Friday 2 September 2016

System architecture and QA in management

As IT becomes a bigger part of everyone's business, so does system architecture and QA. Whenever we see a big IT project that fails, the cause of the failure often comes from having management that does not pay enough attention to system architecture and QA.

I think all readers of this blog have seen managers, that take decisions based on a typical project management approach, where physical meetings and physical hardware gets more attention than the architecture of the software, or the management methods required to generate good quality software. The most recent I heard, was an IT project manager who said: We just need to make it as good as we can. However, the IT system was meant to produce vital calculations for the owner, so "as good as we can" is, in my opinion, an unacceptable attitude. Either you do it right, or you report back that you cannot be sure to do it right.

The idea of project management is actually quite simple: Always make sure to tell people who does what when, and make sure it happens. That is where QA comes in. Most IT projects are too complex to make a project manager understand the details. So, in order to help the project manager, you should have a fairly detailed QA system for your software development. This QA system should cover planning of detailed design, source code maintenance, system maintenance and how to deploy it. In addition, there are many things that are hard to verify, so you should have a documented programming culture that explains how the programmers make detailed decisions, and remember to make sure, that your programmers know it, and report if they see violations.

All this must be required by the top management of modern companies. Also, there is often a lack of review of whether the architecture matches the business model, the business direction and possible future business directions. A business may want to keep its business model options open, and sometimes options are closed by system architect decisions.

Even when system architects or other design engineers come into the management, these processes are often forgotten or not executed properly.

One of the reasons why this happens, is because humans were not created for making perfect products, or following Quality Management Systems. The mathematical perfection, that is sometimes required to get everything right, collides with other skills that are also required to create great looking products, useful products etc. And system architects are often not good CEOs. So, in the end, it usually ends up being dependent on respectful, open-minded cooperation of a management team that really knows their stuff. Not all companies have that.