How to deliver quality projects

Over my many years of delivering digital projects, I have been frustrated by the amount of hard stressful work that seems to happen at the end of a project. It’s always felt that decisions that have (or haven’t) been made through the life cycle of a project, all surface to challenge the final delivery of the final product, and sometimes the full extent of the early decisions seem to creep out of the woodwork at the most critical time.

With this in mind, I set myself a challenge to make the delivery of projects smoother, less stressful and bring the overall quality of the final delivery up. I wasn’t sure if this would at all be possible, maybe this is just the way of delivering complex projects. Nonetheless, nearly 12 months ago I set out on the quest for the perfect way to deliver a project.

The journey started by asking five basic questions around quality, asking everyone that works on a project the following questions:

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  • What is quality?
  • When does quality assurance start?
  • Who is responsible for the quality of the final deliverable(s)?
  • How can we measure quality?
  • What can block the delivery of a quality product?

After asking nearly 50 digital professionals these basic questions I can safely say that no two people had the same answers and not only that, many struggled with the first question. I soon realised that the answer to the first lays within the answers to the other four questions. Below I’ve summarised the answers to each question.

When does quality assurance start?

startInterestingly over 75% of those questioned put the answer to this question somewhere close to when the project kicks off, one comment that really summed it up for me was.

Quality in, quality out.

So quality starts at the start, but when is the start?  One respondent put this at the door of lead generation, although I do agree with this, I see this as outside of a project.  In my mind a project starts at the pitch stage, the quality of your pitch, the documents you leave behind and what you are promising at this sales point, can and does affect the final output.

Who is responsible for the quality of the final deliverable(s)?

handsNow that we know when quality starts, who is responsible for it?  Here I got a varied response. Below is a list of answers in popularity order:

  • Project manager
  • Designer
  • User experience
  • QA manager
  • Account manager
  • Everyone
  • Technical lead
  • Technical Manager
  • Developers

I was surprised to find that very few people thought that those who actually create the final deliverable (of a website project) thought they were responsible for its quality. Equally, I was frustrated that most laid this responsibility at the door of a Project Manager. Some may argue with me here, but the role of the Project Manager is to get the best out of their team, but I felt uneasy that yet another responsibility was put upon their shoulders. Less than 10% put the responsibility on to more than one person.  For me, the answer to this question is ‘The whole project team’ from pitch to going live, in other words. Everyone.

How can we measure quality?

measureNow this was a tricky one to answer, how do you measure something that can be very subjective was going to be difficult! We all think different and we all have different levels of acceptance. I had to dig deep and then think how can we get agreement on a pass and fail system or maybe a points system.  Eventually, I concluded that you need a quality measurement framework that covers the following:

  • What was promised
  • Industry best practice and standards
  • A simple company-wide quality benchmark system

The benchmark system was the hardest to agree, you have to be pragmatic on what’s good and bad, what’s right and what’s wrong and you need the opinion from at least three different things:

  • Look and feel (Design)
  • Functionality (User experience)
  • The code base (Technical architecture)

You can also add in opinion from the account team and the client, but these can be very subjective. Each and every company’s framework would be different, but if you’d like further details get in contact 

What can block the delivery of a quality product?

blockI’m sure you can imagine that I received a myriad of answers to this question, but after closer inspection I was able to categorise them into five categories:

  • Lack of process and planning
  • Agreed documentation
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Not following standards
  • Missing or lack of skills

I switched them around so that I could work on fixing them:

  • Define the delivery process that includes quality stage gates
  • Create standard documents and sign off points
  • Agree which roles are required and who’s responsible for signing off quality
  • Investigate standards and engage employees in following them
  • Identify required skills sets and where necessary provide training

What is quality?

golden-threadNow that I have the answers to the four questions I can summarise the first question, but my caveat here is that this is my subjective view from the information gathered.

Quality is the sum of many incremental parts, it’s a golden thread that should be followed and safeguarded by everyone from start to finish.

This post hasn’t quite answered it’s title, to answer that you will need to do the following:

  • Create a culture that celebrates quality
  • Have the right processes to safeguard quality
  • Create a quality benchmark framework
  • Employ or train the people required to deliver quality

As I go through on my journey I will be answering the above. Look out for further posts in the future.

 

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