Who Owns Quality? Part 5 and end

By testing early, we improve the predictability of the release, and we shorten the time to release.

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Let us now turn to how our early focus on quality impacts methodology and release management.

Account for testing time in the plan

The most visible impact is that each developer must account for the time to fully test the code in his/her task estimates. It also behooves the release lead (scrum master) to remind developers to include testing time in their estimates. So each task must include: design, coding and unit tests, testing brainstorm with QA, building test fixtures, generation of test data, executing the tests … and some buffer to address whatever problems will be discovered during testing. Also remember that testing includes performance as well as functional validation.

Involve QA from day 1

Similarly, account for QA’s time starting from day 1 (not necessarily full time) in your project plans (vs planning for QA’s work to start at the QA phase). As soon as a design takes shape, QA (and developers) must figure out how to test it – and build the tools to do so.

The more innovative the design, the earlier QA needs to be involved: a new architecture, or a radically new category of features, is likely to require a radically new set of testing tools.

Finally, having QA involved at the inception of a design allows developers and QA engineers to truly team up.

Show-and-tell as you release to QA

While XP and Agile advocate writing the test code before writing the actual code, I don’t personally care, and let each developer do as he/she chooses. What IS important is that each developer proves that the code works before claiming to be done!

To this effect, I usually request a show-and-tell as a “right-of-passage” for releasing to QA. The show-and-tell goes like this:

  • QA provides a clean standard environment for the product
  • Developer installs his/her build including the new feature(s)
  • Developer demo’s core functionality and performance
  • QA engineer asks questions, and, if desired, requests additional tests to be run
  • When satisfied, QA formally accepts the feature(s)

I like to invite as many people to the Show-and-Tell, as the feature(s) warrant: at minimum, the product owner, and all the leads of the project, but there is no limit …. for major accomplishments, don’t hesitate to bring in the CEO, VP of Sales, VP of Marketing,  the receptionist (seriously), etc

This show-and-tell is a great opportunity to recognize the developers and QA engineers who made it happen. It also kills the silly arguments between Development and QA that drive me crazy, where a developer denies a bug because “…it works on my system!”

The more you test, the faster you develop

It sounds like we added a whole bunch of work during the development phase, and thus that we just caused the release to take longer.  In practice, it’s actually quite the opposite.

Testing, and bug fixing, must take place at one point or another, before the product is released. The choice is thus simple: “Pay now … or pay more later!” Either, test the code early, or, you wait until the end of the release, but at that point in time, the cost, and personal pain, of fixing the bug will be that much greater.

While one would think that the development phase will take much longer with all this testing, it actually does not change much. You gain time because testing is now done in parallel and in real-time as the code is being developed.

You may “lose” some time because you are testing performance upfront.

On the other hand, you gain significant amount of time at the end of a release, because your QA phase is now a true Quality Assurance phase rather than a bug-discovery-and-fixing phase. Having tested early, the unpredictability of this phase has been eliminated. You no longer have to fear the “show-stopper” bug that used to pop in the last days of the release.

In summary, from inception of project to actual release to the customer, you will experience significant time savings. Equally important, you will increase the predictability of your release schedule by an order of magnitude. To quote the Agile Manifesto: “Working software is the primary measure of progress”. By testing concurrently with code development, you advance the time at which software actually works, and thus the predictability of the product release date!

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