Saturday, January 28, 2006

Testing… Testing… Testing….

I mentioned in the last post that I have been very busy with work related issues for the past week or so, and I have been, so involved mentally, that for the first time in nearly a year it was all my small brain could handle.

Several of the projects I’m involved with are moving, or have moved, into user and pre-production testing.

This has been an interesting experience for me. Believe it or not, throughout the course of my 20+ year career, I’ve never worked anywhere that the attention to detail and pre-production testing was so well organized.

One of the steps we’re taking is to actually ‘hand off’ the processes to an individual who has had no involvement at all in the project, or the processes, up until now.

While my inclination is to develop discrete modules that can be deployed and run by anyone, this project has had many twists, turns and rework items along the way. It turned out fine as last evening about 5:30 or so he called and let me know that everything had runs as expected, once a couple of ‘authority’ issues were addressed earlier in the day.

This company also has a very secure system, from the PC at the desktop, through the mid-tier Sun systems and all the way through to the mainframe. Every file has associated read, insert, update and overwrite ‘authorities’ attached, if any of these are not set exactly right, you simply can not even ‘see’ the file let alone open or change it.

It turns out that the three of us who’ve been primary in the development on this project all had things ready for hand off, and things went exactly as planned with only a couple of small glitches.

I’m convinced at this point, that this process, this pre-production “hand-off” is an excellent way to uncover not only any incomplete components, but, maybe more importantly, to sever that ‘ownership’ many of us developers tend to feel with our applications.

It’s no wonder then that this organization is tops in its field, has some of the most state of the art applications in any industry, and continues to grow in a very stable market.

Someone should do a case study on this operation, their operations and practices, as a guide to how IS/IT should be run, can be run, profitably and without the ‘in production’ problems so often associated with software development.

If you recall, the company is the electronic ‘hub’ of an industry, much like Sabre is the electronic hub of the airline industry. Having worked for both of these companies, I can tell you that everything here, from the initial rough project specifications through the final steps to take the application to production are an order of magnitude more detailed and complete here.

Prior to this experience, I’d felt that Sabre was the standard, before Sabre it was a place called NDC in Brentwood, TN… If I’m lucky, I’ll find someone even better somewhere else along the way. On the other hand, maybe, if I’m really lucky, I’ll get to stay here and be able to contribute to their efforts to continually improve their processes.

Why am I telling you all this? Primarily because it’s on my mind.

The other reason though, is that for many of us, we live in a work environment where speed is the focus. Getting it done sooner, faster, that “I needed it done a week before I asked for it” mentality, is very prevalent in the workplace today.

Companies are always looking to get it done faster, cheaper and with less resources that ever before.

I’m telling you that on this project, for the most part there were two primary developers, late in the project they brought in a Web (Java) developer to create some web pages for the new tables and accesses we’d created. Then, about two weeks ago, in preparation for the other primary person being assigned to a new start-up project a third developer was brought on to take over the finalization of her in progress work.

The rest of the team consisted of users and a product manager, my development partner and I simply took their needs and bought them into being, against the project timelines, the project manager keeping us apprized of upcoming deadlines and seeking our input for any risks we saw in meeting those deadlines.

I’ve often said that when it comes to almost anything in life you desire, you can have it two of three possible ways, Fast, Cheap and Right. You can never have all three, attempts to achieve all three usually result in none of the three being accomplished.

I’d say, in this project, we’ve achieved Fast and Right, due to the number of people involved, it certainly wasn’t ‘Cheap’, it was however, cheap in terms of IS resources. I’ve seen much smaller projects, involve many more developers, many fewer users, with far less satisfying results.

I’ll be thinking more about this development process, and how it differs dramatically from the “Run, Crash, Debug” cycle I’ve seen at nearly every other gig I’ve had. I thought, at one time, that this CRD cycle was the lot in life of the developer. This experience has changed my thoughts on that radically.

So, whatever ‘rut’ you find yourself in at the moment, take a moment, think about it, and realize that out there somewhere is a company who’s figured out that there’s a better way. Now, all you have to do, is find them!

Once again, to all of you who took the time to drop me a line and ask if everything at my end was ok, THANK YOU!!! Despite the hectic pace of the past week or so… it was very nice to know y’all were thinking about me!! I promise I’ll be by your place(s), as soon as I can!

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7 comments:

Beth said...

I know for myself I wanted things don't yesterday. While I'm doing one task, my mind is already on the next. What a vicious cycle!

Firehawk said...

Bill,

Seems like everyone has been crazy-busy this week. At least everyone I talked to has been. I think you're totally right about the Fast, Cheap, Right concept. You can have two out of three, but not all of them. It goes hand in hand with trying to please everyone. Can't be done.

If more people did things the way your current employer did, there wouldn't be the need for the adage, "There's never time to do it right, but there's always time to do it again."

Glad you've bee successful with your new venture. I think we'd all love to be involved with a system that runs well, top to bottom. It's just very rare to find one.

Spirit Of Owl said...

It really sounds like you've found a real model company, from its development practices right through to its human resource management. I guess times are a little stressful in these tight testing stages, and you're preparing yourself a little bit for "letting go of the baby" so to speak, but clearly it's been a great journey, and the final product is right on the money.

Lorna said...

Isn't it great when what they say and what they do turns out to be the same?

Bill said...

Beth - Hence the term... "Slow down, take some time to smell the roses"... it tends to interrupt that cycle!!

FireHawk - I've been using the FCR analogy for nearly 20 years now, and I've never found an exception.

I've modified the adage you mentioned to "If there's not time to do it right the first time, where will we find time to 'fix' it later?"

It's not all roses and sunshine, no job ever is, but, in this area especially, this company really has the development process well in hand!

Spirit - I don't know about the 'whole' company, just the little piece I'm involved with. I do know though, that if I ever get back into indepenent development, I'd adapt this model for sure!

Why is it we always have a little trouble letting go of our creations? That's a topic worth exploring I think!!

Lorna - To me, it's the best!! O love it when a company not only 'talks the talk' but is willing to make the required comittment to "walk the walk"!!

Comfort Addict said...

Bill,

I love to hear stories of projects gone right.

My current project is not fast and not cheap. I hope that it's right. I'm doing everything I can to make it that way but I'm being stretched to my limit (hence my absence from the blogosphere).

Cherish these times with a company that believes in doing things the right way.

Bill said...

CA - I've been a part of far too many projects that attempted to pull off all three to know you're working harder right now than anyone should have to!

One of the 'dreams' I can't seem to shake is starting a development company where we build projects right and fast, for companies who understand the value, and worth, in that... and are willing to pay for it.

It remains a dream though.

I hope your project gets back to a state of reasonable-ness soon!!