Research software quality standards

Romain Royer

,

Marketing Cooperator

March 9, 2022

5 min

When you choose a plant research software, you’d better double-check its quality, since it’s a cornerstone of your activity: Your team will use its tools every day and it centralizes your sensible data and knowledge. But you are not a quality expert, are you? Then how can you make sure about the quality of a software?

Well there are 2 main angles to that question: Functional: Does it meet the needs of your R&D department? And structural: Is the software reliable? ¹

I bet you have clues on how to check the former: Functionalities are detailed on the website, and the sales team will be pleased to make a demonstration to your breeders and testers. If you wonder about flexibility and configurability  to fit with your specific requirements, Doriane’s team can work with you on a PoC (proof of concepts) and initiate a process of detailed software suite feasibility evaluation!

Evaluating structural quality is even more touchy.  It depends on the way the software has been created: technology, source code… and also on the hardware you’ll be using ².

Figure 01: Roger pressman's scheme on software quality ³.

Overall, software quality is an intricate subject. Hopefully, it’s the editor’s mission to deliver usable tools that meet your expectations. It’s his responsibility to apply quality standards that “ensure customers get consistent, good-quality products and services, which in turn bring many business benefits” ⁴.

At Doriane, we’ve been creating software for the since the early 80’s. Our team of experts in IT and agronomy strives to deliver the best quality to the vegetal research industry. We aim for excellence by complying with the highest quality standards:

  • Gold Microsoft Partner since 2007, we create state-of-the-art software
  • ISO 9001 certified since 2011 (V15 since 2017), all our processes are structured to guarantee the quality of products and services for the best user satisfaction.

Let’s see in details how these certifications guarantee the best products and services to the seed industry, agronomical institutes and food research departments:

Figure 02: Dilbert’s boss puzzled about how to improve quality ⁵.

How MS partnership entails software quality

Doriane is Microsoft partner since 2007 to comply with MS software highest standards. For editors like us, the “Application development” partnership is a certification that our software RnDExperience® is functionally sound and optimized for the Microsoft platform.  Attaining MS partner certification demonstrates our IT Expertise, it proves our ability to exploit the most innovative features and functions of the current Microsoft platform. We have always reached the requirements for gold partnership but some years we have preferred the Silver formula.

Since 2000, the yearly certification involved notably compliance tests and customer satisfaction surveys. Testing the application on the latest Windows software and platforms certified development quality. And customer feedback involved 10 proofs of successful implementation and an annual survey to measure global customer satisfaction.

In 2020 the rules have changed: now the certification mainly requires strong training of our technical teams to MS technologies. In return, we get access to their finest test platforms and useful advice from Microsoft experts. It’s been very profitable for instance to find the best Azure hosting configuration for the cloud services we offer to some of our customers.


“It is worth investing effort in [high quality software] development and in using a careful, structured approach based on safe, structured languages”
Niklaus Wirth, Turing-awarded computer scientist, notably inventor of Pascal language.

What means ISO 9001 quality standard?

ISO 9001 certification attests the will of a company to stay connected to customer's needs. In the end this is the true purpose of software quality: Ensure end users’ satisfaction. And we can rely on ISO and its 70 years of experience in quality standards to define a set of organizational rules that meet this goal ! The big picture of ISO 9001 is that the organization of the company is thought in an efficient way, well structured, and every team involved in the “Customer-first” procedure.

Practically, it involves a quality management system to ensure the optimization of internal methods and the quality of productions. And the whole system is involved in a constant improvement approach. For instance, at Doriane we have 3 main objectives:

  • Describe the important processes and actions leading to product and services delivery, setup procedures for every task
  • Make sure every step of the procedures is always accomplished
  • Keeping all procedures up to date constantly and review the relevancy of the method at least every year during the annual audit.

In practice, it ensures that everyone works with the same rules and give intuitive tools for managers to measure the efficiency and continuously improve processes to respond to market challenges and customer needs. Follow-up of actions and procedures enable to get more efficient.

