Thursday, May 25, 2006

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This error should go away now. Sorry for the inconvenience...

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The Keystone cops strike back! (Addedum):

The other tidbit of wisdom that Deming left around to be used was the fact that quality is in the process not in the product.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Keystone Cops strike back!!

A couple of weeks ago, there was this exchange on one of the usenet forums where the original poster was at a loss asking for help. He was the only and new QA/QC in a software software shop that had 30+ developers.

Tall order. A lot of people chipped in, myself included. But there was one posting that struck me because it was odd. The post argument was that because QA/QC is a "support activity" (that encompases with debugging around 80% of any software project) the solution was for the guy to start his own quality movement in the hope that help would jump in after a while. Apparently, this approach was suggested in a tech book.

If one were to contrast that approach with Deming's TQM (something hard to argue against: Toyota, etc...) is a failed Quality 101. Deming's work proved that quality has to come from the top of the company to be really successful.

So what is a "support" guy to do?

Then the answer came through this posting on GK blog: the fad du jour. It is not a secret that a lot of companies manage by fads. These ones do come from the top.

So until quality becomes the fad du jour (FDJ) and stays that way long enough the "support" guy has to go with the FDJ, or risk being fired, or quit.

And top management will not support Quality until...

The cycle repeats itself: Vista is nowhere to be seen and this is the most visible one. What about the ones that do not get as much press coverage?

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

How to trim down the noise out of a beta (with help deluxe)

Between diaper changes, writing marketing plans in spanish while thinking about them in english, tracking the surf forecast (it has been flat for the last 2 weeks or so until friday) we decided to put the beta together.

I was spinning my wheels until frustration lead me to send GK an e-mail. What the heck? what is the worst that could happen: getting a response?

Well, we did - twice!

His suggestions were on target. But we also found a wealth of useful pointers/articles on his blog. The one about DEMOgod seems pertinent even for betas from companies with limited resources, like us.

There was another one entitled something like "open letter to CXO" that took me back to the moment I quit my last job. I wish I had read it in 2002.

Well enough for now, it is time to start shaping up the code for beta and enjoying the crazy spring storm that is raging outside right now.

It is sunny, it is raining, and the winds are so strong that birds do not dare to fly...

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Visca al Barça! (And a short introduction to spanish politics)

The Champions League is over and Barcelona FC won! I have always rooted for Barça, or Deportivo, so it is not a hard guess that I watched the match from beginning to end. I have relatives who are from Catalunya, too.

But the thing that struck me, during the celebrations, was a big Catalunya flag which stated "Catalunya is not Spain".

But the funny part is that they want to be Spain when the going gets tough.

For instance, there is a takeover attempt of Endesa, an electric company from Madrid, by Gas Natural, a catalonian company. Things got delayed for whatever reason and this gave chance to E.On (a big energy company from Germany) to outbid Gas Natural by 30%.

The alarms went off: a foreign company trying to enter Spain's market!! and the ensuing political bruhaha.

But why should they be considered Spain in this case?

All of this comedy in the context of the European Union. Being "Union" the operative word.

Do basques, catalonians, and galicians have founded historical grudges against the "Meseta"? yes.

Does that help Spain or Europe to retain a significant future role in a world that is changing fast? no.

Anyways, Visca al Barça!

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

This time around...

The great escapes took us around the "neighborhood", charming in a quiet, rural sort of way:

The town's library.

Walking back home

A different way of enjoying the sunset which are gorgeous around here.

Now, it's time to celebrate a delayed mother's day: Santiago bound...

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Lack of Support

While particpating on comp.soft.testing forum, someone pointed out something while true it is disconcerting: most software companies treat Quality as a support role.

According to the NIST testing/debugging represents 80% of the average software project. Two points to note: first point, better testing means less debugging. This figure says more about testing than debugging. Second, how come a "support" activity can represent such a big share of any project?

Going back to the Microsoft dilemma, but this applies to any other software company: Windows XP had the same quality problems that Vista is experiencing. It required two service packs that were releases by themselves.

So five years later, a bigger team, outsourcing, and new testing technology, yields another quality quagmire. And this is a company that does not seem to treat quality as a support role.

So imagine that Toyota had such a record and had the quality control done by a third company?

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Lack of Support

While particpating on comp.soft.testing forum, someone pointed out something while true it is disconcerting: most software companies treat Quality as a support role.

According to the NIST testing/debugging represents 80% of the average software project. Two points to note: first point, better testing means less debugging. This figure says more about testing than debugging. Second, how come a "support" activity can represent such a big share of any project?

Going back to the Microsoft dilemma, but this applies to any other software company: Windows XP had the same quality problems that Vista is experiencing. It required two service packs that were releases by themselves.

So five years later, a bigger team, outsourcing, and new testing technology, yields another quality quagmire. And this is a company that does not seem to treat quality as a support role.

So imagine that Toyota had such a record and had the quality control done by a third company?

