Posted by: ahmedashfaque | February 9, 2010

Role of project team in process improvement


So your organization determined that the way some of the project tasks were carried out were not optimum and needed some overhaul. The management has come up with a new process definition and expects that project teams should do their tasks in the new way. The management has termed this as a process improvement exercise. What will be the impact on the project team as far as this initiative goes?

Let us take an example to understand it. Presently the software development team in the organization used to write their source code and would do the usual debugging, unit testing and integration testing on their local machines. Once in a week there would be a review meeting for quality verification of the written source code for the week. Once the review clears the source code written by all the developers, these pieces of source code will be integrated to the main software build. This practice has been going on for last couple of years.

But on many occasions, it was found that the main build used to break when the new pieces of source code was integrated with this main build. Recently the management reviewed this situation and found out the root cause of the problem. It was realized that source code written by developers was not in synch with each other. That means the integration testing done on local machines is not enough. The integration testing must take care of source code written by all developers. The best solution is that the moment a developer finishes writing a unit of source code and has finished unit testing, it must be tested for integration on the main build and not just on the local build.

Management thus decided that the project team should adopt continuous integration of source code to the main build. For this, they decided to go for a central main build which will be accessible to all developers located at all development centers. Whenever a developer checks in his source code to this central build, an automated mechanism will allow the main build to run and compile the source code. If any error occurs due to any integration problems, the main build will break and an automated email will be sent to the developer who checked in his code. He will immediately either revert back his source code or make changes in his source code and again check in this changed code on the main build. If this changed code compiles successfully then it means that integration of the new piece of source code has integrated successfully to the main build.

This new changed way of working will ensure that the problem of integration of new source code will be eliminated. While in earlier case when source code was being added in batches to the main build; in the new way, the source code will be added to the main build continuously. This is a far better way of doing things and removes the nagging problem of integration issues.

Now the question is: if project teams will comply with the new way of working? If it does then the process improvement initiative will be a success. If not then there won’t be any process improvement at all. Any process improvement depends entirely on its successful implementation. And successful implementations of process improvements depends entirely on the people who are supposed to do their jobs in the new proposed way!

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