QW2001 Paper 2W1

Mr. Adrian Cowderoy
(ProfessionalSpirit Ltd)

Quality in a Dotcom Startup -- Fact or Fiction?

Key Points

Presentation Abstract

This is the story of a crusade to build quality management into a start-up Internet company, from the beginning. It is a story of campaigns interrupted by deadlines, of specification techniques ruined by evolving markets, and testing interrupted by frequently changing business objectives.

It is also a story of people. Of the conflicting ideologies of engineering, creativity, community and business. And of the software engineers who received rude awakenings from each attempt to stabilise the development processes.

We came to recognise that the bigger the challenges facing quality engineers, the more ingenious we have to be to achieve our objectives.

It is not formal techniques that matter most during the early months of startup, but a number of practical guidelines. For instance:
1. Repeatedly emphasise that “quality comes first, and features come last”.
2. Define your brand values, and expand them into quantifiable quality measures.
3. Provide broadband internal communication on all kinds of information with the business and technology. Keep it to summary form or presentations.
4. Use checklists and conceptual models that help everyone see the big picture.
5. Use corporate quality procedures ONLY for critical areas like version control and planning.
6. Encourage each designer and developer to use the quality tools and techniques they know, and can apply quickly.
Especially, employ only experience people, or outsource to mature companies. (Talented people pick up the seedlings of ideas and turn them into a reality that is greater than we dared hope.)

The results are a steady introduction of quality practices, first by individuals and then by others copying them. Processes start to stabilise. We have even found that our contractors are changing their practices to catch up with our requirements.

About the Author

Adrian Cowderoy is Content & Community Director of ProfessionalSpirit Limited, a company which he established to promote quality-improvement methods for the production of websites and multimedia.

Mr Cowderoy was the General chair of ESCOM-SCOPE-99 and ESCOM-ENCRESS-98 conferences, and was Program chair for ESCOM 96 and 97 (The European Software Control and Metrics conference promotes leading-edge developments in industry and research, worldwide û see www.escom.co.uk). He is the METRICS-ESCOM Coordinator for IEEE METRICS 2001 and was on the Program committee of Metrics 98 and 99, European Quality Week 99 and COCOMO/SCM 96-99. In 1998 he was acting Conference Chair of the Electronics and Visual Arts conference in Gifu, Japan. He is a registered expert to the European Commission DGXIII.

He has provided consultancy and industrial training courses on quality management, risk management, and cost estimation to the aerospace and medical industries in the UK, Germany and Italy since 1995. He also lectures at Middlesex University (www.mdx.ac.uk) on e-commerce project management and managing Internet start-up's, and at City University, London (www.city.ac.uk), on project management for systems development.

Mr Cowderoy was project manager and technical director of MultiSpace, a 14-month million-dollar initiative sponsored by the European Commission in which 12 European organizations explored the potential to apply quality-improvement methods to multimedia and website development projects. (See www.mmhq.co.uk/multispace and www.cordis.lu/esprit.)

He was a Research fellow at City University from 1990-1998, and a Research Associate at Imperial College from 1986-1989. He was also a quality consultant and software developer at International Computers Limited, UK, from 1980-1985, where he worked on operating and networking systems for mainframes and distributed systems.

His academic qualifications include an MSc in Management Science from Imperial College, University of London in 1986, and is a member of the Association of MBA's. He received a BSc in Physics with Engineering from Queen Mary College, University of London, in 1979.

Mr. Cowderoy has published and presented extensively on multimedia quality and software cost estimation. He was joint editor of Project Control for 2000 and Beyond (Elsevier, 1998), Project Control for Software Quality (Elsevier, 1999), and Project Control: The Human Factor (Elsevier, 2000).