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Capers And Salmon

December 27, 2011 4 comments

I like capers with my salmon. In general, I also like the work of long time software quality guru Capers Jones. In this Dr. Dobb’s article, “Do You Inspect?”, the caped one extols the virtues of formal inspection. He (rightly) states that formal, Fagan type, inspections can catch defects early in the product development process – before they bury and camouflage themselves deep inside the product until they spring forth way downstream in the customer’s hands. (I hate when that happens!)

The pair of figures below (snipped from the article) graphically show what Capers means. Note that the timeline implies a long, sequential, one-shot, waterfall development process (D’oh!).

That’s all well and dandy, but as usual with mechanistic, waterfall-oriented thinking, the human aspects of doing formal inspections “wrong” aren’t addressed. Because formal inspections are labor-intensive (read as costly), doing artifact and code inspections “wrong” causes internal team strife, late delivery, and unnecessary budget drain. (I hate when that happens!)

An agile-oriented alternative to boring and morale busting “Fagan-inspections-done-wrong” is shown below. The short, incremental delivery time frames get the product into the hands of internal and external non-developers early and often. As the system grows in functionality and value, users and independent testers can bang on the system, acquire knowledge/experience/insight, and expose bugs before they intertwine themselves deep into the organs of the product. Working hands-on with a product is more exhilarating and motivating than paging through documents and power points in zombie or contentious meetings, no?

Of course, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A hybrid approach can be embraced: “targeted, lightweight inspections plus incremental deliveries with hands-on usage”.

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