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IT Quality Management

(Contrast with: quality assurance, quality control)

IT Quality management is the process of understanding how your customers feel and making software products and services that they will love, and, as a consequence, value.

Two men who have created beauty, generated wealth and received international recognition by applying quality management principles in architecture and computer technology talk about it like this:

When you create an environment that exactly matches the way people want to work it actually comes alive. It becomes organic. Part of you. Almost part of nature.
When you have to fight it to get your work done it creates a dead space that no one wants to be - and you lose your audience.
             - Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building

It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough - it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing, and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices.
             - Steve Jobs (referring to the iPhone and iPad)

It's never been easy to make your customers' heart sing. As Paola Antonelli suggests they often don't know what they want.

Good design is a Renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something that the world didn't know it was missing.
             - Paola Antonelli, Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of modern Art, New York

As yet no one has been able to proceduralise the process of creating intrinsic beauty and desire in a customer, but we do understand the environment in which creativity and customer satisfaction can thrive. We also know that these environments do not come together spontaneously. Their synthesis and maintenance require deliberate and never ending effort. This is the thrust of the ISO 9000 series of standards which provide the following, more clinical, definition of quality management:

Coordinated activities to direct and control an organisation with regard to quality ... establishment of the quality policy and quality objectives, quality planning, quality control, quality assurance and quality improvement.

Eight Quality Management Principles

ISO 9000 identifies eight quality management principles that should guide and inform all quality management activities. The following table quotes the standard (in italics) and gives examples of how these principles can be put into action in a software development organisation.

Customer focus Organizations depend on their customers and therefore should understand current and future customer needs, should meet customer requirements and strive to exceed customer expectations.
In practice:
  • Management takes every opportunity to repeat and reinforce the words of Mahatma Gandhi:
    The customer is the most important visitor on the premises
    He is not dependent on us, we are dependent on him
    He is not an interruption to our work, he is the purpose of it
    He is not an outsider on our business - he is a part of it
    We are not doing him a favor by serving him - he is doing
    us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.
                 - Mahatma Gandhi
  • All software projects maximise user engagement in requirements specification and system design. For example the organisation uses Agile methods and/or Joint Application Design techniques.
Leadership Leaders establish unity of purpose and direction of the organization. They should create and maintain the internal environment in which people can become fully involved in achieving the organization's objectives.
In practice:
  • Top management initiates, plans and implements the quality program
  • Management publishes quality policies, establishes clear and unambiguous quality goals and demonstrates by their actions that policies are to be followed
  • Management makes sure that their people have the knowledge and tools to do their jobs
  • Management breaks down any barriers to good performance (example: inadequate development tools)
  • Management identifies people who need help and initiates training and support
  • Management responds to mistakes with training (not punishment).
Involvement of people People at all levels are the essence of an organization and their full involvement enables their abilities to be used for the organization's benefit.
In practice:
  • Staff feels free to engage all their creative talents without fear of ridicule or retribution
  • Staff feels free to: ask dumb questions, request help, point out a problem, admit a mistake, take a position
  • Internal departments cooperate. Management eliminates destructive competition between groups with conflicting goals
  • Staff is not blamed for problems that only management can rectify (example: the project team is not blamed for being behind schedule on a project that was underestimated/"low balled" by management).
Process approach A desired result is achieved more efficiently when activities and related resources are managed as a process.
In practice:
  • Management characterises all its business operations as a set of interacting processes
  • Process definitions and product standards are developed by subject matter experts within the organisation.
System approach to management Identifying, understanding and managing interrelated processes as a system contributes to the organization's effectiveness and efficiency in achieving its objectives.
In practice:
  • The responsibilities, authorities and interaction of the various development processes are clearly defined in standard operating procedures and project plans
  • Management identifies the interworking of core product development processes: requirements definition, design, coding, testing - with support processes: project management, configuration management, quality management, verification and validation, reliability, availability and maintainability management and functional safety management.
Continual improvement Continual improvement of the organization's overall performance should be a permanent objective of the organization.
In practice:
  • Management reviews the effectiveness of a quality management system on a regular basis (at least once every six months)
  • Development processes are audited on a regular basis and all non-conformances promptly rectified
  • Staff are encouraged to suggest process improvements
  • Management sponsors process improvement groups who focus on particular areas for improvement.
Factual approach to decision making Effective decisions are based on the analysis of data and information.
In practice:
  • The organisation identifies key attributes of its processes and work products that are critical to success and measures them with a metrics program. For example: defects per thousand lines of code, percent of projects delivered on time/on cost and customer satisfaction
  • Management sets quality goals that are measurable. For example, reduce defects per thousand lines of code to .1 in 12 months.
Mutually beneficial supplier relationships An organization and its suppliers are interdependent and a mutually beneficial relationship enhances the ability of both to create value.
In practice:
  • The organisation does not award business on price tag alone
  • Management promotes long term exclusive supplier relationships with high quality suppliers
  • Management fosters collaborative teamwork between employees and supplier/sub-contractor groups.

Member Comments


20 member ratings

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RE Definition: Quality Management


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