February 25, 2006

[Testing] If You Could Do One Thing...

I received a very odd E-mail today from a producer at a company that shall not be named asking me a very odd question: If I could only do one thing to improve the quality of a product, without the ability to change anything else on a project, what would it be? He then started rattling off development methodologies, like Scrum, XP, Pair Programming, etc.,

Well, my response was pretty simple. I'd want at least some QA from day one, preferably from an experienced, technically adept tester.

Admittedly, that has a fairly hefty set of assumptions that go along with it. That's assuming that a bug threshold has been included in the milestone definitions. That's assuming that major severity bugs are being addressed during the development cycle and not just delayed to the end. That's assuming that QA is actually kept informed as to the design decisions that have been made.

The earlier that QA is brought on, the cheaper that QA is going to be in the long run, assuming that the problems are found and fixed close to when the flaw becomes apparent. If QA finds a major problem in the design phases, perfect. It's cheap to change paper. If QA find a major problem in the prototype phases, excellent. Code is still relatively cheap to swap out, and it could end up saving time at the end of the project. The later a problem is found, the more expensive it is to fix it.

One tester from day one can be worth ten testers at alpha.


morgan said...

That particular question is paradoxical. Seriously answering the question necessitates a subjective definition of "quality". If only the quality of a product can be improved, and everything else cannot be changed, then what can be changed and/or improved?

Michael Russell said...

True, but I have yet to have any initial question from a producer make much sense.

Michael Russell said...

Oh, as a side note, while I am going to respect his anonymity, I am going to say one thing...

Testing was at least one thing his last project could have used significantly more of. There's bug-ridden pieces of unusable garbage, and then there was his last project.

Enough said.

Anonymous said...

you've got it all wrong. $$$ have proven over and over again that marketing is the single most important thing in any software project. With the possible exception of NASA and medical applications etc.
I've never once heard gamers shriek with joy while plunking down their $50, "This is the cleanest game ever! Wow, the QA on this thing was AWESOME! I wonder when their next title will come out."
Marketing. PERIOD.

Michael Russell said...

Yes, that's right, marketing.

Let's get it into the hands of the consumers so we can get our money which will then all be spent on technical support and patches.

Back when I worked at Microsoft, tech support calls were charged back to my unit at the rate of $45 per call. That's right, $45.

Nothing quite like a tech support call wiping out the profit from anywhere from one to three units, eh?

Anonymous said...

Don't matter man. Cuz if you're making millions...

Besides, only video game testers and a few business people know anything about support costs.

the rest of us couldn't give a shit.