Saving Time and Improving Software Quality Using Checklists

Location: Portland 255
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For decades, the “best practice” for developing high-quality,
low-defect software has been to devise a detailed “software
development plan” and then generate mountains of paperwork to go
with the software. The space shuttle flight
software is built this way, for example. The result is highly
reliable software, but the practice is slow, expensive, stifles
innovation, and most programmers hate it.

It does not have to be this way.

We argue that prolix software development plans can usually be
replaced by a handful of simple checklists that result in improved
software quality and reduced total development time. The
trick is in getting the checklists right. A good checklist can
work wonders, but a bad checklist can be worse than no checklist
at all.

Topics covered in this presentation include:

  • How checklists benefit other endeavors (aviation, medicine, heavy industries, etc.)
  • Differences between a good and a bad checklist.
  • Benefits and limitations of checklists.
  • How to create good checklists.
  • Real-world examples of checklists in use on open-source projects.
  • How to convince your developers to actually use your checklists.
Photo of Richard Hipp

Richard Hipp

ichard Hipp has been working in 0pen-source software for decades and is the lead programmer for SQLite database and the Fossil DVCS. He is the recipient of the 2005 Google/O’Reilly Open Source Award for Best Integrator.
Richard holds graduate degrees from Georgia Tech and Duke University. He lives in Charlotte, NC, and makes his living writing and supporting open-source software.

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John Peacock
07/27/2011 11:23am PDT

I’d never considered how much checklists might help my daily workflow. I’m definitely going to try and implement them.