Management-friendly test data

Give management test metrics that measure the two things closest to an executive's heart: Time and money.


You Can't Detect What You Can't See: Illuminating the Entire Kill Chain

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Metrics are trendy, and rightfully so: You can't manage what you can't measure. The problem is, almost all of us have slaved over collecting, formatting, and presenting vast storehouses of information that no one ever reads or comprehends, let alone acts upon. In our zeal to educate management about what we are doing, we end up inundating them with reams of reports that often simply confuse them.

The problem is not providing a quantity of information; it's providing the right information. The solution is to know what managers want to know and why they want to know it.

What's important?

Correlate all of your metrics into time and money.
A 1997 industry survey of software test organizations revealed an interesting paradox. When respondents--the majority of whom were in management--were asked to rank their most important objectives, first place went to meeting schedule deadlines and second place to producing a quality product. In a later question, when asked what their highest risk and cost were, based on past experience, first place went to high maintenance and support costs and second place to cost and schedule overruns.

Let's analyze this. Management's first priority is making the schedule, and their second is delivering a good product. Sometimes, this translates into sacrificing quality to make the schedule. On the other hand, experience shows (but apparently doesn't teach) that they encounter higher risks and costs from maintenance and support of low-quality products than they do from exceeding the schedule or budget.

Get it? Neither do I.

Why is it important?

The one clear thing is that management cares about time and money, and that makes sense. Most managers are measured on how well they meet their delivery schedules and their budgets. What seems to escape us, consistently, is the interplay between these two: If you meet the schedule but deliver a defective product, you spend more money trying to support and maintain that product.

Why is this painfully evident relationship so obviously ignored? Because of the imagined differentiation between development and maintenance. Few, if any, companies actually associate their maintenance and support costs with the sacrifices made to meet the production schedule. If you ship the product as scheduled, you "made it," regardless of whether that product boomerangs into a maintenance nightmare.

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