How to Institutionalize Quality for Maximum Returns

Have you ever felt nervous about quality while running a project? Quality is often taken for granted, but the reality is that quality takes a significant amount of time, money, and effort. For a lot of people, acceptance of quality as a focused and intentional activity doesn’t kick in until they realize that quality isn’t free. Commonly following this is the realization that quality isn’t just something that can be switched on and off -- it has to be achieved systematically. In order to ensure quality at the go-live date, consistent and measurable methods must be established.

How much of a relief should it be, then, to know that there’s an expert dedicated to ensuring quality at Echidna? The reader can feel that relief, as Gopal S. Chakravarthy has recently joined Echidna as Associate QA Director, with the intent of being the torchbearer of quality. Gopal comes from a strong background with nearly 15 years of industry experience in quality. The goal of his journey at Echidna is to quell the fear of cut corners and compromised quality. Below are some of Gopal’s thoughts on the evolution of a quality-centric institution.

The evolution of a quality institution

Task vs Team: The easiest place to begin with quality is simply by having checks performed by individual task owners. This starts with the individual developer checking for quality, which works as long as things are self-contained and can be controlled. However, this approach will quickly be recognized as being resource dependent -- the absence of individual resources negatively impacts the entire project. It’s also true that these sort of quality checks are most effective when the individual developer can think from the client’s perspective, and ultimately the end users’ perspectives, stepping into the application.
The resource dependency problems caused by having individuals control the quality of their own work can be eliminated by setting up testing teams. Setting up teams is definitely a step in the right direction, as teams often aid in managing the dynamics of a project by distributing work over a wider resource base. When teams are effectively managed, they can eliminate resource dependencies to a large extent. In this stage, streamlined task execution will be the order of the day.

Team vs Department: It’s rare to see quality testing efforts grow as a project grows in scope. This also applies as a company grows and takes on new projects or expands into new areas. As a result, many organizations are simply stuck trying to figure out how to plan quality with the limited available resources, which often results in subpar quality results.

This obviously isn’t going to be the approach to win much repeat business. It might have worked decades ago for one-off projects, but in today’s extremely connected world, such a practice is harmful not only to repeat business, but to the organization’s existence as a whole.
An alternative approach is to establish a QA department internally. This will help in streamlining the process of quality control and will ultimately build a conduce environment for the right QA practices. Quality can now be extended into new areas and enhanced with new technical and test types, and quality coverage will now be end-to-end. The existence of a department will allow for an independent review from outside of the individual projects.

Department vs Institution: Setting up a dedicated department is a good way to manage quality. But as the organization grows larger, it’s important to move away from transactional work, and department work fosters a transactional mindset -- a department just takes the work that comes down the line, performs quality work on it, and moves it along. The true sign of a mature quality organization is a focus on quality across all phases of a project. This starts from the first day of a project and extends to the last; it’s not just one phase of the project.
Leaders play a hugely important role in the success of a quality organization. Leaders can influence the mindsets of individuals within the organization, encouraging each person to really own the quality of work. This approach will take the perception of responsibility for quality from some separate group of people to each individual involved in a project. In turn, this will help to address quality issues earlier on in the process, reducing cost and improving the overall quality. How amazing would it be to have each and every individual guarding their work to ensure quality?

At Echidna, we strongly believe in delivering quality in every project experience. Welcome to the new age of institutional quality.