Wednesday, 19 April 2017 07:04

Chicken Don't Care - How Much QA is Enough QA for Your Project?

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Quality assurance – that necessary evil that we all must pay attention to on our project deliveries to some degree.

Don't get me wrong, it should be part of every project, but incorporating it well into an ongoing project engagement is painful and often beyond the scope and control of the project manager and business analyst depending on a few factors, of course.

The definition of quality assurance is... “the maintenance of a desired level of quality in a service or product, especially by means of attention to every stage of the process of delivery or production.”

The “chicken do not care” phrase is something that my wife and I have been uttering almost non-stop as we have been building a chicken coop on our property out of pallets. It is turning out great, and we did a lot of online research and sketching before starting, but it is not like changes are going through a formal change review and control process. If it seems to work, feel structurally sound, and meet the needs of what we are trying to do, then we utter that statement (“chicken do not care”), implement it, and move on. We will loosely call this our scope change and quality assurance approval process.

Will that work for a regular project? Well, I think you know the definite answer is a loud, “NO!” What amount of quality assurance oversight does need to be involved in your project work, your change processes and scope management, and your customer delivery? The easy answer is - it depends. I wish it could be rigid and well defined... and the same from project to project... but there is no way that is ever going to be the case. I am thinking of quality assurance in terms of a business analyst oversight function if it has to land somewhere. The project manager must care and must be involved and help oversee it, and certainly the entire team must own it on their own tasks and deliverables and as a team. However, as far as one role truly owning it, to me, that is the business analyst who interacts with the tech team, the project manager, the customer and the customer's end users. The business analyst role has to be where the quality buck stops and where the rubber meets the road in terms of quality project delivery.

Now, how much quality assurance that goes into any project is going to depend on a few - if not all - of these factors and more:

  • Public vs. private sector project niche
  • Dollar value of the projection
  • Visibility of the project
  • Project client demands
  • Length of projection
  • Industry of the project
  • Probably many, many others

Let's at least consider each of these that I have specifically mentioned here to some degree...

Public Vs. Private Sector Project Niche

In some cases, public vs. private sector projects will differ on how much QA is needed or required. In the past, I had a top leadership role in a $50 million government project. We were required to put on formal quarterly reviews alternating in Iowa City and Washington, DC and present a formal quality audit review at each of those formal project reviews. We also had to do an annual disaster recovery demonstration. So, the focus on quality was high – probably both because it was a public sector project and because it had a $50 million price tag. This leads us to our next factor category.

Dollar Value of the Projection

Certainly, the dollar value of the project can create cause – or at least perceived cause – for more quality assurance and control oversight over the deliverables, tasks, and reports for the project. Logically, I would expect less effort and dollars to be spent on QA for a $10,000 project than a $1 million project. I do not believe any project should go QA-free. I know that some are going to get a lot more than others – and the project dollar value is going to usually be a big driving force.

Visibility of the Project

Your so-called high profile project. Is it a newsworthy project? Are industry leaders looking at your project as a benchmark project delivery? If so, then quality control and assurance better be pretty darn high. I'm not saying that should not always be the case... however, the amount of time and money you are going to be allowed by the customer and by your senior management on QA tasks and reporting is going to be swayed by the number of eyes that are on it. That is just a cold hard reality.

Project Client Demands

Your customer is definitely going to have a say in how much quality assurance goes into the effort. That may not be the case, but they will have a say as to how much money they spend on it as part of the project. If QA isn't important to them, but it is very important to your delivery organization – as it should be – then you will likely still perform detailed QA oversight, but you'll be doing much of it for free just to ensure you are delivering a quality end product and that your customer is happy no matter how much they are spending. You never know when that next project they return for will be that $1 million project.

Length of Project

The length of the project may factor in – though not as heavily as the project price tag likely will. A longer project that has more tasks, deliverables, and milestones also will have more chances to fall apart. Keen QA oversight can help to better keep it on track, on time, on budget and avoid many risks and re-work that would otherwise be associated with sloppy project delivery and less built-in quality assurance.

Industry of the Project

Finally, the industry of the project may lend itself to determining how much quality assurance is required. Projects being carried out in aviation, engineering, the automobile industry, health care and security - among many others - could logically demand a great deal of quality assurance and control oversight as compared to projects carried out in other genres. Agree?

Summary

We should always want to deliver quality. I know I want to but sometimes the time and money are not there to warrant the full QA effort... or sometimes others in charge at higher levels say “no”... or say “more QA!” The answer still is - it depends. Sticking to best practices in your project deliveries is still the best way to ensure daily quality project delivery no matter how much formal dedicated QA oversight there is on your project.

What are your thoughts? How much formal quality assurance oversight gets involved in your projects? What would you change or add to my list?

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Brad Egeland

PMTopContributorBrad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

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