Hello up There
It makes sense. If an internal system fails, senior management probably won't hear about it. Failures are usually suppressed, rarely examined, and certainly not publicized. Okay, so someone's pager went off in the middle of the night and there were some crazy times while problems were resolved, but all in all things kept moving forward. No one keeps track of the costs of poor quality.
But for an external system, it's a completely different dynamic. A failure can cost customers and revenue, and believe me that is measured. Drop revenue or market share by a few percent and you'll have the attention of the board of directors.
What makes all this really exciting is that I've actually seen the effects start to manifest themselves. Over the past few months I've encountered an increasing number of projects, departments, and companies that are making serious commitments to quality. In one case, a brokerage firm had put a freeze on all new projects during the downturn—with one exception: test automation. Be still my heart!
Now, does this mean we can forget about quality for internal systems? Actually, no. In most cases, customer-facing systems are just front ends to the internal systems, which means their quality is inextricable. It doesn't matter how solid your Web site is if the mainframe in the back can't complete the order. The happy result is that the value of quality is increasing throughout the enterprise.
Entering the Mainstream
And just when you think you can't take any more good news, there is more. The emerging operating and development platforms are becoming more test-friendly.
In the past, test automation tools had to be developed as proprietary scripting languages that performed unnatural acts to invade the application under test. Now, new support for inter-process cooperation and communication is enabling test automation to be achieved using off-the-shelf, native programming languages and through supported interfaces.
The advantages are many. Programming languages are less expensive than scripting tools, the languages are taught in college, and there is a wider talent pool to draw from. Supported, standard interfaces mean that the scripts aren't as vulnerable to nonstandard behaviors, and they can be bought rather than built. The benefits go on.
So are we entering a golden age of quality? Or is this just another mirage? What do you think?