December 14, 2015

Who Needs QA? Not Yahoo!

Yahoo! likes their developers to work without a net. 
Instead of "falling to their death", Yahoo! will now refer to this as "forcing excellence into the process".

Yahoo! has been making lots of changes to their development processes. After some small changes in their processes in 2013, a larger push from mid-2014 to the first quarter of 2015 involved getting rid of quality assurance.

As part of a program Yahoo! calls Warp Drive: a shift from batch releases of code to a system of continuous delivery, software engineers at Yahoo! are no longer permitted to hand off their completed code to another team for cross checking. Instead, the code just goes live as-is. If problems occur, it will fail and shut down systems, directly affecting Yahoo!’s customers.

Yahoo views this as a success. copyrightjoestrazzere

“Doing that,” said the company’s senior vice president of science and technology Jay Rossiter, “caused a paradigm shift in how engineers thought about problems. We said ‘No more training wheels,’ and it made a huge difference. We forced excellence into the process.”

Apparently, the work QA at Yahoo! performed added human error. “It turns out,” Rossiter said, “that when you have humans everywhere, checking this, checking that, they add so much human error into the chain that, when you take them out, even if you fail sometimes, overall you are doing better.”

A year after the change, “It’s 100 percent working,” said Amotz Maimon, the company’s chief architect. “It’s amazing. Even people who didn’t think it could ever work now think it’s great, and we are applying it to everything we do in the company.”

It's not clear if "overall you are doing better" means cheaper, faster, more error-free, or something else. And it's not clear what "applying it to everything we do in the company" means.

Many folks believe another restructuring of Yahoo!'s company is coming soon, and that the company's 10,700 employees should be worrying about their job security. Indeed, CEO Marissa Mayer has promised to announce plans for a cost-cutting reorganization late in January. So maybe getting rid of QA had something to do with cheaper, rather than better. And maybe cheaper will be applied to everything they do in the company.

It will be interesting to see if this shift to "no QA" is permanent, or just another fad. Meanwhile, we'll see if Yahoo!'s quality changes for good or for bad. Or if there's anybody left who cares.

This article originally appeared in my blog: All Things Quality
My name is Joe Strazzere and I'm an experienced Quality Assurance professional.
I like to lead, to test, and occasionally to write about leading and testing.
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  1. Have you heard anything since Yahoo! made the change? I'm very skeptical, but would like to know what the effects of the change have been.

  2. I haven't heard anything, but thanks for the reminder. I'll see if I can dig up any recent news.