"A government should never waste a crisis," U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said earlier this year in regards to the economic downturn. She has a valid point. A recession can be a time for reinvention, to fine-tune groundbreaking ideas that have been sitting on the shelf. To help your software organization get started in that direction, here are seven ways to keep software product quality at an all-time high when the economy is at an all time low.
Seven strategies for achieving stellar quality assurance (QA) during a crisis
1. Keep all Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) processes in place.
During a recession, there is a tendency to shift and offset the original scope of the project. Overcoming this tendency will keep you from throwing away all of the hard work you've already put into the project.
2. Continue to audit every software project.
It's easy to change priorities and let things fly when you're dealing with a crisis; any kind of crisis, not just a recession). Try to stay on-track and review your project management and quality assurance process as you normally would. If you must do something in a different way, be sure that the outcome will remain the same.
3. Conduct project lessons-learned meetings, and brainstorm ways to improve process and quality where need be.
To continually make your products and services better for the customer, conduct regular meetings with your team and discuss lessons learned since the last meeting. If possible, invite a senior manager to the meeting so that he/she will understand why quality should be a priority in the company and the implications it can have in the grand scheme of things. The best senior managers and quality analysts have a vision for the future and knowledge of how to keep things running smoothly during times of change. It is their responsibility to make quality a goal within the company.
4. Understand the impact that every employee has on the product and service being offered, the company and customer at large.
Layoffs and reducing employee benefits are popular ways for companies to save money while in crisis-mode. If there's no way around a layoff, be careful how many quality assurance employees are cut, as it may cause an adverse effect that travels straight to the end product or service. And, it's also equally important to keep employee morale up when layoffs are in the picture.
5. Remember that improved technology will also be beneficial to your company when the economy gets better.
During a recession, many software and hardware vendors are looking for sales and give heavy discounts for purchases. No manager should ever lose sight of the need to increase profits, efficiencies and also ultimately quality.
6. Be careful how much you spend on items that do not have a direct correlation to quality improvement.
Research the benefits of the product and the return on investments that will result from purchasing it. Making irrational decisions or changes without the right people will ultimately lead to devastation.
7. Be careful how much you spend on items that do have a direct correlation to quality improvement.
Don't spend money on anything and everything because the product vendors claim to help improve quality. Quality starts with the people, then the process, then technology – in that order.
Thriving in a crisis
Software development teams can reinvent quality in software, and that alone can help our industry and our country crawl out of this economic turmoil. Companies that use the current economic crisis as a positive motivation will earn benefits in the future of which we will then read about.
About the author: John Scarpino is director of quality assurance and a university instructor in Pittsburgh. You may contact him at Scarpino@RMU.edu.
This was first published in July 2009