Definition

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IT Quality Assurance

(Contrast with: quality management, quality control)

Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.
             - Edwards Deming

IT Quality assurance is a process designed to give management and the customer confidence that an organisation will deliver quality information technology products and services.

Delivering a quality IT service

In the context of software development, management needs to have confidence that if it allocates millions of dollars to developing custom information technology systems the IT group will do a good job. In the case of contracted software development, customers need to have confidence that a software development contractor will produce a product that will solve the problem, at a prespecified price, in a prespecified time period. This confidence needs to exist prior to the allocation of capital.

Would you give money to an organisation you do not trust?

Confidence also needs to be maintained throughout the development life cycle.

If you've lost confidence in a software development team would you want to throw good money after bad?

How Do You Build Confidence?

In the case of traditional product purchases such as automobiles and washing machines trust in a product and its manufacturer is built up over years. Unfortunately in the case of software this is often not possible as software development organisations come and go, merge and splinter. The software product itself is also very different to an automobile. It is fundamentally a piece of design intensive intellectual property the quality of which can vary widely depending on individuals and the processes they work with. How then as a business person in search of a custom developed software product can you evaluate an organisation you know little about and develop some confidence that they will produce a good result? The answer is to look into the way they develop software and seek out the assurance processes whereby they build quality into their product at all stages of its development life cycle. Look for:

  • Process assurance. Verifying by project reviews and audits that development processes are documented and being followed
  • Product assurance. Demonstrating as a product is being built that it will comply with the customer's requirements. This is achieved by verifying that each work product complies with its specification and validating the end product against the customer's requirements (refer: verification and validation and the ISO 9001 QMS Framework video)
  • Quality system assurance. Demonstrating that the quality management system conforms with established best practice as per ISO 90011 and any other standards required by a contract. This is achieved by quality management system audits and process improvement initiatives.

Quality Assurance Benefits

Quality assurance is a proactive discipline. It supports the notion that defective products come from defective processes and that fixing the process will improve product quality. This philosophy yields the following real benefits:

  • Attract and keep customers. Organisations that can produce objective evidence that they consistently produce a quality product or service are much more likely to be commercially successful. Note that certification to ISO 9001 is a fundamental requirement in today's business environment
  • Find and correct problems early. Quality assurance identifies process problems and triggers corrective action before a defective process can produce a defective product.
  • Peace of mind for management. Management consultant Peter Drucker once commented that: "... the only thing that happens naturally in an organisation is the descent into randomness". An effective quality assurance function gives management confidence that the organisation's quality management disciplines are in place and operating.
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RE Definition: Quality Assurance

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