Ben E. C. Boyter's Blog

Who is Responsible for Software Quality? (457 words)

In the beginning of my software development career I was interviewing for an intern position at Microsoft. I never did get the job but one think out of that interview process really stuck with. The second interviewer after the usual getting to know you chat aded me the following question. “On any given software project we have developers, software testers / quality assurance and managers involved. Who is responsible for the quality of the software?”. Being young and naive I confidently responded that the QA/testers were. After a long discussion artfully controlled by the interviewer I came to change my opinion. Below is the line of reasoning I went through with him.

Software testers / quality assurance write code to find bugs and prevent them reoccurring. They are also responsible for performing exploratory testing to identify issues developers did not anticipate. Other testers verify that requirements were implemented correctly. Finally they write bug reports used by developers to fix any issues found in the software. As such testers are responsible for software quality since they catch the bugs. However software testers usually do not fix the code itself. Their bug reports are the developers main feedback and how the bugs are resolved. So this would mean that the developers are actually responsible for software quality.

Developers write the code that makes the software do anything. As such they are responsible for implementing any bug fixes and following processes to ensure that a minimum amount of defects are delivered. They also have to take the requirements for the software and ensure that it is implemented correctly. Given this of course developers are responsible for software quality as they are the ones who actually fix any issues and implement the requirements. Failure to do either produces at best a flawed outcome and and worst a totally broken one. Naturally for any code issues the responsibility of quality lies with the developer then. However what if the requirements are wrong? The developers work against the requirements as do the testers. Managers usually write the requirements so are management responsible for software quality?

Managers, including project and otherwise usually do not usually write code or work to identify bugs. They are however responsible for processes used to gather requirements, ensuring that the team has sufficient time to fix issues and getting any problems out of the developers and testers way. We still have the issue that management doesn’t write code or identify bugs, thats the testers and developers job! That means that the testers and developers are responsible for code quality!

Of course you can now see the circular logic occurring here.

So Who is Responsible?

The answer is now obvious. Who is responsible for software quality? The answer is everyone.