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Friday, 15 November 2013

Why Should You Care About Quality?

As a new Bright Spark I thought I’d give the world a little introduction to me and let you in on my dirty little secret…

I enjoy pushing buttons, breaking stuff, trying to do things you shouldn’t try to do, ignoring the rules, bending the system (all within the remit of a good law abiding person of course). This is painfully juxtaposed by my love of process and The Right Way* to do things.

If you care about quality, pushing buttons is a requirement. Without it, things go wrong.

1. If something says ‘don’t press this’ I’ll ask why?

2. If I don’t get a sufficient answer I’ll press it. Blow the thing up.

3. When they say ‘I told you not to press that!!’ exclaiming wildly that people should do as they’re told (often you’ll hear “by design” – finger quotes implied) I say ‘Yeah, but it broke everything didn’t it?’

It’s tough but fun, and fills me with pride but it also requires some serious interpersonal skills (we’ll get to that).

It is not possible to do this without baking Quality into ALL of your processes.

Let’s digress for a minute…

What’s the premise for QA as a career for me? I think my first ‘bug’ was a continuity issue in The Goonies… Pretty sure one of One-Eyed Willie’s candlesticks changes position during the scene. I’m also pretty sure I was 10 years old when I found it. I still find this kind of thing today. It’s obviously in my blood.

There is a perverse joy in this, being the (pronounced thee) person who is being PAID to push buttons and break things and notice problems. Sounded awesome to me, but it’s not for everyone.

QA has a history. We annoy people, we stop people delivering stuff, we stomp (with glee, I might add,) over poorly set client expectations. It’s a tough place to be, it’s not easy being the bearer of bad news all the time. Luckily, I do it with a smile.

Basically, I just picture myself as Godzilla smashing up some tiny little town and screeeaaawing with glee, but externally I smile and stay calm… most of the time 😉

I have a bit of a belief: you can only be the great QA you think you are if people care about you and your role within a business. Common sense is the general rule that lives underneath every single move or comment I make. Lots of places build QA Departments in a slow, weary, ad-hoc, poorly managed fashion and this leads to building lots of legacy system code, poor practices, historical beliefs about what does and doesn’t work… (minefield!!).

It’s a painful situation to be part of or try and take on. You simply have to love chaos, and trying to polish…um…the unpolishable.

I had a ‘niggle’, an itch, a need to see whether I could build QA a little differently if I had the chance to do it from scratch. Bright North gave me this chance.

In my interview the word ‘Ambassador’ was used *gulp*

At Bright North I’ve walked in and said “Hey, what do you think QA is?” … Most people say “Testing stuff” but here… here I’ve been surrounded by people who seem to have a massive appreciation for what I do. They instinctively know why I’m here, my remit, what they’d like me to help with and build up. When I asked this lot, they said “Breaking Stuff”! <3.

It’s been quite unique an experience for me. It’s made me smile. It’s also heaped on some wonderful challenges.

So at this point, 3+ months in, what have I achieved?

I took my rules and turned them into cultural traits. Everybody here knows who I am, knows how to contact me if they need me, knows how to interact with me, happy to go and grab lunch with me, share a laugh and a joke with. It’s brilliant. It didn’t take long because everyone here is both welcoming and talented… obvious signs they’d see the same in me </modesty>

I took my common sense driver and simply said,

“Whatever you do, just think ‘Will it drive Russ nuts?’”

It’s actually making real difference. People see me as the person who will ultimately say yay or nay and trust me when I say it. They’re supporting my growth and my ideas. They’ve bought into the premise of designing client facing documentation and test plans ahead of time, they’ve bought into baking QA slap bang in the middle of the management and production documentation so we have embedded process from day one.

I’m also involved in creating and growing key business processes, developing delivery strategies and establishing best practices. QA is literally everywhere, in every little hop, skip and jump.

They’ve taken QA seriously.

I couldn’t be happier.

P.S – If you’re not deploying a team of UX people in your business and you design software to be used by actual, real, living, human people, you’re doing it wrong.

P.P.S – If you haven’t seen it yet, click here to see why you need to care about data, geek or not.

Oh fine, one more thing… stay tuned for a future blog post about how QA should be involved in developing your business level strategy and how to make it permeate even the smallest of deliverables. It’s going to be… interesting 😉