Feel the width

Quality? Wossat, then?

Some of you may be old enough to remember that UK TV series Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Width. It's a title that in many ways still sums up the approach of applications development managers to the job of building quality software products. Who says so? A survey recently conducted by Compuware.

A trawl round 184 IT executives across Europe has thrown up some interesting statistics. Yes, we all know about lies, damned lies and statistics, and for sure the company wants to use the numbers to prove a point but, notwithstanding that caveat, the finding that 78 per cent of companies are failing to consistently apply a formal Quality Assurance (QA) methodology is just a tad telling.

In fact, when it comes to trying to build quality into applications development, consistency looks largely like a fond dream, with 44 per cent of the companies saying that quality assurance was applied only at a departmental level and that each department used its own rules and methodologies anyway.

The survey also offers hope and job prospects for under-achievers everywhere with the discovery that 24 per cent of the survey group acknowledged that their QA teams were staffed by untrained and inexperienced people. This writer is now applying for a job as brain surgeon using the same justification.

HR Manager: “Tell me, what qualifications or experience do you have?”

Job Applicant: “Bugger all”

HR Mgr: “We have just the job for you in QA.”

A further 30 per cent had trained and experienced QA staff, but they were potentially "flying blind" by having no manager or team leader. It does seem as though IT wants to maintain an on-going flow of "if aeroplanes were built like software" jokes running into the future.

Only 14 per cent went so far as to claim they had a formal plan in place for improving application quality, while over half the sample did not even bother making use of historical metrics – an important first step in establishing quality goals. Indeed, the vast majority of those companies didn’t bother trying to capture such metrics in the first place.

This is a shame, because those metrics are also the first step for many QA teams to start proving that they and improved quality can be at least an indirect revenue generator, rather than just a sink-hole for costs.

But, till this changes..."if an Airbus was built like our payroll system..."®

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