Quality Assurance – An Impediment or a Necessary Evil


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There is a famous tenet that applies to any project, be it tech or otherwise, although it has mostly been heard in the tech corridors for a while now.

If you want a speedy delivery, quality may not be optimal.

But, if the delivery needs to be stellar as well, costs will shoot up.

If you want to save on cost, it may take longer to deliver.

Basically, however you look at it, something’s got to give between cost, time and quality. Apparently, you can’t have all the three.

I beg to differ. It’s an old adage and many a project has been delivered and continues to be delivered in its guise.

I believe projects can and need to be delivered in earnest. In fact that’s the current market ask and if you do not respond to it, what you get to the market may be a tad bit too late to create any demand, for the market expectations have moved on a lot further due to the competition taking over.

Now, does speed really mean more cost? Not necessarily! It’s not about how complex the work at hand is, how enormous a job it is or how many resources will it consume. It’s about how well planned is execution, what kind of strategy and preparation have gone into the plan itself and what options are tapped to execute in an agile mode.

Also, does speed mean less optimal quality? And in order to ensure great quality, do you need to spend more money and need more time? I think that’s just regressive thinking.

Here’s a popular saying in the project management world, “Every birth takes nine months. Similarly, every project needs the time it deserves. You can’t deliver what takes nine months within a month just by adding more resources.”

I agree to the above to a certain extent. Throwing more resources at a problem doesn’t necessarily solve it. However, there is a threshold after which certain changes can be brought about, either by induction of the right resources, parallel processing where possible or taking productivity to a higher level by managing the team mechanics to deliver.

Speed to market or deliver doesn’t mean less optimal quality or more cost at all. When it comes to quality, how that’s perceived within the team at work and how it’s executed upon become very crucial. If there is a professional quality assurance team in place to handle that function for a project, then, it’s only viable if the scale of the project demands it. In such situations, it’s important to ensure that the whole project team clearly understands the precise objectives of the quality assurance team. From requirements gathering to the architecture design, every function has to be focused on simplicity and speedy delivery. Developers have to be on top of their game to ensure cutting edge code is going out and the quality is checked within their realm, before it goes out the door. QA should be more focused on functional review to meet market needs and push the envelope for a speedy delivery. If the team works in this fashion, orchestrating in high productivity modes, miracles are possible where costs are kept under control, and a high quality product reaches the market on time.

However, the truth of the matter is that, in more cases than not, the quality assurance team ends up being a gatekeeper for the work churned out by the development team and that’s where the issue rests. A top-notch development team should not need a quality assurance team behind its heels cross-checking each line of code being churned out. The development team should be accountable for what they deliver and should be proud of the job they do sans the quality team. The quality team, as I said before should be just focused on ensuring the market gets what it demands. In fact, their work should be non-existent.

And the day, we get there with minimalistic or non-existent quality teams, would be the day where cost and time also do not have as much bearing on projects and what gets delivered to the market. The best part, neither the creator nor the consumer would have any apprehension as to the product that has been put out in the market.

Image Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Inside Truth About Success


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Visionaries are a myth. The epithet is associated after the fact. Historically, and in the contemporary world, none of those who have succeeded set out with a vision to make an earth shaking impact with their success. They all started with a fire in the belly, to do something unique; some to make a difference, some to make something of their life, others for the fame and money, and yet others, just for the challenge and adventure of it.

The universal truth is that everyone that set out to succeed stumbled upon their success by following a passion or simply, by pursuing what they were fascinated with or got good at. However, not all of them set out on a pre-conceived chartered path. Some did not have the wildest idea of where their journey would lead them. There are several that started out on a certain path but eventually ended on one they did not, initially have the slightest idea about.

What is common among all of them is that they had a dream, a desire to excel themselves and for others, to make a difference and that passion, a strong will to endure all that crossed their path, a resilience and unwavering commitment to see it through; that sheer dominance of spirit is what turned their dreams into reality, their passion into their engagement, their commitment into their reward and today, they stand in the annals of our history as visionaries.

The current generation has a lot of young men and women, out to change the world. It’s a different time we live in where the wherewithal is in abundance; probably more than in any period of history to make this happen for those that seek to. However, the passion, the commitment and the dream need to be the same and start the same way, to change one’s own destiny to eventually change the world.