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Real-Politik plus 150

Reading The Economist's article about MS and the beating that its stock price took, I couldn't stop thinking about the realpolitik that should be going on inside.

Traditionally, within an organization, groups become important and gain budgetary weight if their size increases. It is a matter of visibility.

This is important because the leader of that group, say the VP of engineering in a software company, will get stock options or bonuses depending on that visibility.

People are rewarded by the responsibility and visibility they seem to have, not by the improvements in their groups. So, for a Director of Quality Assurance of Acme Software, having lots of people is the way up.

And for this Director, becoming more efficient by testing more with less people is not a particularly enticing proposition. Especially if the credit for that improvement goes to someone else.

If on top of that there is a chance that in the past, some releases were less than acceptable and the CTO or VP needs to do some cyb'ing, what we have is the makings of a royal mess: The VP/CTO trying to cover her/his back, the Director of QA protecting the turf, and a product's quality going down hill.

It woudn't surprise me that something like that is going on inside MS.

_________________

Well, we have reached 150 downloads of the white paper.

This number is more than we expected, and we appreciate the feedback we've gotten.

We would love to see more feedback. Please feel free to email me directly with anything, we mean anything, you have to say about the paper.

http://efekctive.com/blogging/wp/quality_advantage_V2.pdf


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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Who needs a cheaper, faster way of creating software?

Last week, I asked people from different groups on the web to give me their thoughts/opinions on the white paper. There were favorable opinions, not so favorables ones, and suggestions.

But the thing that struck me the most was when it was argued that the difference between software and the Ford example is that Ford and the assembly line tried to produce goods with least amount of difference between them at a maximum rate and at a minimum cost. I do not understand how this does not apply to software.

The argument went on to saying that software is different because it is an intellectual effort. The logical continuation of that argument should be to figure out which parts of software development are intellectual: design, writing code, code reviews, all yes. QA? just the test creation.

How much intellect is needed to: pick up the latest build, install it, run the tests, and report the results to the appropiate personnel as fast as possible so problems can be addressed promptly? Not much. It is know-how easily transferable to machines.

Furthermore, even the creation of the vast majority of the tests can be automated with the technology available today. It would be a matter of some unorthodox thinking but in theory is possible.

The way I see it is: machines are really cheap today, if we are able to push the bulk of the less valued added tasks to them, software companies will be able to free resources to high value added tasks. But, hey these are just my ramblings.

I need to get back to the code and the hardware emulation layer...

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The Great Escapes:

We have managed to squeeze in some nice trips around so far.

Because we are in a small town, we can easily walk to really nice pine forests, a river (with trouts and fishermen, although it is hard to say who catches who) and a 12th century monastery.

These grounds have been the introduction of the little fellow to the wilderness. He is particularly curious about grabbing leaves:



Last week, we decided to drive further inland towards Ourense, and we ended up in a beautiful town called Allariz. All the movies that need the feel of an old galician town are shot there.



It was truly charming, specially the old quarters. Allariz nests in a quite valley with a mellow river running through it. In the past, the river hosted several mills and a tannery.

Today they function mostly as restaurants. We had lunch on the old tannery. It was a really pleasant combination of food and view. The other 2 restaurants are also on the river banks but we can not say much about their food.

The mills were used mostly in baking and pastries. The region is somehow known for these. "Pan de Cea" is bread from a small guild of bakers in Cea. They have managed to sell their bread to other parts of Spain and Europe. Which is quite amazing given the shelf life that supermarket bread has.

Our next trip will be to O' Cebreiro in the high mountains of Lugo...

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bibliographic Sources and other tidbits...

Thanks all for the feedback so far. It has been useful and it will be reflected on the paper.

One person asked us to let people know the sources we used in our research. Well, they are listed at the end of the posting.

The Marketing plan is coming along. The branding chapter of TAOTS has been quite useful lately. That together with the refresher course I am taking at IGAPE (which is the local governement economic development arm, more on Spain's daunting-for-the-non-initiated political and geographic map later)

It is an interesting group of people: the woman giving the seminar is from Vigo, lived and worked in Madrid and London and came back to Galicia. There are a couple of guys from the Mediterranean coast who are on their way to open an B&B/pilgrims refuge in one of the most beautiful places of Galicia (in Lugo Province just on the French Route of "Camino de Santiago")

When I have better details of the B&B, I will forward them.


Perspectives on Business Innovation, Issue 1 "Five Myths that Slow Down Software Development" by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young

Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies, by McKinsey & Company Inc., Tom Copeland, et all (I would recommend just the first 2, maybe 3, chapters, the rest is kind of repetitive)

What high tech can learn from slow-growth industries, The McKinsey Quarterly.

"A Better Bug Trap" in Technology Quarterly, The Economist.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

97 Downloads so far!

Well, first of all: thanks! This number is more than I thought it would be. Not much feedback so far but hopefully it will come after May 1st. It is really important for us to get your thoughts!

No waves in the forecast, it is time to do some cleaning chores before getting busy again...

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