about the Dev/QA dichotomy. How well has the traditional structure worked? What dysfunctions are crying out to be addressed? Can we make our projects more effective by re-thinking these two roles and how they relate to each other?

Build Quality In: The Agile Methods are right!
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Agile, Quality   •   Date Published: 25 Nov 2007
For decades, independent testing has been the accepted "best practice" in quality. Unfortunately, this supposed best practice has not proven to be effective in achieving better quality. What differentiates those organizations who achieve high quality from those who can't? It is the developers themselves! The old adage is proven true: "You can't test quality into the product; it must be built in." And it is the Agile methods that have declared this adage to be "best practice".

Building High-Quality Software: Building a Culture of Quality
This article is also published on Sticky Minds and on IT Toolbox.
Topic: Quality   •   Date Published: 6 Jun 2005

Quality must be built into our products; it can never be tested in after the fact. Although QA has an important role in assuring the quality of our products, their work is entirely indirect. Their role is to influence others in the organization. It is those other people who will build quality into our products. (Or not.)

Consistent Quality Requires Consistent Processes
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Quality, Process   •   Date Published: 18 Jul 2005

Inconsistency in quality--of food, of service, of products, of software--of anything is almost always caused by inconsistency in the way those things are done. Both the traditional plan-based CMMI, and the new Agile methods agree that consistency in the way processes are used is so important that a proactive approach is necessary to ensure that consistency is there.

Does Senior Management Really Care About Quality?
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Quality, Planning   •   Date Published: 20 Sep 2006

Any executive will tell you that they want (no, they need) high-quality software systems. And yet from the vantage point of those of us who are tasked with building those systems, the opposite can seem to be true. Why the disconnect? And what can we do about it?

Establishing Unit Test Criteria
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Quality   •   Date Published: 16 Nov 2005

The phrase "latest and greatest" belies an assumption that the latest version of something is automatically the greatest. The latest version improves on the versions that preceded it. How could it be anything other than the greatest? But, in fact, things are often not as great as they seem to be.

Expecting Easy Integration
Topic: Quality, ConfigMgmt   •   Date Published: Feb 2009
My biggest Configuration Management mistake was in being overly optimistic! And I should know better -- I've been in Quality for a lot of years! I know that things never go as we plan and expect them to when we are integrating software. So why did I think that things would be any different when I was teaching a college class?

Help! The Testers Want to Break the Bank!
This article is also published on Project Connections.
Topic: Quality, Planning   •   Date Published: 2 Feb 2006

I analyzed the project, I figured out what needs to be done, and I laid out an aggressive but achievable schedule. And then the testers cried "foul!" They tell me that they need three times as much time to ensure a quality product, and that the project is doomed to failure if their demands are denied. Their claims sound like hyperbole to me, but how can I know? They are the experts in testing! Am I really stuck with a choice between delivering late and delivering poor quality? How can I make the best decision for the project?

A High-Quality Plan
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Quality, Planning   •   Date Published: 20 Sep 2005

Do good plans affect the quality of the products you produce? Absolutely! Although it may not be obvious at first glance, the quality of your plans is one of the primary drivers of the quality of the products your project produces. Let's take a look at some examples of plans contributing to the quality of projects' products--or the lack thereof!

High-Quality Unit Tests
This article is also published on Project Connections.
Topic: Quality   •   Date Published: 8 Dec 2005

Most software developers are not good at unit testing. This is not surprising for many reasons. If we look at all of the reasons for programmers' reluctance to focus on unit testing, it becomes evident that these reasons feed on each other. Who likes to do something he has never learned to do well? And who wants to invest the effort to learn to do something she is not judged on? When our programmers' jobs are to "write code", why would we expect that they would work at being good testers?

How Much Quality Can We Afford?
Improving our Cost of Quality

This article is also published on Project Connections.
Topic: Management, Quality   •   Date Published: 1 Jun 2010

Sure, it might be nice to build a higher quality product. But how much quality can we really afford? Well, let's break out our Cost of Quality Calculator and try out the numbers.

Investing in Quality: When is "Enough" Enough?
This article is also published on Project Connections.
Topic: Quality, Planning, Metrics   •   Date Published: 27 Feb 2007

There is no doubt that we need to invest in producing a quality product. But it is not clear how much we should invest. Invest too much and we waste precious resources; invest too little and our product will be judged as poor-quality, and our project may be labeled a "failure." (Yikes!) The information you need to make good quality investments is in the records from your prior projects. Both the projects that produced "good" quality and those that did not set the stage for you to make the right decisions this time around.

