Michael Tiemann

Vice President of Open Source Affairs, Red Hat

Total Quality Service
17 minutes, 8.2mb, recorded 2005-10-19
Michael Tiemann

The rosy picture often painted of our world transformed by high tech successes belies a denial of serious problems with quality. Michael Tiemann argues something must be done, and soon, since much of our current software functions poorly, and the cost of IT to business is far too high. Open source can help break this jam by designing and building quality into products and processes. An essential step is the recognition that the design problem, and its solution, belong to everyone. Barriers to cooperation must be broken down so that many small actions across teams can build quality from the ground up, and lift software out of its shabby state.

To illustrate his argument, Tiemann explores the 14 points which W. Edwards Deming famously gave in his advice to help revitalize the Japanese manufacturing industry (after being ignored by the Americans) in the 20th century. Deming emphasized the need to design enablers that produce quality output as a by-product. Most importantly, Deming saw the transformation to quality as everybody's job. In the context of software, 'everybody' means all players including open source developers and the big proprietary vendors such as Microsoft. A deep understanding of design is the best way to ensure quality implementation that anticipates and circumvents problems, rather than struggling later to remediate the consequences of poor design.

Tiemann also draws on the comparison of installation-based and path-based strategies. In early days, IT was organized around implementing a few big, high stakes projects. That approach has become cumbersome because large scale projects only give value once they're finally complete. This no longer suffices in today's world where business needs delivery of value from many small projects on a day-to-day basis. Open Source examples such as extensive fuzz testing and bug fixing in Linux show how a path-based approach which relies on the accumulated benefit of many actions by many people can solve problems in ways which would be unattainable by an individual, and resistant to conventional approaches such as simply throwing money around.

Michael Tiemann is a true open source software pioneer. He made his first major open source contribution over a decade ago by writing the GNU C++ compiler, the first native-code C++ compiler and debugger. His early work led to the creation of leading open source technologies and the first open source business model. In 1989, Tiemann's technical expertise and entrepreneurial spirit led him to co-found Cygnus Solutions, the first company to provide commercial support for open source software. During his ten years at Cygnus, Tiemann contributed in a number of roles from President to hacker, helping lead the company from fledgling start-up to an admired open source leader.Tiemann serves on a number of boards, including the Open Source Initiative and the GNOME Foundation. Tiemann also provides financial support to organizations that further the goals of software and programmer freedom, including the Free Software Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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