January 18, 2011

Book: Glitch - The Hidden Impact of Faulty Software

I happened to be executing a search on Google, when I saw that the company Weblayers was giving away preview copies of a book titled "Glitch". I visited the website and it sounded intriguing, so I requested a copy. Last week, I received a package in the mail containing the book, along with a nice note from the Director of Marketing Communication at Weblayers. In it he said that since the book had already been released, he thought he would send me the full book, rather than just the preview I had requested. Very nice! I'm always happy to be given a book. But if I review the book and write about it, I'll always be honest - good or bad.

Glitch was a quick read, but unfortunately, not really what I had expected. While it did contain some stories of faulty technology in the wild (Visa, Toyota, Varian Medical Systems, EDS), the actual underlying theme of the book is IT Governance.

Automated IT Governance happens to be the focus of Weblayers, Inc. where the author Jeff Papows is President and CEO. So perhaps it's not surprising that IT Governance is heavily emphasized as a major part of the solution to the problem of faulty software, and even cyber terrorism.

Curiously though, the author never actually defines the term "Glitch", nor "IT Governance".

Papows proposes something he calls "the IT Governance Manifesto", and says:
Making this vision a reality will require a cross-section of IT and business professionals, government agencies, and consumer advocacy groups that will join to accomplish the following:
  • Lobby for new legislation that requires more stringent reporting of software glitches in matters of life and death.
  • Impose fines on individuals and organizations responsible for software glitch cover-ups that put consumers' health and/or safety at risk.
  • Require a specified level of IT governance at organizations that produce products that can directly affect a consumer's quality of life.
The author has little to say about QA and testing. He does suggest that "time should be built into the product development and release schedule to include this critical [testing] step". But then he proposes that companies should "Give the developers incentives by offering rewards for those who have the highest percentage of clean code" and "Offer testing teams rewards for the highest percentage of discovered bugs". I've worked at companies who rewarded clean builds from developers or high bug counts from testers - it wasn't a pretty sight with lots of gaming the system, infighting, resentment, and so on!

Overall, I'm not sure to whom I'd recommend Glitch. The back cover says that it was "written for senior decision makers". I would hope that those senior decision makers who decide to read this book would at least talk with their hands-on IT folks - the developers and testers - before they decide to take a deep plunge into IT Governance. I suspect they could learn a lot from such a conversation that isn't covered in Glitch.

This article originally appeared in my blog: All Things Quality
My name is Joe Strazzere and I'm currently a Director of Quality Assurance.
I like to lead, to test, and occasionally to write about leading and testing.
Find me at http://strazzere.blogspot.com/.

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