Specification Quality Control

Specification defects are among the largest drivers of rework in software development, Research and case studies show that as much as 80% of the defects in software are injected before writing code. In the case of requirements, studies have shown that although they represent roughly 35% of the defects on a typical project, those defects account for as much as 80% of the total cost of defects because the requirements drive so much downstream work.

Formal inspections have been practiced since the 1970s, and have been shown to be very effective at locating defects. Yet, formal inspections remain one of the most frequently dropped, or completely ignored, practices in the industry. Among the reasons for this neglect is the burden that end-of-line, exhaustive inspections place on a team. Specification Quality Control (SQC), sometimes also called Agile Inspections, is a response to those issues. SQC can be used with any form of specification, from requirements to source code, test plans, and even end-user documentation. SQC uses a sampling approach to minimize the load on participants’ time, and can be tailored for almost any situation. Best of all, SQC uses rigorous, early reviews to provide just-in-time feedback to specification authors before they go on to create the bulk of the specification. This practice alone typically reduces defect density in the finished specification by at least 50%. Published benefits of SQC include significantly increased scope and quality at release and decreased test effort.

SQC allows for quantifying the defect density of any specification and naturally generates clear, understandable metrics to drive continuous improvement. SQC works in Agile, traditional, or hybrid environments.

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After completing this class, you should be able to:

  • Define defect removal, defect prevention, Cost of Quality, peer review, and related terms
  • Describe and apply SQC as the backbone of a specification review process
  • Understand how to apply SQC to various forms and types of specification in traditional and agile environments
  • Know where to find more information on the topics presented

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