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In Search of Quality: Keeping your eye on the prize – Business goals and objectives

Posted on: 30 August '10

In Search of Quality
August 2010 Blog#1

When you hear or have heard the battle cry of your business and IT leadership we need faster, better, cheaper delivery of our software products and we must be innovative while doing so, I’m more than sure you get that tingling sensation throughout your body. It truly is a very tough task, but it can be done, but not all at once. The team must understand what activities and their results are going to yield the most measurable benefit for the most important objectives for the company. Therefore, business objective must be prioritized, actionable, and quantifiable (for obvious reasons). They need to have clear success criteria, otherwise how do you know what success looks like or when you are done?

When faced with the battle cry, you need to understand what’s the prize/business goal? If sales forecasts require that the product is available the market place by a stated date in order to achieve revenue targets, then time to market is the most important criteria. Those activities that will accelerate delivery will be sought out by the team. Finding that balance where increased speed does not create a quality issue is how the team will proceed and make trade-offs accordingly. At some point the team will need to assess when does lower quality negatively impact this objective and possibly other objectives? Balance across objectives needs to be considered before the team proceeds with course corrections. If the most important goal is to improve customer experience, then the team will be focusing their efforts on satisfying the aspects of quality that will increase customer experience. Aspects of Quality or Dimensions generally fall into the following categories: Reliability Usability, Maintainability, Conformability, Performance etc; The challenge here is that it is not normal to think of a test plan or strategy in terms of quality dimensions nor is business requirements categorized in such a manner. As testers, you need to be able to associate the tests in terms of these dimensions along with the effort to deliver it. Decision making becomes clearer and so do the risks. In the case where the testing phase gets crunched from eight weeks down to four, the team can quantify the effort that is necessary to attain that stated level of quality/dimension (reliability, accuracy, performance) to meet the business goal(s). The time reduced in testing might be so great that the product will not meet its goal to improve customer experience.

Spend the time and find out some information about your product, users, market and what quality dimensions are important to each and how to measure them. Protect your brand image and good will as bad news travels very fast in the social networking era. When customers delay their purchase, there is an immediate impact to operating revenue. They might start to lose confidence in your software; this translates to lost opportunities and negatively impacts future revenue streams. Keep your eye on the prize. It’s different and it most likely will change. Keep the team aligned; assess the impact of change to meeting your goals and your chances for success increase dramatically.

For those who would like to share some “war stories” and how your team handled the situation, I welcome your input and observations.

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