Why should I care about Quality? I'm a developer!


OK, no developer wants to create bad quality code. But for most developers, quality is seen as something separate from development, something that is checked after the work has been done. It is something that QA do, after you throw your code over the fence. Thinking about quality at during development is a burden, slowing down the creation of functionality, holding up new features. Thinking about quality before development, well that's just crazy talk.

Old Habits Die Hard

In the Agile world, this is starting to change. Quality is being baked into the development process and there is more interaction between development and QA during the development phase. At least, that's the theory. In practice, we often slip back into bad habits of throwing code over the fence.

The reason we keep falling back into bad habits is because the attitude around quality is the same as it always was. It is still seen as something separate from development, separate from design, separate from planning. This causes it to be seen as a burden - extra work that just has to be done.

Quality as the Glue

If instead we change our perspective, and try to see Quality as an integral part of the entire development process, it can change the way we all work, from developers to product owners. Instead of a burden, quality should be a thread that runs throughout the process, and actually defines how all work is done from the ground up. If this is done, it can actually simplify and speed up development.

Baking quality into your process shifts the responsibility to everyone, rather than just QA. Having the whole team (including product owners) take responsibility for quality sets the focus around Acceptance Criteria. This "requirements-centric" approach gets everyone thinking about quality right from the refinement meeting. When the entire team comes together and builds good Acceptance Criteria, quality becomes a natural, and welcome, part of the development process.

Several things then happen. First, the whole team are forced to agree on the details of the requirements before development starts. Before any technical decisions or implementation planning, the exact requirements are clarified. Only by making this an imperative part of the process (usually the refinement meeting) can this happen effectively.

Good Acceptance Criteria Drives Good Development

With clear Acceptance Criteria, development is simplified. Development knows exactly what they need to implement, and when they know this, the process of writing automated tests is no longer abstract and difficult. Test Driven Development is a tricky thing to do, in practice. However, with clear goals, a developer can start with "pseudo tests" - tests which are just code comments - but which outline the business logic before coding begins. These will be a granular list of Prerequisite/Action/Assertions - Unit tests, essentially - outlining the required logic. Then, development becomes a process of implementing that logic.

Breaking the logic down before development begins is a very effective way of ensuring that clean code practices, especially the Single Responsibility Principle, are followed. It becomes natural to keep the logic simple, concise, and separated from other concerns, such as infrastructure. It encourages clean Object Orientated design.

Good Acceptance Criteria Drives Good QA

Also QA know exactly what they will be getting. They know what parts of the job will be automated, so they can design better integration, acceptance, and End to End tests, as well as an effective exploratory strategy.

Without this clarity, QA are left with waiting until a job is done and not knowing what they're going to get - which is a recipe for annoying manual regression testing, and no doubt, bugs.

Agile Demands Quality, Quality Brings Clarity

Agile is about iterating fast. You cannot do this when QA are held back by a requirement to constantly manually regression test, or worse still, you avoid regression testing and hope new development doesn't break anything.

With good Acceptance Criteria baked into the process, everyone has clarity. As a developer, this makes your life so much easier. You know what needs to be developed before you start, which allows you to concentrate on technical implementation details. With clear requirements, the code is cleaner, so development and maintenance is easier. This allows the team to iterate fast, able to add new features quickly.

Early automated testing becomes a breeze, and with this automation in place, QA can focus on exploration. With automation, we are able to develop with confidence, and innovate freely.

Quality no longer slows down the development process, but guides it.

That's why developers should care about quality.

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