ITIL®: A Foundation for Project Success
This article is also published on Project Connections.
Topic: ITIL, Management, Requirements, Quality   •   Date Published: 9 Oct 2006

At its heart, quality is a matter of meeting the business need. Can the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL®) -- a process model for IT Service Management -- help us with our development projects? Absolutely! ITIL can help us to assure the quality of the systems we develop by providing the basis for understanding the business need and taking action on that understanding. ITIL can be our foundation for project success by defining the context for our project and for the product we will build!

Making Quality Planning Concrete
This article is also published on Global Knowledge.
Topic: Planning, Quality, Metrics   •   Date Published: Jun 2006

Most of what you do while planning a project is concrete. But Quality is a "soft" concept that it is difficult to think about it in concrete terms. This makes it harder to plan for than the budget or schedule. If you want to plan for and manage quality with the same focus as you do for budget and schedule, then you must learn to measure it with the same precision.

No Risk of Defects!: Making Quality-Related Risks Actionable
This article is also published on Global Knowledge.
Topic: Risk, Quality   •   Date Published: 19 Jul 2006

A risk is defined as "an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on a project's objectives." The key word for this discussion is "uncertain". Defects are a certainty, so they do not belong on our risk list. Does that mean that quality-related risks don't belong on our risk list? Not at all! There are many potential quality-related risks, but we must be much more specific if we are to make them an actionable part of our risk planning.

Partnership For Success
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Quality   •   Date Published: 17 Oct 2005

Our projects often seem like a struggle between the Quality Assurance personnel and those who have other jobs. How can we get all of the players on our projects to work together? How can we change our mode of operation from that of warring factions into that of a partnership for success? The key is to be sure that we all understand the meaning of "success"!

Personal Quality Management With the Personal Software Process
This article is also published on Methods and Tools.
Topic: Quality, Process   •   Date Published: Summer 2007

Software development organizations have a variety of mechanisms at their disposal to help in managing and improving the quality of the products they produce. Quality Assurance organizations, problem reporting systems, software process improvement and peer reviews (to name just a few) are important tools for product quality enhancement. But an often-overlooked piece of the quality puzzle may well provide the most effective means to improve product quality: the individual software engineer.

Placing the Quality Bet
This article is also published on Project Connections.
Topic: Quality, Planning   •   Date Published: 11 Apr 2006

Most of us have heard the logic: Invest in quality early in the project, and it will pay back later. But when it's time to plan a new project, there is always a reason why that logic just doesn't seem to apply. Regardless of how compelling they seem to us, these "reasons" are illusions. Let's look at where to find the time for reviews in your project schedule. (Hint: look under "testing.")

Planning For Quality
This article is also published on Project Connections.
Topic: Quality, Planning, Metrics   •   Date Published: 11 Oct 2005

With all of the things we must worry about while planning a project, it is easy to miss the one thing that everyone expects so automatically that it goes without saying: Quality! The customer, management, even the development team expects that the software we produce will be "good" quality. But without proper attention to defining what we mean by "good" and then planning for it, achieving the levels of quality we need is far from assured.

PSP/TSPSM Reported Data
Topic: Quality, Metrics, Process   •   Date Published: 2003
This is a compilation of data that has been reported by the SEI and various commercial companies. The data quantify the positive impact of the Personal Software Process and Team Software Process (PSP/TSP) on such measures as the quality of delivered software, programmer productivity, and the accuracy of project estimates. Several of the companies also report on intangible benefits.

Project Quality Management Series

Part 1: Quality Planning, What is "Good Enough"?
This article is also published on Global Knowledge.
Topic: Quality, Planning, Metrics  
Date Published: 13 Dec 2006

The PMBOK ® Guide makes Quality Planning sound simple enough. But for many of us, the relevant quality standards are not immediately obvious. If we are to do appropriate Quality Planning, we must figure out how to answer these two pressing questions: (1) What does it mean for our product to be "good enough"? and (2) How can we ensure that our product will be "good enough"?

Part 2: Quality Assurance, Gettin' Better
This article is also published on Global Knowledge.
Topic: Quality, Metrics   •   Date Published: 14 Feb 2007

Many readers, seeing "Quality Assurance" (QA) in the title of this article, will expect to read about testing and reviews. Sorry! That will be next month when we talk about Quality Control. Quality Assurance has nothing to do with testing or reviews. QA is the proactive things we do before and while we are building the product to assure that we will achieve our quality goals.

