e-Talk Radio: Rothman, Johanna, 11 September 2001

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of the organization. Because I don't know enough. There's no way I could know enough.

Carol: And I think that's a really valuable point to make. You mentioned before that you, as a test manager, as a QA manager, have a role. And I think with your example of the chariots, I never really thought about it that way before, but I have this notion of a coliseum, and chariots running all over the place, like "Gladiator" or something like that. I never really thought of projects like that. But I think some of our projects actually are very, very similar to that. I think you mentioned also that it's really a team thing. And when we were talking about a ship date, I think a lot of times ship dates are really contentious issues. Either the marketing manager has said that, you know, this product, this Microsoft Windows XP, JX47, you know, nine million acronyms behind it, is going to be ready on January 1, whether or not it is. And then you get the testers who say, "Well, there's no way we can put it out." And then you get Bill Gates or somebody saying, "It's going out." It seems to be a little bit of a struggle there, particularly with ship dates, particularly with quality assurance people, who want to make sure that they are shipping a good product.

Johanna: Yeah, I think ship dates are the hugest, the biggest source of contention in an organization. When do we know the software's ready to release or not? In fact, I think I wrote a… oh, my release criteria paper, I should say article, isn't out yet, but I gave, I've been giving talks about release criteria at some of the conferences this year. And I think I've posted some of the PowerPoint slides to my Web site, but I can't remember. There are a couple people at Intel who are doing some really nice things about quality release criteria, which is one aspect, I think, of release criteria. For me, release criteria are, you can think of it as a balanced scorecard. What do I need to think about, in order to know whether or not my product is ready to ship? You know, is it just the date? It's probably not just the date, but the date has a huge impact. Is it just the number of defects? Not just, but again, the number and the types of defects have a huge impact. How much testing have we done? Do we actually know enough about this product to know what the risk is of shipping the product? Because there's risk on both sides. There's risk for shipping, and there's risk for not shipping. How do we balance those two? And most of the time, those of us who were not senior managers in organizations don't actually know enough about the risks of not shipping. We only know about the risks of shipping, because we see the defects, we see all those kinds of issues. But especially in the down economy, if you need to make revenue numbers, or if you're in an emerging market, and you have customers clamoring for your software, the worst thing you can do is delay shipment. Now, when you have a well-established product, it's a little bit more of a surprise to me why the ship date is so important, except that there's usually a bunch of Wall Street implications. "Well, the company said they were going to do this thing, and then they didn't." And then the stock goes down.

About the author

Johanna Rothman's picture Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” helps organizational leaders see problems and risks in their product development. She helps them recognize potential “gotchas,” seize opportunities, and remove impediments. Johanna was the Agile 2009 conference chair. She is the technical editor for Agile Connection and the author of these books:

  • Manage Your Job Search
  • Hiring Geeks That Fit
  • Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects
  • The 2008 Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management
  • Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management
  • Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People

Johanna is working on a book about agile program management. She writes columns for Stickyminds.com and projectmanagementcom and blogs on her website, jrothman.com, as well on createadaptablelife.com.

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