Where's the Quality?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

In software development, testing is one of the most important functions. Without it, many a developer and project manager would have some very difficult decisions to answer when bad code ended up in customer hands. Yet it is a function that is given very little respect within functions, frequently being labeled as nitpicking and not focusing on areas that are adding any real value. While part of this is undoubtedly the fact that developers don’t like having bugs found in their code (and the fact that a lot of testing comes at the end of the project when time pressures are usually at their greatest), there is another fundamental problem: We aren’t always testing the right things.

Standards first
For most projects, the work of testing starts with the creation of test plans. These are developed from a number of sources--test plans from previous projects, requirements documents and standard test sets for existing products, for example. Based on these plans, test cases and scripts can be developed along with the expected results. Test execution then becomes a relatively simple exercise that requires us to compare actual results with expected results--something that has become even easier in recent years with the development of ever more powerful test automation programs and simulators. This all sounds perfectly reasonable, and yet time and again organizations …

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