Thursday, 26 August 2010

Why quality has always been essential for NAG’s own internal process (and a holiday).

Quality is one of the things that matters a lot to our users.

That is certainly true, but another reality is that the NAG Library could not exist at all without the checks and tests that result in the best quality software. The NAG Library is particularly complex and involves many different people doing very different types of task and activities. The Library is created from intricate actions including:

- Investigating lots of numerical problems and potential approaches and solutions
- Designing hundreds of methods for the various chapters
- Producing example code, data and plots
- Creating installer and user notes
- Writing the detailed documentation and descriptions of routines
- Building the multiple different processor and compiler implementations of the Library
- etc…

The best approach to quality is essential, in making the NAG Library, precisely because it is this multifaceted combination of numerical mathematics, software engineering and evolved process. If it were not for the quality checks, at all points through the product organization, it would be impossible to get all the bits to mesh and work together.
NAG learnt this fact many, many years ago!

NAG quality methods are continuously scrutinised because of this internal need, as much as for users. Levels of peer review of documentation are increased, as new expert knowledge come to the fore. The frequency of automated implementation testing carried out during the development process is escalated, as the availability of test platforms increases. And so on.

The results are self-evident. The quality and reliability of the Library never falters, even as new content is added and further software environments are supported. The NAG quality process benefits all parties.
On a much lighter note I’ve just returned from our family holiday. I, my wife and our three young children flew to Athens, stayed for 3 days to revise the history, and then moved, about 100 nautical miles by ferry, to an island to explore and relax on beautiful beaches...

…in summary the vacation was made up of different sections, and was enjoyed by all five of us, because of the quality and detail that went into the planning and booking. Perhaps it was also made easier since we are all hardened travellers.

This leaves me with a question, both for people and organisations
– ‘Can we all manage just as well with a top quality process but only limited experience?’

I’d be interested to hear your view…

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