Software Engineering-The Quality Movement


Today, senior managers at companies throughout the industrialized world recognize that high product quality translates to cost savings and an improved bottom line. However, this was not always the case. The quality movement began in the 1940s with the seminal work of W. Edwards Deming and had its first true test in Japan. Using Deming’s ideas as a cornerstone, the Japanese developed a systematic approach to the elimination of the root causes of product defects. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, their work migrated to the western world and was given names such as “total quality management” (TQM). Although terminology differs across different companies and authors, a basic four step progression is normally encountered and forms the foundation of any good TQM program.

The first step, called kaizen, refers to a system of continuous process improvement. The goal of kaizen is to develop a process (in this case, the software process) that is visible, repeatable, and measurable.
 The second step, invoked only after kaizen has been achieved, is called atarimae hinshitsu. This step examines intangibles that affect the process and works to optimize their impact on the process. For example, the software process may be affected by high staff turnover, which itself is caused by constant reorganization within a company. Maybe a stable organizational structure could do much to improve the quality of software. Atarimae hinshitsu would lead management to suggest changes in the way reorganization occurs.

While the first two steps focus on the process, the next step, called kansei (translated as “the five senses”), concentrates on the user of the product (in this case, software). In essence, by examining the way the user applies the product kansei leads to improvement in the product itself and, potentially, to the process that created it.

Finally, a step called miryokuteki hinshitsu broadens management concern beyond the immediate product. This is a business-oriented step that looks for opportunity in related areas identified by observing the use of the product in the marketplace. In the software world, miryokuteki hinshitsu might be viewed as an attempt to uncover new and profitable products or applications that are an outgrowth from an existing computer-based system.
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