One of the common hazards many clients grapple with is what I call ‘silent quality killers’. Most companies are relatively aware of them, and some even know where they are, but are predominantly focused on operational output trying to service their business and downstream clients that managing these ‘killers’ becomes a backend priority.
Despite having a good understanding of the need for agility and efficiency in software quality assurance (SQA), so many organisations end up with volatile and unproductive SQA processes over extended periods. If left unchecked, this could cripple their business or at the very least slow them down considerably, leaving them vulnerable against their more agile and efficient competitors.
So what are these ‘silent killers’, and how can they be eliminated?
1. Strategy. Many businesses quite simply don’t have a robust strategy when it comes to SQA. At most they have a document that covers the basics but offers no value. Having a comprehensive SQA strategy that incorporates all your business units – from business to project management, development teams and operations – and consolidates the various methodologies, processes and operations they use, be it waterfall or agile, is extremely important and a necessary first step.
2. Collaboration/cross-communication. Most organisations have their business units in place, but they more often than not work in a disparate fashion. This results in disjointed communications, which feeds into SQA, and ultimately impacts the rest of the organisation downstream. This comes at the expense of time, effort and cost. Time and effort are lost as a result of all the refactoring and realignment of SQA content because of poor SQA management. Spending more than is needed on maintenance, while costs spiral as a result of having to incur unnecessary resourcing costs internally or externally (vendors) to rectify poor SQA management and surrounding operations. It’s often high-profile and expensive expertise that are tasked to remedy and mitigate these unnecessary pitfalls, which adds even higher unforeseen costs to business.
3. Poorly architected software. Software is the blood of your company’s systems. When it’s not efficient, the results are time wasted and frustration gained trying to ‘’panel beat’’ an incomplete or rushed solution. Well architected software results in an efficient system that is both effective and flexible, growing organically with the business. Basics like regression testing, debugging and logging also needs to be in place. Failing to get back to basics even a good software solution can suffer, which leads to unmanageable systems down the line.
4. Rushing to market. Companies are always in a hurry to put new software out to market. Rather manage time, resource capacity and planning better to service a customer complete product, than rush an unfinished product to market. Building in some fat around SQA can be rewarded immeasurably. If you risk rushing your software to market too soon, unforeseen production issues will force you to waste time on servicing customers and saving your reputation rather than growing the business. Get it right at the start rather than resorting to panel beating at the end, which almost always results in unforeseen losses in other areas.
5. Requirement Gap Analysis. Requirements for new software or features are often based on a specific development methodology, but then more often than not a different/hybrid methodology is used, and the original requirements are lost in translation. Too often the final product falls way short of the original requirements, and that’s purely because of the disconnect to spend the time to close the analysis gap between the original and eventual requirements supported by the most efficient methodology. Either the methodology itself was improper to start with, or the development team didn’t have the necessary maturity to switch methodologies effectively. Whichever the case, closing the requirements gap, and involving senior stakeholders including QA to manage the process, is the most effective way to eliminate this SQA killer.
It’s important to stress that eliminating these silent killers alone is no guarantee for success, but failure to do so is a sure recipe for disaster. Start by asking yourself three key questions, the answers to which will quickly establish where you fall short and what needs improving:
- Do we have a robust, efficient quality strategy in place?
- Do we have the right people with the right mindset, and is the business at the right maturity level to implement, execute and deliver?
- Is everyone in the business pulling in the same direction to execute the strategies in question?
It’s critically important to have a holistic business strategy that’s aligned with your quality strategy that’s embedded with your business units and is expertly executed with the right methodology by the right people at the right time.