Archive for February, 2010

Response to Kris on “How do we ensure product quality”

22 Feb 2010

I got asked by our CEO “How can you benchmark product quality?” This is a pretty broad topic, but these are my central thoughts on how I’ve been able to establish and maintain quality in our products.

  • The way a consumer tells if a product is high quality is if it does what they want it to do without crashes or unexpected results
    • Only a user can tell you what result is unexpected
    • Therefore to measure the quality of the product, you need to use it the same way a user uses it
    • Startup time, snappy performance both get seen by the users as quality
    • “Work Product” is also seen as quality – if the product works as designed, but lets the user put dark blue text over a black background, the quality will be seen as “low quality”
    • The Setup is the “first impression” for the product as a whole – therefore it must be flawless and fast, and preferably value-add.
    • Documentation, Localization, box quality, icons, and the registration process all form a users impression of “quality”
    • User Experience Designers are critical, as they represent the user throughout the development process – and ensure the product does what the user expects.

 

  • Quality needs to be owned by the development team. The QA team can report on the quality of the product as they measure it, but they cannot change the quality.
    • The development team needs to feel that high quality is THE most important “feature”, rather than something that is done at a minimal level to get QA of their backs
    • Time needs to be specifically allocated for bug fixing throughout the entire development cycle, rather than just at the end of the cycle
    • Developers need to understand that most of our users are not “dumb”
    • Quality can’t be added at the end of the release
  • Focus on quality has to be at every milestone
    • “Fake” milestones can / should be added to give extra opportunities to focus on quality
    • Executive leadership has to be focused on quality at EVERY interaction – not on the cool features at the start of the release, and only on quality at the end. A really cool demo that crashes / fails 10% of the time should get equal bad press on the quality as it gets good press on the good features.
    • Metrics can be useful indicators of quality, if the teams using them are committed to delivering quality products
    • The minute people’s performance start to be measured by the metrics, the metrics become useless
    • To be useful, they provide an extra source of information to a team that is already committed to producing good results

 

  • The most useful indication of quality is project-based testing – using the products as our users do – from end to end – with a wide variety of PC & Peripheral hardware
    • Having the developers take part in this process helps to anchor that quality does matter
    • Your own experience highlights how much this can expose (Kris had just tried to use one of our products for a real-life task, and found an issue)
    • Don’t leave it up to the developers to “create” the scenarios, however – have the PMs, or UEDs, or QA leaders create the scenarios – but ensure they are real-world scenarios. (For video, for example – Don’t pull imagery off the web of a wedding – capture people walking into an office building (as entering a church), speaking at a meeting (to emulate the minister), leaving a meeting room (coming out the church), etc – then pull together a “wedding video” complete with DVD chapters, etc.

There is a ton more that can be said – but if you’re doing the above right, you’ve got a pretty solid foundation upon which to build.

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Imovane / Zopiclone – Canada’s version of Ambien…

19 Feb 2010

With the acquisition of InterVideo and Ulead many of us at Corel have had to adjust to a 12 hour time zone shift and a 24 hour flight as part of our business lives. The sleep disruption that accompanies that shift is tremendous. I can’t remember a more miserable 3 weeks in my life than the feeling of “permanently stupid” that accompanied not sleeping during and after my first few trips to Taiwan.

My US peers were telling me I should be trying Ambien – but it wasn’t available in Canada. However, a trip to the doctor did point me towards Zopiclone (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zopiclone), a near relative. The non-generic name is Imovane in Canada or Zimovane in the UK.

I’m anti-medication in general, but am glad I made an exception for Zopiclone. My experience was that I could take a full pill the first couple of days, then could go down to half a pill for the next couple of days, then could tough it out. The real benefit, (other than actually being able to sleep the first few nights <grin>), was that I found that using the pills helped to reset my body clock.

I’d then repeat that same use pattern when I arrived back in Canada (I was typically gone two weeks, and was fully acclimatized to Taiwan’s time zone by the time I was heading back)!

When first prescribed, I was being told it wasn’t addictive at all – but some studies now are reporting “bounce back” insomnia after you stop taking it (worse the longer you take it). I don’t believe I suffered any bounceback – I took the pills for only a short time, and was still not “in time zone” as I stopped taking them. I do know it was far less painful than trying to live with the “1 hour of time zone change / day” that I was getting without giving my body some assistance.

It does require a prescription, but for people taking trips to Taiwan, I haven’t heard of anyone having a problem. For results, of course, “YMMV” (your mileage may vary).

Here’s one study that was done comparing Zopiclone to placebo use… (http://www.springerlink.com/content/fvch14w76br6crx1), for those that prefer studies to anecdotes…

First Post

17 Feb 2010

I used to equate blogging to diary-keeping, but I seem to be finding more and more places in my life where it would be handy to be able to just “throw” things for later retrieval. Twitter seems to hit the mark for some of my friends, but I’m just too damn wordy. I think a blog is likely to be more aligned with my needs and style.

We’ll see how it progresses.