Avoiding problems, Customers, Office, Practical examples

How to avoid suicide applications

January 29, 2018

Having the experience of managing many projects in many different methodologies and different mixes of them, recently I could notice some attributes that happen in all of them to make it to be a suicide project to manage. By suicide I mean a project that will face issues and go down until it reach an unacceptable status, leading to a client loss, or something extreme like that.

The items below were identified as something common to all of managing styles, and if any of them is common to you or part of your routine, it’s time to change something. Some of them regard people relationship and some of them technical parts.

 

No QA environment

A project which has only a formal Production environment. The development is made by coders on their own machines. There is no QA (Quality Assurance) environment.

It looks crazy, right? But it still happens. Usually it happens when who is paying the bill doesn’t understand how catastrophic not having a Quality Assurance / Testing / Homologation can be. When it happens you are dealing with your luck day-by-day like the image above.

The QA environment must be, ideally, an exact copy of the production environment. Routines of copy from PRD (production) to QA must be maintained from time to time. When it happens, whenever a problem on PRD comes, it will be faster to track and simulate on QA. If it’s faster to simulate, it’s faster to find a solution and fix PRD. When production is fixed fast, the client loses less money related to that failure, or its brand is less affected due to that stop.

There can be different ways or minimum-requirements to at least have a trustworthy test before sending new code to PRD. The QA data can be different of PRD current. The environments may have different hardware configurations and etc. But the more differences QA and PRD have, the more time will be spent to track down issues.

Talking about a different service, when you don’t have a QA environment, holding proportions, it’s the same thing as a doctor trying a new surgery method without testing it on mice or monkeys before. It can work. But there is a huge chance of going wrong. And when it works, its nothing but luck.

 

Zero Automation

The more automation you have, the less human errors will happen. People will fail. And it’s normal! Let’s let people to think on what really matters and not on routine tasks. Somehow it will happen in someday:

  • They will commit the last code to the wrong branch. Then production will have a break;
  • They will forget to run a script before deploying a package. Then production will have a break;
  • They will forget to run minimum tests before running a new process or service. Then production will have a break;

A good way to prevent those errors to occur is to automatize as many things as you can.

A good starting point may be automatizing the deployment activity. Many companies I’ve already seen still have issues with deploy. They plan 4 weeks in advance for a deploy. The deploy is done. It crashes. It requires one or two weeks to fix the code and get production running back again. Then it plans with 2 months in advance. It crashes again. If the deploy is a problem, why not turning it into something trivial? Try to make it everyday. A lot of things will be learned.

Automatizing tests is also a great initiative. Automatized tests is one of the best weapons for software stability. The more coverage of tests your app has, the more stable it will be. These two suggestions will require time to be implemented, but their benefits will be felt on software credibility trough the whole company.

Talking about a different service, not having automation is like loading a warehouse box by box, without a fork-lift. A lot of time will be wasted of course. Also some of them will be dropped. Some of them will be shaken too much. It will work, but a lot of risks are added to the project without a need.

 

Key-user displicence

The one responsible for testing your project is the main actor of your routine. They will be whose opinion will be asked about on going practices. This person must be committed and addicted to your project, helping and pointing fingers to anything that goes wrong. The best projects I’ve ever been enrolled had very picky people testing and giving their OK to delivered features.

If your project lacks this concern, many problems may come up:

  • Lack of perception of value. What you have been practicing/telling is not what the customer likes to hear/watch;
  • Lack of alignment of what is developed versus what really adds value to the business;
  • The worst one: Lack of knowledge about the system. This person should be the one who knows all the system. If they don’t, many problems may come up because of different conceptions of why something was developed in some way;

This example is like a mom who doesn’t care about its baby education. It will grow, of course. But it can turn into a time bomb.

 

Low judgement at technologies choices

Technology is something serious and can’t be treated as a fashion trend. Fashion trends come and go and are renewed from time to time. A programming language, framework, feature, cloud provider neither anything related to development can be elected because its fancy or is the thing who everybody is talking about right now. All of this decisions must be questioned by the development team and, if possible, count on help from someone outside the project to think together with the team and reach the best choice.

When wrong technology choices are made, it may cause some problems like the following:

  • Difficulties to find people who know that technology to work with you in your project;
  • Problems in the future due to incompatibility of that technology with the project requirements;

Using the parallel to other services, using a new technology which is not proved yet is like buying a hamburguer with vegan-bacon inside it. It can be good, but is not proved yet. It will be your bet.

 

Deficient communication/status

How is structured your routine of communication with your client? Do you have formal moments to share information? Or do you make it when a trigger come? At this point there is no right answer, like suggested on the article “The magical answer for software development project management“.

But you will have a process to share information and to tell what you are doing to whoever is paying you. It can sound strange, but sharing this information may be a serious problem in many projects. You must ensure the activities you are conducting make sense to the client, and they understand that what you are doing is good to the business. Will you have a weekly meeting? A daily? A status report?

When you don’t have a process to give feedback on what you are doing, is like investing money with an investment company that doesn’t inform you about your gains.

 

Why to attack all of this?

All of the statements above refer to practices that must be figured in your project. Otherwise they will mean problems on the relationship or on the app data. Whenever any of them happen, they mean losing money or at least weakening the system owner’s brand. It may be natural that the main apps of a bank won’t have large issues. But the user doesn’t like when the registration to that cashback program crashes. It means the bank is not serious about their user and marketing advertising.

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