If you sell additional services, and code enhancements in particular, then you also own the quality of the product that was shipped. Your on the front lines working every day with a customer who is perceiving the final experience of the product through all the customizations and integrations that you have implemented for them.
Customizations and integrationsrequire just as much of a test plan and unit tests as code that ships with the product. Anything I previously said about how development team members own quality applies here for the improvements. A customer will never differentiate between groups at your company… good and bad perceptions apply to everyone.
As experts you are engaged to prevent customers from shooting themselves in the foot. This applies to technical choices (deploying on underpowered hardware) AND softer choices about site policies and configuration (requiring too much information to register).
The goal isn’t that customers are up and running… it’s that customers are achieving what they set out to do. Because if they aren’t achieving their goals then your services are easy to blame… quality of experience is key and you helped set them up.
I work with some outstanding support people that exemplify the traits below – they own product quality to.
Quickly gathering information and reproduction steps for bugs that are reported… and making sure the bugs are fixed quickly. Make sure your product team is accountable for fixing at least 90% of the issues that are reported in each next release.
Identifying support trends and forcing the team to address them… each quarter the product team should be looking to address “supportability” by looking to reduce the top time consumers of your support team. It may not be a bug… it may be confusing UI that customers call about frequently… which costs everyone money.
Communication and closing the loop is critical. Like the lonely tree, If something is fixed in a service pack it doesn’t do any good if the customer that reported the issue doesn’t know it’s been addressed. This is really hard to do well.
In some ways your goal should be to eliminate the need for your job… except that if you do this well your company will have more customers to report issues… and you won’t need to hire an army to support them.
Part three will look at the role of the User Experience & Marketing teams in product quality.