PNSQC 2018 Keynote Michael Mah
Renowned speaker, writer and, executive coach shares his insights and answers our questions about the latest in software quality.
Michael Mah teaches, writes, and consults with technology companies on estimating and managing software projects, whether in-house, offshore, waterfall, or agile. He is the managing partner at QSM Associates Inc. and director of the Benchmarking Practice at the Cutter Consortium, a US-based IT think tank. With over 25 years of experience, Michael and his partners at QSM have derived productivity and quality patterns for thousands of projects worldwide.
Question: What is the current role played by metrics in assessing a software quality process? How has this evolved over the last 5 years?
Mah: Huge insights are possible when:
1) Teams measure their QA and Regression bug counts against code size and,
2) When they chart defects found during development and test, showing the peak defect rate and the “long tail.”
We can benchmark code quality from this as well as predict with great accuracy when a team will be “done” quite easily. We can get senior management’s attention to issues that matter.
Q: What interests outside of the software industry are important to you?
Mah: I’m immensely inspired by activists trying to preserve the natural world and biodiversity. We are all living finite lives on one remarkable blue orb ocean spaceship hurtling through the cosmos. Think Carl Sagan and #palebluedot. Our very lives depend upon biodiversity, and tragically the human impact as we blow past 7.5 billion people is now creating the largest and 6th mass extinction in 65 million years — since Earth was struck by an asteroid.
That having been said, our generation has the potential to be another ‘greatest generation’ – the one that has the vision, will, and the resolve to turn things around. I see technology as being able to play a vital role in energy, food production, and saving our oceans from things like plastic pollution, which is choking the marine life out of existence.
QA professionals can highly influence good outcomes, not only in testing but for the team as a whole. They’re not just the tail wagging the dog.
Q: Do you apply metrics to your outside philanthropic interests?
Mah: In all fields, numbers and facts tell a story. Creating change in the world involves telling stories well, backed up by data and facts. That’s how you get people to listen.
Q: We heard you are learning to fly — what got you started doing that?
Mah: It’s been a dream to rise above the Earthen bounds of gravity and fly like a bird, ever since I was a boy inspired by the Apollo Space Program. (Specifically, I was inspired by the Apollo Space Program and the eloquent words calling for that endeavor by the late President John F. Kennedy.)
I’m an FAA certificated Private Pilot but I’m always learning. To be in the clouds and to experience that freedom is awe-inspiring. Being a pilot changes your personality. It’s very humbling and confidence-building at the same time. Only 2 people out of every 1,200 can say this.
Q: Back to your other work now: What are the major issues in QA that no one is talking about, or at least that most are avoiding talking about?
Mah: That smart people, co-located and working in pairs, produce the highest value and quality for the business. We’ve seen the highest levels of performance when this is possible, or as close as possible. Much of the bean counters’ influence upon development environment flies in the face of this. CFOs don’t understand the economics of software engineering.
Q: What is the single most important idea that you would like members of PNSQC to take away from your presentation this year?
Mah: That QA professionals can highly influence good outcomes, not only in testing but for the team as a whole. They’re not just the tail wagging the dog.
Q: What do you hope to take away from your PNSQC experience this year?
Mah: Inspiration. Smart audiences give me hope. It feeds me.
Don’t miss Michael Mah’s keynote and workshop at PNSQC in October 2018.
Key points he’ll be discussing:
- The “Speed of Sound” envelope that we’re seeing from the best agile teams
- How to use Systems Thinking across Programs and Teams
- Estimating Program Increments and Estimating at the Portfolio Level
- Driving Value Metrics into the conversation to empower customers and disrupt the marketplace.
Be sure to check out the other PNSQC Keynotes and Invited Speakers to see what else is driving software quality this year. We’ll see you in October!