In its capacity as an independent software testing lab, QualityLogic, Inc. has worked with the information systems groups of both small and large companies, and with software and systems companies. This work provides a unique opportunity to observe the struggles that organizations go through in attempting to solve their software product quality and quality management problems. This article presents resulting observations and thinking about the basic quality management problem, as well as a new solution for the industry.

Profit and loss (P&L) managers,[1] referred to here as business managers, do not clearly understand or value software quality management. Software companies and projects fail to deliver quality products because they do not treat quality management as a strategic, critical aspect of the product development process that is equal to requirements, design, and code development.

The basic problem is that software quality management is not properly "owned" within organizations. Instead, because it has historically been relegated to a software quality assurance function, it is considered technical, thus, few business managers would ever consider directly "owning" it.

In traditional industrial businesses, product quality management, quality assurance, and quality control are treated as major corporate functions, reporting to the business manager. However, few software organizations have yet adopted this approach. Indeed, the software business is such a recent "discipline" that the issue of product quality management[2] remains a mystery, especially to business managers without software training or experience.

The software quality issue — which ensures the quality of software products delivered to customers — is not a technical one. It is achieved through a combination of good customer understanding (developed into requirements) and good product development processes.

There are many excellent software development processes and techniques that are both proven and available. The software industry knows how to build high-quality, reliable products that meet the feature, cost, and schedule needs of customers; and that are easily maintained and upgraded. It is a myth that the industry needs better processes or tools to solve the quality problem, which skirts the real issue of business manager responsibility.

Unfortunately, the industry typically does not have that combination of discipline and organizational structure required for consistently delivering successful products; that is, a well-defined, well-executed quality management function. Responsibility for this must start at the business management level. The quality problem will remain unsolved until these managers think long and hard about the quality requirements for their products, until they have clearly communicated their conclusions, until they actively monitor product quality, and until they are willing to act on that information to enforce their policies.

[1]The term P&L manager refers to the executive ultimately responsible for both the revenue and expenses for the product organization. In larger companies, this is likely to be a division general manager or president. In smaller companies, it is likely to be the CEO or president. In this article "business manager" will be substituted for "P&L manager" in most cases, as the former term is more commonly used.

[2]Product quality management consists of the quality management function (ensuring that good quality policies are in place and enforced), the quality assurance function (developing and implementing practices and processes that ensure that quality products are produced), and the quality control function (actual testing of products to ensure conformance to customer requirements).

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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