Monday, November 23, 2009

Why Quality Assurance ain’t

When you give a person an excuse to do less than the best, often times they accept it as the norm. QA is a good example of providing an easy out. Why put the effort into checking your own code, ensuring what you do is acceptable and going out of your way to program defensively when you can have someone else do that often painful, trying to get toward perfection type of work….

I have no real evidence, but I’ve seen enough evidence to show that the number of QA resources is directly proportional to the poor level of coding. You might say additional QA people are brought in to compensate for the quality of coding, I think the number of QA resources is more driven by allowed budget and the higher the budget the power the code quality….sounds strange, but I really think it’s true.

I’ve always felt that a good QA group would indirectly contribute through audits and improved processes, however – in most cases – they are designated as testers, fed bad apps after development mangling. So, at the end of the day, the hoped for gains from a QA group are often lost through the misuse of them and the re-direction of quality from the source of issues to the QA group who gets stuck at the end of the pipe instead of helping front-load quality. My suggestion: get rid of QA and lets see what the results are, I would wager improved overall quality within 30 days.

Friday, November 20, 2009

You always lose in a zero sum game – always

In the real world, where real things happen and theory hides in books there is little to gain from any interaction where one gains at the others lose. This applies directly to projects and project management.

Let’s look at a simple example: a project to improve market share in the hamburger market. The project includes creating a fancy website, iphone ordering and email marketing blitz…you currently have 30% of the market and hope for 40%...a healthy 1/3 increase. Could be worth an additional $50k a month if you get it…sounds beautiful. So you build the site, you create the iPhone app and you blitz the hell out of people until they start to associate you with the world’s best hamburger and you reach your goal….you might have spent $100k doing all of the including increasing your capacity to provide the additional hamburgers everyone wants. What happens day 2? When your competitor follows your lead or someone on the outside gets excited when they see the lines of customers waiting for your hamburgers? You didn’t really increase the overall demand, you just adjusted the finite demand…your initial costs and on-going support costs not just for the site and iphone app and email blitz, but also for the increased hamburger making capacity is still there as the hamburger seekers start to look elsewhere, the profit margins reduce and your new Mercedes is getting towed away by the repo man.

When you wrestle with any finite/zero-sum item you’re essentially spending to gain something that will eventually be lost – if you were able to increase overall demand, say from 1 in 10 people wanting hamburgers to 1.5 in 10 people wanting them, even if a share of that increase drifts to another hamburger provider you established a bigger pool to work from. The potential of going back to the demand where you started or even less is reduced.

What does any of this have to do with project management? Think of resource sharing, think of budget constraints, think of sponsor sharing – anyone or item that you have to timeshare with any other team puts you in a zero-sum game and continually puts you at a higher risk of failing at the end of the day. What you gain today in a finite pool will cost you more tomorrow to keep and cost you dearly if you begin to lose your share.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Escape Velocity – aka kick starting a project

Starting a project is often as difficult as ending a project (successfully). In my opinion, a projects success is largely based on the psychology make up of the company and more importantly the direct team. A highly motivated, functional, capable team can perform wonders…a team without the cohesion, dedication and determination needed for the given project will easily and quickly fail. One of the critical stages in a project is the start of one, a given project that is delayed, pushed to the side, ignored, frowned upon by management and/or delivery team will fail before it starts – how motivated can a team be when they are given a project no one wants or cares about, a self fulfilling prophecy. To help ensure a successful project delivery, a good project manager will recognize the need to get the team ‘pumped up’ about what they are doing, motivate them from the start, aggressively start the project and do what is required to keep the momentum going…just like basic physics, a stationary or slow moving object requires more energy to move…a project that is blasted off, heading in the right direction and one where all team members are locked in step will be have a much higher potential of success…no planning, Gantt chart print outs, pounds of documentation will replace the team’s determination positive or otherwise. Projects succeed by the will of the team – period.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Old technology is everywhere

I’ve been through the Old Iron Mainframe to Mini to PC transition, the standalone computer to everything/everyone connected phase, the computer as a tool to the computer is everything transition and now I’m seeing the computer is everywhere/everything to the smart phone switch.

Just recently I finally broke down and brought myself an iPhone. The famous, mind numbing, can do everything device that I thought was over played/over hyped. Well, I was very wrong and I am now realizing the smartphone switch that is/has-been happening very fast and very dramatically. Everyone is connected to everything from everywhere all the time. There’s good and bad in everything, but lets focus on the good:

  • no more missed calls or being out of touch
  • no more being lost
  • no more not knowing what’s going on from your friends level to the international level
  • the ability to shop smartly
  • the ability to plan smartly
  • the ability to adjust quickly and inform all
  • the ability to pay without cash or card
  • the ability to be entertained anywhere
  • storing memories, sharing experiences

Basically anything today that you have to ‘go to’ to use is being removed to be with you – or part of you. It’s an amazing shift, bigger then (but because of) all prior technology shifts over the last 50 years.