Part 3: Quality Control, Ensuring "Good Enough"
This article is also published on Global Knowledge.
Topic: Quality, Metrics, Management   •   Date Published: 15 Mar 2007

I don't need to ask if you test and debug your products. We all do! But we are not all successful at ensuring that our products are "good enough"! In fact, many of us find that, in spite of our best efforts, the products that we put into production are disappointing. We are doing Quality Control activities only to find that they have been less than effective. Ensuring that our product is "good enough" takes more than just trying hard! It requires that we do the right things, and that we do them well.

The QA Catchall
This article is also published on Better Software Magazine - Sticky Minds.
Topic: Quality   •   Date Published: May 2007

Years ago, I gave a presentation that I called "A is for Assurance: A Broad View of SQA." It explored the variety of activities that are necessary to actually assure quality. My talk resulted in frustration for many audience members because the software industry has made achieving quality a frustrating job. The QA people I have met and worked with are excited about quality, but they are usually in positions where they have little opportunity to assure quality.

Quality = Business Value Series

Part 1: Why common definitions of Quality fall short
This article is also published on Project Connections.
Topic: Quality   •   Date Published: 3 Jan 2011

"Quality" is one of those words that is used all the time, but rarely defined. We are supposed to produce "quality" products, but the precise meaning of that mandate is left to the imagination. Even among those who have undertaken to define "Quality", there is more variety than consensus. By examining the ways each of these traditional definitions falls short, we can appreciate an emerging new definition: Quality is delivering Business Value.

Part 2: Business Value as the Measure of Quality
This article is also published on Project Connections.
Topic: Quality   •   Date Published: 18 Mar 2011

We examined the ways each of the traditional definitions of "quality" falls short in part 1 of this 2-part series. Having done this, we can now appreciate an emerging new definition: Quality is delivering Business Value. As we do, we will see that it borrows the high points from each of the common definitions while leaving the baggage behind.

Quality is Conformance OF Requirements
This article is also published on Project Connection.
Topic: Quality, Requirements   •   Date Published: 15 Aug 2005

We in the software industry prefer to measure quality in terms of conformance to requirements. But there is one very large and glaring problem with this: Anything that people produce may be defective, and that includes the specifications that they write. And if the specification is wrong, then how can we say that a system that conforms to it is "high-quality"?

Quality is Not My Job
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Quality   •   Date Published: 15 Aug 2006

In software organizations, it is not uncommon (in fact, it is considered to be "best practice") to make a clear division between developers and testers. This division of work makes a lot of sense from both a skills and an objectives point of view, but it can lead to some counterproductive attitudes. Its most pernicious effect is the attitude that because the testers focus on quality, other people don't need to. How can we combat the attitude that "Quality is not my job"?

Quality That Is Worth the Cost
This article is also published on Project Connections.
Topic: Planning, Quality, Metrics   •   Date Published: 5 Jun 2006

QA activities do not produce any tangible products. The Cost of Quality (CoQ) is an overhead cost, and like any overhead cost, it should be minimized. But without a clear understanding of all of the things that should be counted, many organizations do the wrong things and actually end up increasing their total CoQ. Quality may be an intangible, but that doesn't meant it has to be invisible. Here's how to manage quality by the numbers.

Quantifying Risk: The Purpose of Testing
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Quality, Risk, Management   •   Date Published: 16 Feb 2010

Testing is such an integral part of our software projects that we often don't stop to think about why we do it. We must do it! What else is there to know? It is obvious that software that has not been tested is unready for deployment. But as painful experience has taught us, testing does not guarantee that the software is fit to deploy. Even rigorously tested software may still have hidden fatal flaws.

Reducing Your Cost of Quality
This article is also published on Project Connections and CM Crossroads.
Topic: Quality, Metrics   •   Date Published: May 2005

How high is your Cost of Quality? The answer might surprise you. Yes, it includes reviews, the QA infrastructure, and preparing tests--those are your "Appraisal Costs". But how high are your "Failure Costs"--the cost of defects? These are the more significant Cost of Quality, and althought they are beyond your direct control, you can gain control over them indirectly!

