Extreme Inspections – towards better metrics!

One of the biggest challenges we face in IT is demonstrable & measurable ways to access the quality of IT specifications.

So, it was extremely refreshing to find a great article just published this week over at www.ModernAnalyst.com titled: ‘ Using Extreme Inspections to Significantly Improve Requirements Practice’.
The article focusses on applying Quality Assurance techniques to IT documentation. It’s written by German engineer Rolf Goetz, who has obviously been at the coal face and clearly appreciates many of the challenges we all face in establishing more empirical ways to improve process.

Much of what Rolf talks about leverages work from Tom and Kai Gilb and others.

What I found refreshing, is that the article shines a light on the area of quality, similar to our mantra at VisibleThread. As ModernAnalyst (where this article was published) is a relativly mainstream portal for BAs, highlighting the value of inspections to this much wider audiance is great to see.

The emphasis in the article is on collaborative inspections. Rolf and indeed many of the proponents of these techniques, prefer the term ‘inspection’ over ‘reviews’, specifically suggesting ‘inspection’ of a random set of document pages yielding clear metrics around defects that can be extrapolated to the rest of the doucment(s).

I’m not so sure I care as much about the nuances of terms like ‘inspection’ vs ‘review’. I do however very much agree with the notion of spot checking a random sampling of document pages frequently rather than taking a more big bang ‘gated review’ approach. The latter is by definition somewhat more reactive and less effective that the former. Either approach however is preferable to the status quo in many organisations that we come across, i.e. little or no formal review.

So, whether we have frequent inspections or more back ended review of specifications, any kind of early intervention during the analysis phase and formal/informal review or inspection process is to be heartily welcomed. Too often, many organisations do not have even rudimentary vetting/validation procedures in place.

What was doubly exciting for me in this article is that you see the actual ROI of inspection in clear terms. Utilising the approach of ‘extreme inspection’ in one case Rolf cites, we see a reduction in the number of defects per page by 50%. Clear empirical evidence of actual defect reduction as a consequence of inspections in real projects is hard to come by and so Rolf’s case studies are useful to consider.

Broadening out the discussion; we’re currently working with a number of major customers especially in the financial services sector & without exception, the key goal is to establish an effective review (inspection) process backed by automation and very clear metrics.

In this respect, Rolf’s article is timely and very welcome in that it shows clear evidence in a ‘real-world’ example of what is possible from a defect detection perspective in specifications, albeit in a manual way. We are seeing that automation via VisibleThread can substantially magnify the efficiency of the rate of discovery of these defects, indeed often allowing inspection where heretofore resourse pressures have made it difficult to pull off.

I’ll be interested to see more of this kind of of coverage in the main stream media. My hope also is that VisibleThread can allow wider exposure and adoption in a meaningful way of the types of techniques described. Now there’s a very exciting thought…

If you’re interested in looking into this area more, Tom Gilbs work can be found at: http://www.result-planning.com/Requirements and Niels Malotaux at http://malotaux.nl/doc.php?id=15


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