Now, where does your passion lie? What are you set out to do? How do you plan to change your world and ours?

Image Courtesy of flickr.com

Success – Where do you look for yours?


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Success is a two way street.

Not many realize that and keep running hard on the wheel of daily life, doing their job and hoping to succeed some day.

Let me tell you that by following this formula, you may make a living but, will not find the success that you aspire for, in your career or in your life.

Here’s a universally acknowledged way of making things happen.

  1. Have a vision of the life you aspire for,
  2. Chart your path of realization,
  3. Plan and Execute.

Voila! Your aspirations come true.

As simple as it may seem, much goes into this process in terms of breadth and depth to achieve results. Yet, what you find in terms of achievement may fall short of your expectations.

I would like to focus on point 3 above and share a widely visible but, often overlooked ingredient to making things happen.

As I said at the beginning, success is a two way street. Generally, everyone who is out to succeed is so wrapped up in their own definition of success that they are out to do it by themselves and, for themselves. This is a very hard way of finding any success and if found, very little.

True success finds you when you are out to help others succeed. Don’t focus on your success but on the success of others. Make it your mission to help others succeed; your friends, co-workers, associates, team members, partners and clients, in short everyone you interact with or come across. When you make it your agenda to help others succeed, your success happens without really pushing for it or consciously trying. The more people you help succeed, you will in turn be that much more successful. How positive than this can it get?

Change the way you comprehend your success. Your success is not proportional to the amount of effort you exert but to the effort you expend in helping others succeed. In fact, not even that, its proportional to the amount of success enjoyed by those that you have helped.

Turn around and measure your success with the success you have helped impart to others. Learn to find your success in that of others. Without even your realization, you start to accrue immense success for yourself through the multiplier effect. The best part, you did not have to strive for it. In fact, you would have spent time doing something very fulfilling and gratifying; helping others succeed. Result; you have developed a vastly successful community and your success puts you at the pinnacle of it.

So, who are you out to help succeed today?

Innovation is an accident!


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The act of innovation and the results thereby are always by accident. And, that’s when they are the sweetest.

Innovation is the after effect, the result of creativity. And when is creativity at its best?

Well, there are two schools of thought. One believes that you need to have experienced certain hardship, been under pressure or difficult circumstances and as you toil to get out of this situation, you innovate. You think and act in creative ways to solve the issue at hand and come up with some very novel ways of doing so.

Another school of thought believes that true innovation, for that matter quality innovation happens in an environment that helps nurture creativity. True breeding grounds of creativity need to be established and encouraged where an issue to be solved is first recognized; then, those enlisted to act on solving the issue are freed up of any other responsibilities and are charged with focusing on this one thing.

More often that not, history has shown us that true innovation happens under pressure, when you are trying to solve an issue you are struggling with. However, the latter is true as well, but what happens there is not creative innovation to solve an issue, but more of solution enhancement and optimization; albeit creative.

Let me enumerate through some examples.

The invention of the round wheel was innovation that happened to fulfill a need, transport; the improvisation of the wheel to make it last longer, go faster, adapt to different vehicles, etc. falls under solution enhancement.

Connecting people through e-mail and Facebook during this Internet age was innovation addressing a need, social connectivity. Twitter, chat and the different facelifts we see of Facebook are improvisation and solution enhancement.

Generally speaking, the birth of innovation to solve an issue happens purely due to the urge to solve the issue; there is not much needed in terms of money and establishments to do that for its entirely based on frugality and the excitement to see something new. What follows after that, demands a lot more in terms of money and material to improvise and scale.

Not to say that one is righteous than the other, we all know that the world needs both.

Creativity, whether in profession or hobby is the spark that makes what you do purposeful. Where do you find your fulfillment?  In the former or the latter? Once you can answer that, you will know where your passion, your heart lies and where you can prosper and thrive.

What if you always received so much more than you expected?


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What if you always received so much more than you expected? Saw an ad on TV at the airport today for some hotel chain that said this.

What if you did? Well, I think it would be exciting for a while to be surprised, but soon that would turn into an expectation. That is where it generally stops but shouldn’t. With such expectation should come greater responsibility, to raise the bar on expectations, to think beyond what is normal at that point in time and to look forward to more surprises that build on the last one. Isn’t faster, better, cheaper what the world is driving toward every single moment.