The Risk of Regression
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Risk, Quality   •   Date Published: 19 Jun 2006

"But it was just a tiny little change! How could we have known it would cause such big problems?" Regression testing will always be necessary. But with the very limited amount of time we have for testing a "minor" change, how can we do sufficient regression testing? How can we know where to look? How can we reduce the risk that there will be problems?

Software Quality Data Series

Part 1: Basic and Derived Metrics
Topic: Quality, Metrics   •   Date Published: 2003

We measure, quantify and report on software quality. But can we control it? Can we actually assure quality (as opposed to just measuring it)? In Part 1 of this series, we will discuss the three basic metrics from which the most important quality measures can be derived (Defects, Effort, and Size). Then we will look at several important metrics that can be derived from those basic three.

Part 2: Quantitative Quality Planning
Topic: Quality, Metrics, Planning   •   Date Published: 2003

In Part 2, we will look at Benchmark data for the measures discussed in Part 1, and how to use this information to produce a quantitative Quality Plan that we can use to understand our quality performance before the project is complete. This includes setting Quality Objectives we can check status against, establishing size estimates for the products to be produced, and determining the Defect Removal activities that will help us to reach our objectives.

Part 3: Quality Control Using In-Process Data
Topic: Quality, Metrics, Management   •   Date Published: 2003

In Part 3, we will discuss using in-process metrics to track against our quaity plan, and taking corrective action when the in-process data suggest it. This is how we actually gain control over quality!

Software Quality – Service Quality: What's the Difference?
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: ITIL®, Management, Quality   •   Date Published: 16 Oct 2006

We have spent many years talking about building high-quality software products. But a high-quality application will not meet the needs of our customers if it exists in a context that is otherwise quality-challenged. And more importantly, we are unlikely to understand all of the quality attributes that are required of our software unless we examine them while considering the entirety of those IT Services. ITIL shows us how to do this.

Testing is NOT Quality Assurance
This article is also published on Project Connections.
Topic: Quality   •   Date Published: 3 Aug 2006

We in the software industry have gotten into a bad habit of using the term "Quality Assurance" to refer to things like testing and technical reviews, which are actually Quality Control activities. We've been doing this for so long, and so consistently that most of us don't even know what true Quality Assurance is!

Testing vs. Quality Assurance
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Quality   •   Date Published: 30 May 2006

What does your Quality Assurance group do?" I have asked many executives. And too often they answer, "QA is responsible for testing our software to ensure it is ready for release." "Anything else?" I push, hoping for more. But usually, the response is little more than, "Well, they manage the defect tracking system. What else would they do?" What more, indeed!

Tool Choice as a Quality Issue
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Quality, ConfigMgmt   •   Date Published: 18 Nov 2008

We need to choose an SCM tool. It will mean some work to make the choice, and then more work to put it into practice. But at least we don't have to worry about it from a quality perspective. After all, the tools we choose to employ don't affect the quality of the software we produce. Well, let's think about this a bit. Hmmmmmm...

We Cannot Trade Quality for Budget or Schedule
This article is also published on Global Knowledge.
Topic: Quality, Planning   •   Date Published: 14 Feb 2006

It is not uncommon for people to say, "Fast, cheap, or good; choose two." Most people interpret this to mean that if you want a short schedule and a low budget, you must sacrifice quality. And the corollary is that if you want quality, you must expect a longer schedule or higher costs. But "quality" is not one of the "Triple Constraints"! The PMBOK teaches us that every project must balance time, cost and scope. When budget and schedule are constrained, it is scope that must be given up, not quality! And it is increasing scope (not quality) that increases costs or schedules.

Who Does QA? Hint: Not Your Testers!
This article is also published on Global Knowledge.
Topic: Quality   •   Date Published: 20 Nov 2006

Many of us have Quality Assurance (QA) groups in our organizations, and the natural assumption might be that these groups are responsible for the quality of our products. For a few of us, that assumption might hold true, but for most organizations, the QA group cannot be held responsible for quality because they don't actually assure quality. All they do is test.

Yes, You Can Review Your Own Work!
This article is also published on CM Crossroads.
Topic: Quality, Metrics   •   Date Published: 14 Jun 2005

In last month's column, "Reducing Your Cost of Quality", I listed "Structured Personal Reviews" as being a highly effective appraisal method. This resulted in e-mails from multiple people asking me about that topic. So this month, I explain what I mean by this term, and explain how you can make your reviews effective.

 

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