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How to Measure Software Quality on a Shoestring – Part 1
By Zenkara

I was recently asked “if we were a small company (<50 staff) and we wanted to improve our development activities, what should we measure? Oh, and we don't have a budget". Now the correct approach would be to understand your company's objectives, strategy, culture and particular issue you want to improve. Unfortunately this is often a catch-22 problem. Without a reasonable structure in place, you won't have the data and actions you need to understand what and how to improve. It tends to be the squeaky wheel getting the oil. That said, what can we do? What if we want to "improve generally"? The are some actions that you can do in the short term to help you understand the way things are done:

  • Put together a list of your current projects
  • Put together a list of your current products

  • Estimate the amount of effort that is being spent on fixing things.

  • How long do problems stick around before something is done? I use the squeaky door indicator. How long before it gets fixed and who fixes it? This often reflects the attitude of the whole team. Is one person always the person who fixes things or does it vary over time?

  • Do product problems get addressed in a reasonable time? Or are we dealing with major issues that have dragged on for a few releases?

  • How much time is invested in developing team members?

  • Do team members have the opportunity to put their ideas into practice?

  • What’s the current life cycle duration from a customer’s request to delivering it to them?

  • How many iterations do we go through? More or fewer than expected? With some environments, releases may occur weekly, daily, or even several times a day.

  • How often do we keep to our schedule of releases? Or do things slip?

  • What’s your retention rate? Do you eat lunch together at least once a week (preferably every day)?

  • What’s the most frequent reason for people leaving?

  • How much customer feedback do you receive? How frequently do you receive it?

  • When was the last time you did something to improve your work practices?

  • How frequently do our tools and equipment not meet our needs? Do we need to replace any? What’s our budget for buying tools and equipment?

  • How many people do we need to deliver the projects and products we’ve committed to?

  • How large was our system a year ago? How large is it now?

More next time…

Zenkara focuses on streamlining and deploying business processes and quality systems and accelerating decision making through OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) and metrics systems. Zenkara is located in Brisbane, Australia.

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