New Year’s Resolutions: 2015

My job title says that I work in SQA: Software Quality Assurance, or maybe Quality Analysis if you want to get pedantic, since we don’t actually assure quality so much as kermitflail when it’s not present.

The tests are failing!

But what is quality? How do I know when something is quality or not? I’ve been pondering the nuances this month, being as it is the first month of the year and the time when everyone tries to lay out their goals. Where do I have authority to advise, and when am I overstepping my bounds?

One of my coworkers went to Velocity last year, and came back fired up about performance and Real User Metrics. I can’t find a single definition of quality that doesn’t include performance. If I can make changes that can get metrics in front of him so he can see the realtime impact of his changes, is that SQA?

Our promotions process is slow and buggy and prone to errors. If I can get a system in place that automatically runs unit tests after a code promotion, is that Quality? What if it does linting, checking the style of the code? What if it simplifies the process of making branches to move code onto our demo servers in the first place? Where does Quality become Process? Or is there even a distinction?

Our database development team has trouble keeping their sandboxes in sync. If I poke my hands into their Subversion practices to turn deploying a new sandbox into a half-hour routine maintenance task instead of an all-day chore, is that Quality? Why or why not? Cite your sources.

Ultimately, my goals this year aren’t around improving the codebase. I’m not a developer. I don’t fix anything. What I can do, where I can do the most help, is around helping other people streamline their daily tasks so that they have the energy to make things better. If it takes someone less time to move code, they’ll be less afraid to make fixes that improve the quality. If there’s a safety net of tests, they’ll be able to do some refactors that have been on the wishlist for years. The best way to improve our codebase is to apply grease to the wheels until they turn smoothly and efficiently.

So that’s my new year’s resolution for 2015. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Emma Approved, but maybe I really can help people make their lives better.