Chris Cowell, HealthSparq
Pre-mortems are preventive medicine for software development projects: formal risk investigation sessions that happen at the beginning of a project. They’re a fun and effective way to identify and mitigate risk, and because of QA’s expertise in thinking up edge cases and sniffing out dodgy pieces of code, QA members are well positioned to drive them. Pre-mortems make QA’s job easier by helping non-QA members think more carefully about building in quality from the beginning of the project. While it can’t guarantee a project’s survival, a thoughtful pre-mortem is recommended in many cases as a painless, non-disruptive procedure for helping your whole team succeed.
The bulk of my presentation focuses on the nuts and bolts of running a pre-mortem, with examples from my experience. I’ll show how to prep the patient (prepare the team so the process runs efficiently), observe symptoms (spot risks that could lead to the project’s demise), find the right vaccines (make action items for risk mitigation), establish healthy habits (refine the team’s workflow so future projects also benefit), and conduct a long-term epidemiological study (assess the effectiveness of pre-mortems over time). I’ll wrap up with a discussion of when pre-mortems are contraindicated, and look at some alternative therapies that could be considered instead.