Most people simply accept low quality from many information technology (IT) products. So what if ones laptop crashes a couple of times a week? Just ensure there is back up for data. So what if one cannot log in to the business intranet or the internet right now? Just attempt a little later when it is less busy. So what if the latest version of word-processing software was shipped with several bugs? One may like the software’s new features, and all new software has bugs. Is quality a real problem with information technology projects?
Yes, it is! IT is not just a luxury available in some offices, homes, or schools. Firms throughout the world provide employees with access to computers. The majority of people in the US use the internet, and usage in other countries continues to expand rapidly. It took only six years for 60 million people to use the internet compared to 20 years for 60 million to use cell phones (Kathy, 2008, p. 292). Many issues of individual and or group lives depend on high-quality IT products.
Food is produced and distributed with the help of computers; vehicles have computer chips to monitor performance; students use computers to aid them learn in school; organizations depend on technology for many business functions; and millions of people depend on technology for entertainment and individual communications (Kathy, 2008). Many IT projects develop mission-critical systems that are utilized in life-and-death circumstances. Such as navigation systems on aircraft and computer components built into medical equipment.
Financial institutions and their clients also depend on high-quality information systems. Clients get very upset when systems present inaccurate data or display information to unauthorized people that could result to identity theft. When any of these systems fails, it is much more than a mere inconvenience (Taguchi, 2004). 1. 1 Definitions Before one can enhance the quality of IT projects, it is good to understand the fundamental concepts of project quality management. Indeed, it is hard to define project quality management.
According to the international organization for standardization (ISO) quality can be defined as the totality of features of an organization that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied requirements (Kathy, 2008). It can also be defined as the extent to which a set of inherent features fulfils needs (ISO9000). Other professionals define quality based on adherence to needs and fitness for use. Adherence to needs means project’s products and processes meet laid down specifications. Fitness for use implies a product can be used as it was intended.
The purpose of project quality management is to make sure that the project will fulfill the requirements for which it was undertaken. Project management involves among others things meeting or surpassing stakeholder requirements and anticipations. The project group must initiate good relationships with core stakeholders, especially the primary client for the project, to comprehend what quality implies to them. Many technical projects fail because the project management group aims only at meeting the written requirements for the project (Juran and Frank, 2002).
Quality, therefore, must be on an equal basis with project scope, cost, and time. If the project’s stakeholders are dissatisfied with the quality of the project management or the end products of the project, the management group will require adjusting time, cost, and scope to fulfill stakeholder needs. In which case meeting only documented requirements for time, cost, and scope is not sufficient. To attain stakeholder fulfillment, the project group must come up with a good working relationship with all stakeholders and comprehend their implied or stated requirements.
Best practices: over the years, organizations have become mesmerized with the term-best practice-but after continued use, experts began scrutinizing the expression and now better definitions exist. A best practice starts simply with an idea. Knowing that there is a process, tool, activity, or method that can deliver results effectively than any other method and provides one with the desired results with less barriers and predictable complexities is a welcome.
As a result, one apparently ends up with an efficient way of completing a task by use of a repeatable procedure that has stood the test of time for quite a large number of IT projects (Kathy, 2008). As project quality management evolved, so did the meanings of best practices. Some definitions of best practices are complicated while others are somehow simple. Yet, they both address the same aim of encouraging project quality management throughout the organization. Firms must decide on the depth and extent of their best practices.
Must it be at high level and generic or at a low level and detailed? A generic best practice may not attain the desired efficiencies whereas a detailed one may not have unlimited applicability. Basically, any firm can decide to have own definition of best practices and there might even be company quality requirements on the definition of such best practices. For example, a best practice can be defined as something that: works, works well, works well on a repetitive basis, leads to a competitive advantage, can be identified in quest to improve business, and prevents the firm from problems.
1. 2 Principles Generally, there are 3 basic principles/processes of project quality management: 1. 2. 1 Planning quality Planning for quality involves identifying which quality standards are relevant to the project and how to fulfill those standards. Integrating quality standards into project design is a core portion of quality planning. For an IT project, quality standards include enabling system growth, planning a considerable response time, or making sure that the system produces accurate and consistent information.
The core outputs of quality planning are a quality management plan, quality metrics, quality checklists, a process improvement plan, and project document updates. 1. 2. 2 Performing quality assurance Performing quality assurance includes periodical evaluation of the whole project performance to make sure that the project will meet the desired quality standards. The process involves assuming roles of quality in the entire project life cycle. Senior management must take the lead in emphasizing the roles all employees play in quality assurance.
The core outputs of this process are organizational process asset, project management, project document, and change requests updates (Kathy, 2008). 1. 2. 3 Performing quality control Performing quality control involves monitoring specific project results to make sure that they adhere to the desired quality requirements while identifying methods to enhance ultimate quality. This process is mostly linked to the technical techniques and tools of quality management, such as quality control charts, statistical sampling, and Pareto charts.
The main outputs of quality control include quality control measurements, validated deliverables, change requests, validated changes, organizational process asset updates, project management plan, and project document updates (Kathy, 2008). This research seeks to: • Incorporate the best practices in project quality management with quality leadership/ team work within a quality focused company, • Evaluate the significance of project quality management for IT products and services, • Understand the techniques and tools for quality control, and
• Describe how leadership model relate to enhancing quality in information technology projects. 2. 0 Review of Literature In his book on quality control, Juran (2002) stressed the significance of top management commitment to continuous product quality improvement. In 2000, Juran published the fifth edition of his famous book. In both texts, Juran developed and built upon a trilogy involving quality improvement, quality control, and quality planning. Juran emphasized the difference between the manufacturer’s view of quality and the client’s view.