Now, let’s review the other side of the coin; giving more than what is expected. What if you give more than is expected of you? Give more to your work, your colleagues, your partners, your clients, your family, your pets & yourself. What if you extend yourself a bit more, to give more of yourself, to surprise those expecting from you. Isn’t that possible? Of course, it is. You just need to make up your mind and put conscious effort initially, and before you know, it will become a habit; more so second nature due to the thrill you experience in surprising others, not to mention yourself. Now that the bar has risen, you cannot go back to your old self since that is no longer relevant in view of current expectations. The new “you” is the normal now. And as the new “you” is what those around you are accustomed to, time to raise the bar & share surprises all over. All this is very much possible and puts you on the path of constant improvement & growth, both on your professional and personal fronts. What’s in it for you? You come out stronger & more enriched, enriching the lives of those around you and when you look back at where you started, that will be a distant memory, right at the beginning of a sweet, successful & fulfilling life.

And what did you have to do to make this happen; a conscious decision to surprise those around you by exerting a little bit more than they would expect of you.

Think about it, will you?

Think Outside the Box!


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Over the last 2 decades, the word “disruption” has been thrown around quite a bit. “Innovation”, the act of creating something new and “Disruption”, the act of changing status quo with something better have gone hand in hand. These terms are interchangeably used or used together when talking about making the world a better place with a new invention or discovery.

If you really look into it, access to technology and our handle on it to make it do things that were never imagined possible has been key to the familiarity of these words over the last 2 decades. The world, as we know it has probably seen frequent and much innovation & disruption in the last 20 years.

Innovation doesn’t necessarily have to be something very dramatic. It can be subtle, slow, even making something that already exists just a tad bit better.  What’s important is the mindset to make things better, which I believe, is more prevalent with those living in current times than ever before. Not for the emoluments it may bring but more so for the sheer joy in transforming the way we live to be that much more efficient.

History has shown rich and varied times of innovation as well, but more in the mechanical and automation areas than technological as is now. Those were difficult times and I have much respect for the inventors of the time who gave us what we consider our basics today and, not so much as give a second thought to it. The electric bulb, telephone, automobiles, etc., things that we take for granted, were invented by people who had many odds to face but just kept up with their dreams until they were realized.

Today’s entrepreneurs & innovators fight against odds as well, albeit of a different kind than older times, to realize the dreams they set out with. Much is possible and sooner too in our times, especially with the entire world being fertile ground as one global market for whatever these adventurers come up with. Its instant validation of their hard work, if the world acknowledges this work, ensuring great returns for them. Such results make it possible to encourage more to take the journey while the ones that succeeded continue down the path of another great adventure.

What is interesting and refreshing in our times is that great returns in terms of money and popularity no longer tend to be the end goal of success, people set out to achieve. Our innovators still continue down the path of doing more, discovering more and continue to tread the path of making the world better. Money and fame are seen as simple outcomes of succeeding at what they set out to achieve and that is truly remarkable.

For all the inquisitive minds out there, go on and embark on your journey of innovation and disruption. There is no telling what is under which rock. And, while you are at it, enjoy your adventure thoroughly for that is the most precious aspect of it all!

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Experience vs. Enthusiasm: What do you think is more important to get a job done?


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When looking to hire someone, what do you give more importance to?

Most employers look for potential hires to have been there and done that. Experience at doing something and being successful at it previously is a key requirement when looking to fill a job. Although experience definitely adds to a potential hire’s qualifications and can help reduce or totally eliminate a learning curve, it is not always as important as you may think.

What is more important is the excitement a potential hire shows for the position applied for. How hungry are they for the opportunity? How excited are they to take on the challenge? What attracts them to the organization, the business and the particular role? Is their energy contagious?

An enthusiastic individual will develop expertise soon enough and gain experience as they learn and figure things out. After all, everyone starts with what they do from scratch. Someone gave you an opportunity to do what you do and that’s how you gained experience. It’s important to find and nurture the excitement in your hires for they very soon will be invaluable as resources with the right levels of enthusiasm, expertise and experience developed on the job. For all the experience one may have on the job, what if they lack the enthusiasm. They may continue to do an average or perhaps, an optimum job due to their experience of having done that before but you will never be able to expect them to set new standards, find innovative ways of doing things and thus influence the team with their enthusiastic streak, thus motivating all to do better and take pride in what they do. Enthusiasm makes one go the extra mile for the sheer experience of enjoying the work at hand. In fact, resources that get excited about their job tend to stay longer, produce better and share their expertise with others, thus passing their excitement through everyone they interact with.

