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Posted November 6, 2015

Evangelizing Quality


When I hear the word evangelist, all I can think about are those people on TV, preaching away. Not necessarily my cup of tea. As defined, an evangelist is someone who seeks to convert others to what he or she believes, especially by public preaching. I’ve never considered myself an evangelist — it goes against my general keep-to-myself nature. (Public speaking. Blech.) But I want to share what I know, and what I’ve learned, and I hope that others see the value in it. So, in the Church of Quality, I guess that makes me an evangelist. And we need more.

How do you get people to think more about quality?

It usually starts with a bad experience. Whether a customer issue came in, or you just had a very bad day testing, something negative tends to trigger a look at the quality of not just the product, but also the processes that broke. You need people to understand WHY quality is important, and why they should care.

Don’t know where to start?

  • Customer Feedback - Point your team to blogs from your users. (Maybe you have people that blog about your product.) Go to the app store and read reviews. The information is out there.

  • Metrics, Metrics, Metrics - Any bug tracking system worth its salt can tell you easily just how buggy your system is. How many bugs are open in development, how many are in the field, how many “fixes” have been rejected, how many issues are regression (used to work but now not working). You get the idea. Having the numbers handy can help get people to listen as you prosthelytize the importance of quality.

  • Retrospectives - My personal favorite. I always love the “what went wrong” conversation. Not because I like to do an I-told-you-so dance (Well, let’s be honest — sometimes I do), but because I like to learn from mistakes and make things better. These should happen every sprint. In the spirit of continuous delivery — build, deliver, learn, adapt, repeat.

I know WHY we need quality, but now what?

Now that you’ve armed them with information and you have their attention, how do you get people to buy in? I think people are, by nature, resistant to change. We are creatures of habit. But sometimes, we need to break those habits. Force ourselves out of our comfort zones.

  • Be Vocal - Now is not the time to be shy, especially if you see something that isn’t working and have an idea of how to make it better. This goes against every fiber in my being, introverted as I am, but I have a point of view. And unless I want to just keep on going down a path I don’t agree with, I speak up.

  • Be Competitive - Everyone loves a little friendly competition. Who can find the most bugs? Who can submit the cleanest code? Rate your developers. Know who has the best code, and who writes spaghetti. You will probably know where to turn more attention to testing.

  • Be the Change - A former colleague once told me that, and it’s been my mantra ever since. If I’m not part of the solution, well — I may not be part of the problem, but I’m not helping. Have a vision? Put it in action. Demo it. Prove it works. Build a culture of quality.

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The quality gospel truth

What is so important that I feel the need to spread the word? I have talked or written about a lot of ways to improve quality, but much of it comes down to two things:

  1. Small User Stories - I’ve all too often seen that large user stories are the root of all evil. (Just kidding.) But seriously, the smaller the user story, the easier, typically, it is to identify acceptance criteria and write your tests.

  2. Develop to the Test - Know your acceptance criteria before you begin development. Write your tests first, develop until they all pass. This lets you find bugs early, before they become expensive to fix, and ensures everyone is on the same page (UX, ENG, QA) before beginning work.

What works for you?

So maybe traditional evangelizing isn’t your cup of tea. You don’t need to shout from the street corner with a billboard hanging around your neck. (I certainly don’t.) Write. Email. Talk to someone you trust. Talk to someone else to get his or her ideas. Blog what you’re thinking about. Things change. Ideas change. Sometimes, it takes a bit of luck in the form of a great manager, and a new person that reads your blog and likes your ideas. Of course, I was just watching the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” If you keep preaching and build a culture of quality, someone will listen. Start a Quality Revival.

Ashley Hunsberger is a Quality Architect at Blackboard, Inc. and co-founder of Quality Element. She’s passionate about making an impact in education and loves coaching team members in product and client-focused quality practices.  Most recently, she has focused on test strategy implementation and training, development process efficiencies, and preaching Test Driven Development to anyone that will listen.  In her downtime, she loves to travel, read, quilt, hike, and spend time with her family.

Nov 6, 2015
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