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Editor's Blog: Quality Management

A path through the mire...

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Quality management often looks very different from the perspective of the pointy haired manager who sees it as a noble edifice like an East Anglian church, gleaming in the early morning sunlight under a spring sky.

Whereas the Dilbertia/Dilbert in charge of actually making it work feels as tough s/he's lost in the wilds of East Anglia – the church is visible on the horizon but the land in between is a wilderness of ditches and fens (OK, when I lived in East Anglia, you could still bum a drink off Hereward the Wake – these days it's mainly fields of Birds-Eye peas and dangerous turkeys).

So I was interested when Sarah Saltzman of Compuware offered me a path through the mire. Well, dropping that metaphor like a soggy marsh amphibian, she offered a path from point solutions in testing and the like to proper Enterprise quality management.

You need this, not just because small companies do need quality management with acceptably low overheads, but because small companies grow. If they don't put "good processes" in place before they really need it, they'll probably pass through a period of chaos (before the need for process becomes obvious in the light of some catastrophe) as they grow – and may not survive.

Sarah works for Compuware, which has a full, system-oriented IT governance approach called CARS.

Now it has introduced Compuware Quality Management, which aims to introduce Process on top of Compuware's risk-based testing point solutions using, for example, a dashboard to gave managers "Actionable Insights" into the development process.

This should hand control back to project manager and "enforce process without inhibiting daily life", as Sarah puts it. You could compare this with the similar "visibility into the quality of your code" offered by Agitar, but Compuware's approach is wider in scope (Agitar works only with Java agile development and JUnit testing – for now – although it has something a bit special to offer in that field).

Compuware's approach is also tied back to the test data – Compuware's FileAid is included – it's "putting test data back on the table", according to Sarah.

Nevertheless, remember that you still have to design you test data pack even if FileAid helps you prepare and desensitise it and helps you to compare "before and after" versions. Out of the box, you get a baseline Quality Manager; "a good leg up", as Sarah describes it.

However, Compuware's "enterprise" credentials are somewhat evident in its lack of an obvious pricing policy – basically, talk to Compuware (and at the bottom end, a simple "buy the box" price might be more useful). Ten days of mentoring/consultancy is included in the offering, adapted to your particular needs, so I doubt that it is that cheap. Nevertheless, process consultancy will be almost essential if you're new to process management and improvement – and how expensive is project failure? ®

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