The need for experience is seen as a key requirement for senior roles. Experience is a definite asset in leadership roles for it proves the point that you have done something before and been successful at it, but experience tempered with enthusiasm serves better. Sometimes, enthusiasm does take precedence over experience in senior roles as well since, the candidate brings in several transferable skills to the role and the lack of experience in the particular field should not be a deterrent if the person is hungry and excited about the role since all of their previous experiences will add thrust to their enthusiasm and help them figure things out. In fact, they will see things in a different light due to the uniqueness of their background and that could be the bedrock of new and creative ways of doing things within the role.

Again, when evaluating someone with minimum related experience but excited about an opportunity; it is important to ensure that their alternate experiences and background are a result of their investments in their education, learning, skill development, efforts and most importantly, their enthusiasm in what they did previously.

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Is Your Work-Life Flexibility Debatable?


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A few days ago, Yahoo! took the decision to summon all of its associates in-house, to work from one of their offices. It scrapped the remote work option citing that the most creative of ideas birthed from water-cooler conversations or rather, face to face interactions at work. Now, that’s their vision of extracting productivity and unique to their situation as a company. And here, we have the world debating the pros and cons of remote workforces!

Those of you who read recent articles about this step that Yahoo! took might have found it very clear that it is pertinent to their particular situation. When you have associates that are not accountable, don’t even VPN in regularly, what do you do? No wonder that with such a dispassionate workforce, the management had to get to the stick rule when the carrot of free lunches and free gadgets didn’t work. If you know that your kids are slacking and not doing their homework as they should, what do you do? You ensure there is a set time to complete the homework and sit with the kids until they learn to acknowledge the practice.

One company’s situation doesn’t categorize working from home as a boon or a bane. Remote work, when not abused is an absolute boon as it helps uphold associates’ work-life flexibility. This flexibility in turn, ensures reduced stress levels for the associates who work in their own environs and in fact, also helps improve productivity for engaged employees. Is remote working suitable for all employees? Not really since one needs to be a self-starter and have an immense sense of accountability and responsibility to be successful in a remote situation. Again, a change in scene also helps when the employees want to get into an office once in a while for that personal interaction they might crave for in an office setting.

In today’s environment where work extends beyond its stipulated time and associates seek the flexibility to work through their regimen and have to shuffle between life and work, it is a great tool that helps keep that balance, yet ensures that the time spent on work is of a quality nature and associates are fulfilled while delivering their best work.

Case in point, one company’s situation and a corresponding decision to bring back the workforce in-house doesn’t mar the practice altogether as there are other examples out there who have leveraged the remote workforce model to save millions in infrastructure & logistics costs and continue to do so year over year while benefiting from a self-reliant, self-motivated & highly productive workforce. Some simple and immediate benefits include not having to depend on local talent and able to tap into the best of talent across the country and internationally as well, no relocation expenses, lower training costs by deploying on-line training, etc. Managing a remote workforce comes with its own challenges but the benefits outweigh the challenges. Of course, again; not all jobs are suited for this model. But, where possible, leveraging the practice is beneficial and trends show that this is on the growth path among U.S. organizations.

In fact, I know of a management consulting firm that was started using a remote model and till date continues without an office where the workforce is entirely distributed. The organization has a mailing address for a head office, some space to store secure and sensitive documents, conferences and client meetings are either virtual or at rented out conference rooms at one of the several business centers. The company concentrates on its core capabilities while all the functions of running the company such as payroll & legal are outsourced. Not saying that this is viable for every organization out there, but there are companies doing this and being highly successful with the model. Look up Brand Velocity to learn more.

Did you really say that? Hmm…that’s not what I heard!


Have you ever noticed that children demand 100% attention when they are communicating with you? Why children, try being a little inattentive with your spouse when in a conversation and see what happens!

Have you ever felt that you asked for one thing and received something different? What went wrong?  You thought you were clear in explaining what you wanted but how did it not get across to the other person? Did they not hear right or comprehend correctly? Or perhaps, were you not clear with communicating your expectations while you thought you were?

