Project managers often tell their customers, "Faster, better, or cheaper ”pick two." What they mean, of course, is that if the customer demands a high-quality product in the shortest amount of time, they reserve the right to tell her how much it will cost. Conversely, if the customer prefers a low-cost product in the shortest amount of time, it may have quality problems (typically referred to as "undocumented features"). The point is that the solution can be constrained in only two of the three dimensions ” there must be at least one independent variable.
The "alignment principle" requires you as an SEPG member, to take this concept a step farther. You need to tell senior management, "faster, better, or cheaper ”pick one ." Since senior management has funding and firing authority over the SEPG, however, you may want to ask questions like:
It seems fairly obvious that if your firm manufactures pacemakers, quality is the attribute to be maximized. Such an organization will quickly conclude that it would be willing to sacrifice a bit of time and cost to reduce the number of field- reported defects ” especially those reported by the relatives of their late customers.
But what about your company? How would your senior managers answer if the question were posed to them? The response to this question is the most important piece of planning data for the process improvement program, because it is the foundation of the alignment principle. It is imperative that senior management, not the SEPG, establish this. The alignment principle is the strategic business imperative that will be supported by the tactical implementation of improved process elements. Strategic decisions are the responsibility of senior management; tactical plans are generated and executed by organizational personnel based on those decisions.
Suppose senior management has just informed you that quality, defined by field-reported defects, is the most important competitive dimension in the minds of your customers. So now it's time to craft the alignment principle. Continuing with the pacemaker example, we may establish an alignment principle something like: "Achieve an annual, sustainable 20% reduction in field-reported defects without degrading current levels of cost, schedule, and functional variance."
Now you know what it means when you say that the SEPG is going to help the projects achieve greater success, and the project teams now know what's most important to senior management. When the SEPG pilots a new process element that demonstrates a measurable reduction in defects, the projects will be anxious to deploy and adopt this enhancement. Rather than force projects to use process elements in which they perceive little value, the Alignment Principle guides the SEPG to provide services that demonstrate measurable benefit. In this manner, the SEPG and the projects are aligned.
What Is Software Quality?
Software Development Process Models
Fundamentals of Measurement Theory
Software Quality Metrics Overview
Applying the Seven Basic Quality Tools in Software Development
Defect Removal Effectiveness
The Rayleigh Model
Exponential Distribution and Reliability Growth Models
Quality Management Models
In-Process Metrics for Software Testing
Complexity Metrics and Models
Metrics and Lessons Learned for Object-Oriented Projects
Measuring and Analyzing Customer Satisfaction
Conducting In-Process Quality Assessments
Conducting Software Project Assessments
Dos and Donts of Software Process Improvement
Using Function Point Metrics to Measure Software Process Improvements
A Project Assessment Questionnaire