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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Getting a software team to figure out their own problems - Part 2

In the previous post in this series (Working with a software team to improve their processes - Part 1), I described a situation where a software team was working in a state of somewhat poor processes; where they had a lot of work and hence were working flat out. As a result, they believed that they were doing great work and were productive (or rather, some of them were worried about whether they were actually working effectively), but they also wanted suggestions about where they could be doing better. For a team that felt that they were productive and doing well, it would not be really useful to try and tell them a lot of stuff about processes and so on, instead it would be better to have a discussion with them and get them to raise such queries by themselves so that they would start driving improvements processes themselves. In this post, I will continue with some of the discussions that we had and post more of the way that the discussion happened:

- One of the initial points in the discussion was about whether they were aware of how defect free their code was ? They had defect metrics in terms of number of defects raised, closed and so on. However, when queried about whether they did some kind of review of the defects raised in the project so that some serious defects were analysed to prevent the occurrence of these defects in the next similar project, there was no answer. One of the team members then volunteered about how some of the more serious defects did occur from time to time, and this set the more senior members to evaluate as to how to make more time for doing such analysis. Even with the speed of their work, many of them did realize that it was serious to try and prevent these kind of high impact defects from recurring.
- It was necessary to keep on drilling further on this side, but in a discussion kind of mode. The next question was about their code practices, So, when the discussion moved to how robust the code was, and how the aim was to prevent defects from occurring in the code, the discussion finally moved onto the process of Code Reviews. There was a realization that Code Review was something that happened when the developer felt that there was time, and a reviewer was available. Members of the discussion team knew that Code Review could help in reduce the defects in the code, and that too right at the source (where the cost of the defect would be the minimum), but the speed and pressure ensured that this practice was not mandatory and did not happen in the hard pressure cases, where it was even more important.
- Discussions also happened in terms of coding guidelines and commenting inside the code. The team had a attrition rate that was increasing, and it was taking time for new team members to understand the code and learn why changes were made from time to time in the code. One of the developers who had joined 6 months back was asked about the code and what took time, and after some discussion with other developers, it turned out that sections of the code were not clear. It turned out that in many cases, previous defect fixes had caused changes in the code which were not clear for later developers, and since commenting in the code had not been drilled into them, there were not many references to the need to provide comments in the code with reference to why the changes were made and defect numbers.

This is proving to be a long post. Read the next section (TBD). If you have been in such a situation, please provide your comments. 

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