Communication & Comprehension are the crucial factors of discussion here. Mastering these ensures your professional & personal success. We live in a world of conflicting egos and hence, this becomes all the more important.

We, humans are a social animal and hence, social interaction is inevitable. Whether it’s in your personal, professional or social life, interaction is an integral part of relating with one another.

Communication is key, yet so little is done by us at improving our communication abilities and approaches. Communication is not just about knowing a language or understanding its application or mastering technical lingo before you start using it. Mastering a language in terms of how to write, read and speak doesn’t mean you have mastered the art of communication. Communication in itself has several subtleties that are to be recognized, practiced and honed upon in order to have total control on the interaction dynamics.

The real life application of communication is unique. In order to succeed at any relationship, you need to ensure you understand the other party a complete 100% and at the same time you ensure they understand you a 100% as well. Every little struggle, strife, altercation & collective frustration leading to something worse, is all a result of that 100% not being met.

Communication is a two-way street. Most of us let our ego drive us and make the mistake of trying to expend energy to get our point across. It’s not about you always talking. Have you tried to actually curb your urge to speak, control your emotions and listen to the other party? Even in a situation where you feel absolutely sure that you are right, it’s important to give space and the due respect to the other party in terms of lending them an ear. Mostly, in such a situation, just listening patiently & attentively might take the frustration and animosity out of the mix and you end up having a real conversation. Respect the other party. Listen, and then talk. Never let emotions get the better of you while you are communicating. Always ensure you validate what you have heard, especially when a reaction or deliverable is expected of you. When there are expectations of you, ensure you ask for instructions in written for validation of the communiqué.

Talking about emotions, communication is not just talking and listening. Body language & voice modulation, your tone & gestures; all are an integral part of a good communication mix. Although, you should never let emotions get the better of you while communicating, you need to relate the emotion through these intrinsic aspects of communication. They can be much more powerful than the literal aspects of the act of communication.

It is so important that you come across completely when you communicate, whether through the word of mouth or the word of your pen/keystrokes. Communication is all about clarity. A little distortion in understanding can mean a sea change in the after effects or actions as a result of that communication.

Whether you are communicating to your spouse, kids, family, clients, customers, peers, bosses, prospects or strangers; always ensure clarity of thought in your speech or written word. Relate the respect you impart by listening attentively and reacting carefully. Say what you mean and mean what you say and never leave anything unsaid unless you want your audience to read between the lines!

I have a stupid question…..


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You are in the conference room attending an office meeting. There is a pretty animated discussion in progress about some of the ongoing projects. Part of the stuff discussed just made it over your head. You want to ask a question but restrain while evaluating if it would make you look stupid or ignorant.

Here’s another one. You are participating in a discussion and have something to say that would add value to the conversation and perhaps, throw some new light on it. As you play it in your head before you react, the discussion has moved on or someone else has an opinion. Now, you have second thoughts about your input and decide to leave it at that.

And here’s yet another one. You are participating in a conference call. Something one of the executives said is not completely true. You believe the executive is mis-informed. You know the facts and can back them up but are contemplating whether to interject or not.

If the person in any of the above scenarios is you, you have just pushed yourself into oblivion yet again. You have unknowingly lost an opportunity to rise to the occasion and further, moved into a more obscure existence in the corporate world.

Dear friend, a majority of us have to work for a living. That’s the universal truth. Then, why not choose the work of your liking and further, perform it to its justifiable purpose and your satisfaction. Why not make it provide the best of opportunities for you while you enjoy the journey and leverage the relationships you make along the way. The most important person to please in this endeavor  is you;  the one who can make a difference in paving your professional path is you and the one who can play a role in your success or not is again, you!

So, in your own interest, never hesitate for a moment in what you believe is right. If you have input in a conversation, share. If you hear something that you do not believe matches up to facts that you can vouch for, voice your opinion. If you haven’t followed a dialogue and have a question, no matter how silly it may be, ask. Remember, when in ignorance, nothing is ever silly or stupid. You just didn’t know.

Confidence is a key player in the office arena. Not just confidence in relating what you know, but questioning what you didn’t know or do not agree with. The people you relate to are just the same as you. As long as you are respectful of your surroundings & the people that you work with, everything is game and welcome.

Frequent active communication and interaction are key, even in today’s hi-tech world.