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  • Writer's pictureIan Wells

Improving software quality by staff upskilling

Many organisations know they have software quality problems, and know their staff are capable of improving quality, but they are not in a position to hire new staff.  Ian Wells at Venduco explains why upskilling existing existing staff, implementing modern tools and tweeking your QA processes is a cost-effective way to improve quality.

After a wide ranging test career in industry, Ian Wells now consults with clients to improve the quality of their software. Clients come to the  realisation they have a quality problem in a number of ways:

• the CEO may be hearing too many complaints from customers

• developers are frustrated because they spend more time fixing bugs than developing new features

• all that testing is delaying release schedules

• before release, no one can tell managers how much more testing is required.

As a QA manager at HP, Trimble and Telogis, he has dealt successfully with all these types of problems. IHe totally gets how to balance the quality customers expect against management needs to maintain schedule and contain costs.

He listens to staff and customers to understand both company culture and quality needs. He works  on-site directly with teams. He tests along side testers. He sets up tools and processes that improve team communication. He coaches & nudge testers, managers and IT staff to demonstrably improve quality. He sets up metrics and dashboards to ensure everyone has the same view into the current quality state. In short, he works closely with teams to set up a culture so everyone is aware of quality and its impact and the teams are self-motivated to build quality in, in all they do. And then, because his coaching role is no longer needed, he can leave.

In his job as QA manager at Trimble he set up processes, tools and training for his test staff.

He researched test tools and selected JIRA as the bug tracking system to track quality status. This system was so successful, it was later adopted by the Trimble organisation worldwide. He set up a program that increased productivity of testing by combining enthusiasm of interns with the deep knowledge of staff testers. He defined metrics that focused teams’ performance effort on customer needs.

At Telogis, as a QA manager, he split up my 21-person test team and distributed them through 4 dev teams and then coached them to work with developers effectively. This resulted in bugs being found earlier, and importantly, increased respect between testers and developers as they worked together from the start.

At AranzGeo, he set up a new JIRA bug tracking system that matched the existing culture and resulted in a single view of software quality and status, thus minimising mis-communication.

At Mars BioImaging, he coached & up skilled the lead tester there to take on the role of test manager and integrate his work with other teams.

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I too love attending events like Ministry of Awesome and startup weekends and tap into the enthusiasm and talent of so many (usually) young people in New Zealand. Fantastic feeling that in this world

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