Furthermore, software quality gets a special attention, notably with a specific codification method and test procedures. Every year an audit is performed on every activity of the company: administration, operational strategy and sales operations, software development, integration, and training.

The aim of this check-up is to ensure that every project follows a clear and useful objective, and make sure we keep satisfying our customer's needs: Meet their demand, consider their activities' challenges and risks.

A great example of quality software commitment is how we strive to priorize what makes research software user-friendly.

“We all need people who will give us feedback, that's how we improve”
Bill Gates.
http://old.doriane.com/medias/article/dilbert-lean-value-for-the-customer-7.gif
Figure 03: Quality standards ensure “Making customers happy” is the N°1 goal at Doriane.

How Doriane certifies the quality of all its activities?

Since 2011, all the activities of our company Doriane is ISO 9001 certified by Bureau Veritas. The latest version (2015) of the ISO 9001 standard has implied the organization's strategy even more, with the necessity to identify its main challenges, threats, and opportunities. New quality indicators are setup to stay alert on market evolutions and technologies (For instance on hosting agronomy software in the cloud).

Many processes have been improved along the years:

  • The security of internal data on our servers and in the cloud (shared files, emails, customer data...) to guarantee the confidentiality between Doriane and their customers and respond to privacy standards for cloud services customers
  • Systematic collection of user and customer feedback to support continuous products and services improvement: After the annual release, after a training, etc...
  • Setup collaborative tools in every service: Administration, business, consulting and editor for faster and more qualitative time to market delivery of new solutions
  • Agile organization of the editor processes to gain in flexibility  and deliver the most cost & time saving functionalities into the software solutions
  • Organize users conventions every year to reveal our innovations and get customer feedback. It also contributes to continuous training of customer key users and the quick acceptability of functionalities delivered
  • New procedures to write the code, to test the apps and to consider customers’ feedbacks, in order to guarantee release deliveries with no anomalies

Besides these measures, our dedication to quality requires to stay alert about our environment's evolutions: human resources availability, suppliers’ performances, technology evolutions, customer challenges, market trends. It involves also internally a structuration of the team in well identified services, enhancing security and collaboration.

Another example of our commitment to provide quality products is the regular revamping of our software. Nearly every ten years, we create and deliver a new system, with a fresh core, enabling integration and interfaces with the latest technologies.

”A corporation is a living organism; it has to continue to shed its skin.
Methods have to change.
Focus has to change.
Values have to change.
The sum total of those changes is transformation“
Andrew Grove, third CEO of Intel, pioneer of the Silicon Valley and Man of the year 1997.
Picture 04: Doriane’s QualityManagement System.

How important is quality for Doriane?

Our software and services really match with users' needs and Doriane's activities perpetuated. Our customers are ensured that products are the more durable, the more efficient possible, and always state-of-the -art.

"Some people still have the impression that following a standard is a burden that brakes on innovation. On the contrary, by identifying the processes and using appropriate documents, we control actions and procedures that get more efficient" Florence Royer, Doriane’s director of administration.
“Quality is a crucial part of the technical and business success of software solutions. This approach contributes to the development of the RnDExperience software we deliver worldwide. We need to claim for continuous progress to maintain our brand’s position and develop our activity in order to increase customer satisfaction when sticking to the legal and regulatory requirements
Fred Royer, Doriane’s CEO.


“What should be the aim of management? What is their job? Quality is the responsibility of the top people. Its origin is in the boardroom. They are the ones who decide"  
Edwards Deming W., distinguished pioneer of product quality.


Sources:

¹ - Pressman, Roger S. (2005). Software Engineering: A Practitioner's Approach (Sixth International ed.). McGraw-Hill Education. p. 388

² - Image “Software Quality” © Davis A. (2019) Quality and Testing. In: Mastering Salesforce DevOps. Apress, Berkeley, CA

³ - Dr. Richard Soley (2013) How to Deliver Resilient, Secure, Efficient, and Easily Changed IT Systems in Line with CISQ Recommendations

⁴ - ISO 9001 definition from iso.org official website

- Dilbert cartoons: © Scott Adams Inc

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