Where is software quality going?

Yesterday I was visiting Scania when their R&D department had a family-day where they demonstrated what they are working with. Scania, for those of you who don’t know, is famous for making high quality trucks and buses. What struck me when we went from room to room and hall to hall was that wherever we went, there was an automated testing rig!

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“Manual processes are risks”

The other day I heard a person on my project say “Manual processes are risks”. Generally, if you do something that has a risk, you want to have a chance to gain something from taking the risk.

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Commercialism and politics

I was in a very interesting session at Agile2008, held by Rachel Davies and Angela Martin. The name of the session was “Mr Agile goes to Washington – politics in agile projects”. The session generated a lot of insight around positioning and face-saving, good and bad politics, and the fact that as soon as there is more than one person involved, there is politics.

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Refactoring organizations – refactoring code

Today I was struck by the similarities between rewriting code (as opposed to refactoring it) and how many companies reorganize.

When I was a young programmer and the code I had written was a mess I thought that if I just got the chance to rewrite everything it would then work better. Out with the old, and start on a blank sheet.

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How much is a team-minute?

As opposed to the light-year, which is a very long distance, there is also the notion of the beard-second, which is a very short distance. As the name implies, it is how long a straw of beard grows in one second. When you calculate the length of the beard-second (5 nm) it is amazing that anybody has beard (or hair) at all! Still, you see it every day. How is that possible!?

The not so surprising answer is: It accumulates over time.

When in a software project (or any project for that matter) the team always spend time on doing the same tasks over and over again, every day. I have always felt that it is good to cut down on build times, having fast computers etc, but I never calculated the gain from it.

The other day I asked myself “how much would we gain if everyone on the team gained one minute per day?”

There are approximately 200 working days in a year, and on my team we are approximately 10 people. If we gain one minute each per day, that is

200*10*1/60=33h20min (for one person)

Wow! That means that I can spend 33h on making a one team-minute improvement, and it will pay back in about a year!

If we gain half an hour that is

200*10*1/2 = 1000h

Whew!

Then I started to measure in money. If the approximate hourly cost for one person is €100, every team-minute costs €3300. That is a lot of money. For a minute! Half a team-hour a day costs €100.000 per year.

If the machine park is aged, or the network is slow, add up all your team-minutes and present them with hard numbers to your boss. I’m not saying he or she will listen, but it will be much harder to reject such a proposition!

The plan could backfire and your coffee- and lunch breaks be revoked, but it might be worth the risk! ;-)

Good luck!

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