We often associate the word Quality with the way customers define it and the way it meets the changing business requirements. But in this dynamic business landscape, we need to look at quality with a totally different perspective. It is imperative that today’s enterprises produce quality products consistently, while reducing time-to-market and optimizing the costs involved. Companies that fail to do this will become obsolete overnight.
The first step is understanding what Quality Assurance (QA) is. Quality Assurance is often confused with testing, however QA focuses on defect prevention activities like training, reviews and facilitation, whereas testing is a quality control activity focusing on defect detection. The ultimate aim of QA is to reduce the overall cost of quality, which is the overall goal of all organizations as well.
Here are some ways we can improve Quality Assurance:
- Understand the customer needs. It is important to dig deep and understand what the customer really needs. Creating a requirement specification document, reviewing it thoroughly, raising relevant queries, and getting appropriate answers can be the first step towards improving QA. Furthermore, developing an understanding document specifically stating what the end results will look like and getting the final signoff from the customer can lead to QA processes that are aligned with business needs.
- Define acceptance criteria. As the popular saying goes, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” This holds true for Quality Assurance, which is why clearly defining the acceptance criteria, reviewing all the factors defined and getting buy in from customers will help create a roadmap to achieve specific business goals. Ensuring a well-defined mechanism to get regular candid feedback on the criteria can also be beneficial as in the long run the criteria could change.
- Measure on a periodic basis. Quality is never an accident it has to be planned. Clearly articulating progress of a project on a weekly basis and reporting to all the stakeholders is critical to a successful QA approach. Constantly measuring against predefined acceptance criteria, reporting on a regular basis to the customer improves trust and ensures the team is on track.
- Create a competent team. One of the most important elements to make customers believe they will get the product with the highest quality on time is to have a team full of best QA SMEs. Selecting the right team is the first step towards better quality. If you want to deliver the best quality to the customers then the team has to be full of ‘A players’. Knowledgeable resources in QA methodologies also give confidence to the customer that their output would be of the highest quality.
- Clearly define escalation mechanism. In these changing times, things sometimes don’t go as planned. These cases often lead to customer dissatisfaction. During these situations having a clear governance structure and a pre-defined escalation mechanism will ensure that one can reach senior leadership for further action without any barriers. This will show customers that the project is getting the utmost attention and in turn will enhance their confidence in you.
As the saying goes, “quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”
Quality is not merely about the end product delivered. It is also about ensuring the smooth journey of customers throughout the lifecycle of the project. Once the cost of quality is reduced, the overall IT spend reduces, resulting in increased customer satisfaction and repeat business.