Software Quality Professional From the Editor - June 2002 - ASQ

Software Quality Professional From the Editor - June 2002


Who are the real software quality professionals?

You must be among them if you are reading this editorial.

Yet our readership is not synonymous with the profession—far from it. The subscriber count for this journal has plateaued at less than 5000, but I cannot believe we are anywhere near saturating our potential market.

That is why I am not content with the scope of information we provide, or with the range of practitioners we are reaching, in our present operations. We need to do more, for more individuals, in more settings.

The journal’s mission is to support the application of quality principles to the development and use of software and of software-based systems. Much remains to be done to broaden the population of those who think of themselves as software quality professionals. That change may depend in large measure on broadening the vision of those who are tasked to performed “quality” functions.

For example, testing and inspection—at least in name—are the quality techniques most recognizable to more traditional hardware-grounded practitioners. There are, however, real differences between how these techniques have enhanced hardware products and how much they add value in software development activities.

Here is a portion of a job posting I recently came upon:

  • “The Senior [software] QA Specialist will perform the daily activities associated with quality assurance projects. This includes establishing test configurations, constructing test plans, and the execution of established test plans and/or scripts.

    Responsibilities include:
  • Define product test plans and test configurations under which a product will be tested
  • Design, write, and automate test cases that define specific test criteria and the expected results to be achieved
  • Recommend and select test technology tools for automated testing and test case management
  • Perform ad-hoc testing, as well as the execution of previously written test cases and automated scripts
  • Verify resolutions to problems opened during testing process”

I can only assume “QA” in this job title is a strange spelling of the word “testing.”

There is so much more than testing in the fully realized quality function within a software development process. Professionals need a diverse toolkit with which to contribute to their organization’s success. Testing should only be revealing the defects that can only be found by testing.

Someone has humorously declared, “Software isn’t released; it escapes.” The pressures of fixed schedules, budgets, and market-driven expectations can have a troublesome impact on the decision of when to release a software product into production. A truncated set of quality techniques will not help either. More people need to know more about the tools available.

Not all is gloom, though. As much as I could wish for more readers (and more authors), the support that has been expressed for this journal over the years has truly been heartening. I am constantly reminded of the extensive community of colleagues who provide encouragement and offer models of personal commitment.

The American Society for Quality (ASQ), our sponsor, promotes and practices performance improvement in striving to achieve its goal of being “recognized throughout the world as the leading authority on, and champion for, quality.”

A dozen years ago ASQ recognized the significance of software quality by approving the creation of a Software Division. This year the Division for the first time sponsored a full track of sessions at the Annual Quality Congress, which just concluded.

We were delighted to feature Watts Humphrey, who asked, “What if Your Life Depended on Software?” Others spoke to “Dangers of Using Metrics to (Mis)Manage Organizations” and addressed “Economics of Software Quality and Consumers.” This larger gathering of the quality community was able to hear about six sigma for software, regulatory requirements, product purchasing and training, as well as standards, auditing, and verification and validation. (You might consider obtaining any of these presentations through the ASQ’s Quality Information Center.)

The ASQ Software Division is clearly fulfilling it mission “to improve the ability of individuals and organizations to satisfy their customers with quality software products and services through education, communication, research, outreach, and professional development.”

I am proud that Software Quality Professional is contributing to that communication, that outreach, and that professional development. The popular media are constantly highlighting various spectacular failures or threats from ill-conceived or poorly designed computerized systems. One must search harder to learn of success stories, much less of the methods that contributed to those successes. SQP offers experience-based reports of software quality practices that have proven effective in a wide range of industries, applications, and organizational settings.

Thanks for your participation in this professional community. Now go and help others find and join us.


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