Quality Assurance Considerations
My experience as a Quality Assurance professional with many different projects in various business domains has helped me to develop several points for establishing a Quality Assurance process within an organization:
- Identify and Analyze the Current QA Process
- Inventory Systems
- Create a Taxonomy for Systems
- Define Responsibilities and Accountability
- Develop a Communication Approach
- Collaborate with Stakeholders
Quality Assurance provides a framework for integrating quality within processes encompassing system development and maintenance. Quality Assurance, in its purest form, is agnostic to methodology. It constitutes the basis for Quality Assurance standards while facilitating the ability to separate what is routine versus what is exception.
Identify and Analyze the Current QA Process
When auditing an existing Quality Assurance process, the composition of the existing process requires identification and analysis. Organizational units involved and their contributions are key to assessing the process. Process documentation, communications, training, and enforcement are also vital considerations. Metrics regarding process effectiveness should also be available. It may be necessary to create a snapshot of existing process metrics based on available data and interview information as part of the assessment deliverable.
Especially significant are the organizational departments and systems covered under the umbrella of the Quality Assurance process; even more significant are those which are not. An all too common finding in Quality Assurance assessments is that critical areas and systems are exempted. Rationale for this can usually be summed up as Quality Assurance processes will add time and cost. It is important to consider all organizational departments and systems when determining which to include in the QA Process.
Create a Taxonomy for Systems
Developing a taxonomy for systems comprising the Quality Assurance process is critical to determining the processes, tasks, responsibilities and tools within. Systems within an organization can be categorized in terms of (not an inclusive list):
- Mission Criticality
- Regulatory Oversight and Compliance
- Size or “Reach”
- Technical Complexity
- Business Complexity
- Locale (i.e., national versus international)
- Number of Interfaces
- Life Cycle Stage (i.e., new development or maintenance)
A likely outcome of a Quality Assurance assessment is the taxonomy using one or more of the previously mentioned criteria, or others, and a reassessment process on an ongoing basis.
A mission critical system warrants a higher degree of Quality Assurance scrutiny than an internal billing system, for example. The Quality Assurance process may involve similar process steps for both of these systems. However, greater level of detail, higher number of tasks, more oversight and dashboard reporting with numerous drill-downs, and tools employed within the process and degree of tool sophistication would likely apply to a mission critical system.
Define Responsibilities and Accountability
There is an old adage that “Quality is everyone’s business”. An effective Quality Assurance process will evenly apportion ownership and accountability to organizational areas and business partners. Determination of ownership and accountability may require identification of tasks to a granular level, with careful delineation of responsibilities. After these are created, assign responsibilities commensurate with authority.
Develop a Communication Approach
The geodiversity of organizational units and business partners greatly affects the intensity and degree of precision of communications and deliverables. By intensity, this refers to the timing and frequency of communications. The degree of precision is the level of detail. For example, globally distributed teams may require more specific Quality Assurance process instructions for effective coordination to assure uniformity of results than a centrally located team.
Collaborate with Stakeholders
An effective Quality Assurance process is created collaboratively with stakeholders. Return on Investment targets, goals, and metrics are critical deliverables within process development. The cost of quality should not exceed the cost of failure. Measurement and adjustment to improve process effectiveness should take place continuously. Flexibility and adaptability are inherent in its design; the process provides a seamless adjunct to the work at hand, thereby, permitting separation of expected results from deviations to enable focus on aspects requiring ingenuity and creative problem solving.