Posts Tagged ‘quality assurance’

Development And Production

December 4, 2009 1 comment

I think that most people would agree that the development of a product and the production of a product are two different, but complementary processes.  In a production environment, you want to minimize variation. Hence, checklists, step-by-step work instructions, templates, and quantitative statistical control techniques (e.g. six sigma) are the tools of choice for successfully ferreting out and correcting evil sources of variation. In a development environment, you want to be flexible and explore variations so that your products will stand out from your competitor’s. Thus, trying to jam fit successful production environment tools and methods into a development environment is always counterproductive. Yet, in their irrational and continuous quest for certainty, managements everywhere do just that. Handcuffs for everyone – no exceptions allowed.

Process Nazis

November 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Unlike most enterprise software development orgs where “quality assurance” is equated to testing, government contractors  usually have both a quality assurance group and a test engineering group. Why is that? It’s because big and bloated government customers “expect” all of its contractors to have one. It’s the  way it is, and it’s the way it’s always been.

Process Nazis

It doesn’t matter if members of the QA group never specified, designed, or wrote a line of software in their life, these checklist process nazis walk around wielding the process compliance axe like they are the kings of the land: “Did you fill out this unit test form?” “Do you have a project plan written according to our template?“, “Did you write a software development plan for us to approve?“, “Did you submit this review form?“, “Did you submit this software version definition form?“, “Do you have a test readiness form?“, “If you don’t do this, we’ll tell on you and you’ll get punished“. Yada, yada, yada. It’s one interruption,  roadblock, and distraction after another. On one side, you’ve got these obstacle inserters, and on the other side you’ve got nervous, time-obsessed managers looking over your shoulder. WTF?


Since following a mechanistic process supposedly  “proven to deliver results” doesn’t guarantee anything but a consumption of time, I don’t care much about formal processes. I care about getting the right information to the right people at the right time. By “right“, I mean accurate, unambiguous, complete, and most importantly – frreakin’ useful. For system engineers, the right information is requirements, for software architects it’s blueprints, for programmers it’s designs and source code, for testers it’s developer tested software. How about you, what do you care about?


How can someone effectively judge quality of content when they have no idea, nada, of what that content means? Well, they can’t. No matter how hard they try, and how sincere they are, they just can’t. People that are placed in those types of positions end up doing the best they can, which is judging the container that houses the content.

In technical companies that have separate Quality Assurance (QA) and Test groups, that’s often what the QA members end up doing – judging containers and not contents. The testers judge the contents (which adds value) and the QA group judges the containers (which doesn’t add value).

It’s not the QA group’s fault, it’s just the way the system IS. Even the managers who structure their companies in this costly and inefficient way aren’t fully at fault. That’s because customers, especially government bureaucracies, often require a separate QA silo group before they will do business with you. In a perverted way, it gives them a false sense of safety that the product or service they receive will be of high quality.

Since I’m a firm believer in POSIWID (the Purpose Of a System Is What It Does), then I propose to change the name of all non-test QA groups to FORM-ASS, which is short for: the “FORMat ASSurance” group. Since the FORM-ASS acronym more directly reflects what they do, it is a better fit, dontcha think?

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