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Software Quality and the Broken Windows Theory

Evidence of decay remains in the system for a reasonably long period of time

Nigel Cheshire's Blog

Amiram Hayardeny wrote a thought-provoking post yesterday in which he applies the broken window theory to software quality. The broken window theory suggests that neighborhoods where minor evidence of decay (broken windows, deteriorating building exteriors, etc.) do not get fixed quickly start to deteriorate more rapidly. Hayardeny suggests that the same theory can be applied to software development teams: “Evidence of decay (large defect backlogs, no documentation, no code reviews) remains in the system for a reasonably long period of time. Quality oriented engineers who work on the project feel more vulnerable and begin to withdraw. They become less willing to intervene to maintain software quality for example, to attempt to enforce code reviews, or to address signs of deterioration…”.

There's no doubt that quality is a mindset issue. Ignore the issue, and the natural state of things is to deteriorate. Foster a quality mindset, stay on top of minor defects, and there is a better chance that things will not get out of hand.

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Nigel Cheshire is CEO of Enerjy Software, a division of Teamstudio Inc. He oversees product strategy and has been driving the company's growth since he founded it in 1996. Prior to founding Teamstudio, Inc., Nigel was co-founder and principal of Ives & Company, a CRM solutions consultancy. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from the University of Teesside, England.

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