He observed that manufacturer’s focused on adherence to requirements, but client’s focused on fitness for use. In this book, Juran developed 10 stages to quality improvement. These include; building awareness of the need and chance for improvement, set goals for improvements, organize to reach the goals, provide training, carry out projects to solve problems, report progress, give recognition, communicate results, keep ratings, and maintain momentum by establishing yearly improvement part of the regular systems and processes of the economy.
Crosby (1979) wrote Quality Is Free and is best known for suggesting that firms struggle for zero defects. He stressed that the costs of low quality must include all costs of not doing the work right the first time, such as rework, scrap, wasted man hours and machine hours, customer ill will and wasted sales, and warranty costs. Crosby proposed that the cost of low quality is so misappropriated that firms can profitably spend unlimited amounts of money on enhancing quality.
Like Juran, Crosby developed 14 stages for quality improvement; these include making it clear that management is committed to quality, organizing quality control teams with representatives from each section, establishing where current and potential quality problems lie, evaluating the cost of quality and explaining its use as a management tool, raising the quality awareness and personal concern of all employees, take actions to correct problems identified through previous steps, establishing a committee for the zero defects program, training supervisors to actively carry out their part of the quality improvement program, holding a-zero defects day-to allow all employees realize that there has been a change, encouraging individuals to establish improvement goals for themselves and their teams, encouraging employees to communicate to management the barriers they face in achieving their improvement goals, reorganizing and appreciating those who participate, establishing quality councils to communicate on a regular basis, and reworking to emphasize that the quality improvement program never ends. Crosby (1979) initiated the Quality Management Process Maturity Grid. Such a grid can be applied to a firm’s attitude toward product usability.
For instance, the initial level in the grid is ignorance, where employees might think they do not have any difficulties with usability. The last level is wisdom, where employees have changed their attitude so that usability defect prevention is a routine part of their activities. Ishikawa (1976) developed the concept of quality circles and pioneered the utilization of cause-and-effect graphics. Ishikawa made notable contributions to quality management, the most important being Ishikawa’s total quality perspective, organization quality control and emphasizes to human based quality, the quality diagram, and the creation and use of his 7 basic quality tools.
The tools are: Pareto analysis, stratification, cause and effect diagrams, check sheets, scatter charts, histograms, and process control charts. Ishikawa believed these 7 tools must be known in depth, if not by all, in a firm and used to evaluate problems and create enhancements. Used effectively the tools form a powerful quality kit. Genichi (1998) believed it is good to develop product that is stout and or insensitive to manufacturing process variation, rather than trying to control all variations during manufacturing. To practice this idea, he embarked on the already developed knowledge on design and made it more practical and usable for quality experts.
Genichi’s idea was mainly about the routine maximization of process and product prior to actual processing rather than quality control through inspection. Reliability and quality are ensured at the designing stage. Genichi went on to break off-line quality into 3 core levels. These levels include; system design, tolerance design, and parameter design. Foster (2004) identified leadership as being core to the quality improvement process, assuming minimal difference between management and leadership. The role is of a facilitator, and the foundation is-managing by walking, allowing the leader to be in touch with clients, people, and innovation, the three primary sections in the expedition of excellence.
Foster believes that, as the leader walks, three main operations are occurring: listening, facilitating, and listening; suggesting caring, able to provide instant help, and transmission of values respectively. Foster, having analyzed key American firms concluded that any smart concept to organizing had to take into account 7 variables, a framework that was designed to include both the software and hardware of a firm. 3. 0 Findings 3. 1 Best practices Every organization has its own point of view of best practices. But generally there seem to be four basic reasons for embracing best practices. The four are: • Improving efficiency, • Standardization, • Improving effectiveness, and • Consistency
In whatever definition, the company must identify which of the four, or combination therein, the firm targets. The paper focused on best practices as practiced at Orange Soft-Link Ltd, an IT company based in Switzerland (Crosby, 1979). • A best practice is an experience based, published, and proven way to achieve company objectives. • The company has detailed best practices in its procedures/policies and work flows. There are templates and guidelines as well as procedures that the company embraced. Additionally, when it closed a project, the company conducts a formal lesson learned section. The session involves the sponsors, core team, project manager, and other stakeholders impacted by the project.
The lessons are stored in a common database and reviewed with the whole team. Its best practices depend on lessons learned. The company shares these practices with other IT firms for those vendors for which the company is a reference site. All Orange Ltd templates, procedures/policies, and work flow can be accessed when necessary and, by request, the quality leadership team set conferences to give feedback as well as explain in details all practices. • Any tool, activity or template used by a quality manager that has had a positive impact on quality delivery, knowledge, and process. For example, performing to satisfy customers is a best practice in this IT Company.
This is done by assessing each phase of a project. • Generally the company views a best practice as any process or activity that enhances a given quality issue, eliminates the need of other more complicated procedures, or significantly improves an existing procedure. Each best practice is a living unit and subject to amendments, removal, or review. • For Orange Soft-Link ltd, a best practice is any process or method that has been successful in producing the desired outcomes through practical application. This IT Company do not embrace professional or industry standards as a best practice until it has been proven that the process or method works in its corporate environment (Kathy, 2008).