6 October 2005

Quality Management and Quality Assurance

Quality Management is the processes and systems in put place to ensure that a project or business activity is geared towards a quality result. I think it was Deming who came up with the phrase/concept of ‘managing quality in.’

Quality assurance is the process of managing defects out of the production process and comes from the work of Schewart and his statistical control tools.

Topics that come from juxtaposing Quality Assurance and management with Project Management included their similarities in purpose and approach. Both are about managing risk and quality during change, both rely on a systems approach to get things done and both follow the plan, do, check, act paradigm.

Quality management is a proactive approach to designing quality into systems and outcomes. To effect this an understanding of what quality is defined as is required.

Quality Assurance is still an integral part of driving quality into outcomes and is most apparent in IT projects at the testing phase. Manufacturing and service businesses have often used sampling a smaller number from the total to test quality (eg mystery shoppers, testing 1/10,000 glass bottles, etc) however IT projects tend to test everything they can think of in the test phase of the project. Usually every function is tested positively and negatively, along with end-to-end processes, interfaces between other systems and users etc.

I think that sometimes the quality management aspect of waterfall software projects (i.e. the total-ness of testing) is overkill in many projects. Agile and Rapid methodologies offer a prototype and refine type model which can save time and money and still get good results with customers. The challenge is for large corporations to be able to integrate these methods into their business processes without compromising perceptions and the reality of quality outcomes.

After researching a few definitions of quality I have come up with a new way of defining quality for my projects. I discussed a few ways quality can be defined with colleagues and friends and most project managers and BA's came up with ‘fitness for use’ as the definitive measure of quality. In a meeting with technical staff at work they came up with ‘all requirements are met.’ I then asked a client of a team who will use our project’s outputs and he said something to the meaning of ‘my staff have to like using the system.’

This led me to look at Kano’s quality model for requirements.

We have often broken business requirements into similar categories but now the whole team is looking at the experience the users will have with our project’s output as one of our success measures and the delivery of highly valued "Delighters" has become core to our viewof what we shulod be doing.

I think this is a great approach to quality.

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