- What is the most important challenge the quality community faces in ensuring that the value of quality is fully realized for the benefit of society?
- What question does the quality community most need answered in order to advance the state of quality practice in the world?
Our Challenge: We all must WALK OUR TALK and SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE!
Our Question: What can we do today to effectively WALK OUR TALK and SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE?
WALK OUR TALK
As a profession, we must look within our own expertise to find the source of inspiration for our future solutions and direction. One reference that I have always found useful for Software Quality is the ISO 9126 guideline which outlines Quality Characteristics for software.
The challenges of the Quality profession and the aspirations of the Quality Community can be improved by following a framework that emphasizes the following quality characteristics: Functionality, Reliability, Usability, Efficiency, Maintainability, and Portability. Below is a brief description of how these characteristics can be leveraged to resolve the questions posed in View from the Q, and redefine the future direction of our profession.
FUNCTIONALITY:By defining and establishing the scope, purpose, and functions of Quality, the form and approach can be derived to evolve in a logical and progressive manner. When Quality fulfills its agreed function (i.e. assurance, design controls, compliance, business process improvement, standardization, cost reduction), its credibility is enhanced and acceptance will be earned through proven successes.
RELIABILITY:With high ideals and expectations come a high demand for flawless and capable processes and successful outcomes. The shortcomings of Quality (i.e. irrelevance, delayed responses, overhead, excessive documentation, obsolescence) must be identified and addressed to avert failures and disassociate Quality with negative outcomes such that while successes are credited to marketing or engineering, product or system failures are (improperly) branded as "Quality failures".
USABILITY:The complex jargon which often characterizes Quality activities creates an esoteric barrier that inhibits communication and disrupts the communication to the point that Quality practitioners must first strip away the majority of content prior to submitting their recommendations and rationale for executive review. Quality must evolve from its origins in industrial statistical controls (recall that ASQ was founded as the American Society for Quality Control - ASQC) and embrace the linguistic and communication styles of its constituents and recipients more effectively. Intellectual Property emphasized within the various ASQ certifications predates modern technology by decades, and is reflective of a bygone era of large oligopolistic conglomerates instead of nimble enterprises.
EFFICIENCY:Quality can be universal when applied in controlled conditions to a small quantity of outcomes or transactions. Software Quality Assurance confirms the efficiency of systems with various tests to measure system behavior when excessive levels of stress, load, and performance are applied. This concept should be applied to the Quality function overall in order to ensure that Quality is scalable and adaptable to address additional challenges.
MAINTAINABILITY:Software Quality describes four types of maintenance: corrective, preventive, perfective, and adaptive. The stability of a system is measured by the relative impact of changes or revisions. Since change is inevitable and will be more profound and pervasive in the future, the Quality Community must take steps to not only incorporate these changes, but ensure that the service levels and capabilities are not compromised by the changes. From maintainability the benefits of continuity are preserved without risking obsolescence or irrelevance.
PORTABILITY:Portability in software refers to the ability of a design to function adequately across multiple devices, operating systems, networks, or configurations. Unlike other professions, which can remain consistent between industries or domains, the Quality community is highly dependent upon an expertise in its constituent industry. For example, professional capabilities in Quality obtained from product manufacturing cannot be readily accepted in the processing of food and beverages, even though many of the principles are constant. A quick scan across job postings for Quality Assurance Manager requires years of industry experience in that field (i.e. software development, food science, aerospace engineering), even if the function is to coordinate internal audits, continuous improvement, or enterprise management systems.
SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE:
A major challenge is the dispersion and disparity of the Quality function between industries. As evidence of this example, a technical college (British Columbia Institute of Technology - BCIT) offered distinct and disparate courses in Quality from multiple colleges including Business, Computing, Construction, Healthcare, and Project Management. Rather than operating as a cohesive entity, these courses were offered independently as elective or discretionary courses, and did not combine the strengths and ideals. I view this as a reflection of our profession.
When our efforts and capabilities are aggregated and combined, the synergies will exceed our individual personal reach to extend beyond our perceived limits. Our only limitation is our unwillingness to embrace this fundamental principle which we as Quality community members purport to embrace and advocate to others.