Software Quality Assurance Process and Procedures

Software-Quality-Assurance

Software Quality Assurance in simple terms is a quality check on the software developed to make sure that the software meets the quality standards. Software Quality Assurance is an ongoing process in the Software Development Life Cycle. The quality checks on the software are routinely. Instead of checking the quality of the product after the completion the Software Quality Assurance checks for quality standard in each phase of software development.

Software Quality Assurance are based on one or more industry standards which help in making software quality guideline and strategies for implementation. The industry standards include ISO 9000 and Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI).

Anyone involved with software development would like to know “ How can you develop a Career in Software Quality Assurance?”

Since Software Quality Assurance is interwoven in the life cycle of Software development its importance is becoming more evident. Quality Assurance is all about how the software runs and delivers to the end client. Its critical to get it right if you want to make your client happy.

Career path options for Software Quality Assurance professionals:

  1. Product Managers – Quality Assurance professionals are experts at the analyzing the software repeatedly. This process helps them understand the software in great detail. In this competitive world where companies are always coming up with new products, Quality Assurance professionals are the go to people for product development. Product Management is the more natural fit for Quality Assurance professional who can easily diversify and manage product development teams.
  2. DevOps Roles – Quality Assurance Professionals have a holistic approach to Software development process. Developers often lack this holistic approach. So when as the Quality Assurance process moves upstream these QA professionals can easily move and participate in the DevOps role.
  3. Customer Experience Leader- Quality Assurance professionals understand the importance of customer satisfaction. There primary purpose for software testing is to ensure the customer is happy. They understand that the customer comes first. This understanding makes QA professionals great at Customer Experience Leader roles.
  4. Quality Engineering and Strategy – The most natural move form Quality Assurance would be Quality Engineering and Strategy. Quality Engineering has focus not just on quality for each application but the focus is on the quality for the entire system.

iACT Global is a training and certification organisation. They offer courses on Software Quality Assurance. These courses offered would help the QA professionals with improving their chances of developing career in Quality Assurance. With the knowledge acquired through the courses they can also look at diversifying. Giving your career a fresh lease.

Who says that lean is only for Toyota?

LEAN MANUFACTORING ball sphere world globe cloudLean management is the philosophy of making continuous, incremental improvements in processes in order to cut down wastage and bring down the cost of operations & production. It is a fallacy to think that lean management is only relevant for manufacturing organizations such as Toyota et al. The philosophy of lean is as relevant for service organizations as it is for manufacturing ones.

A number of service companies have cut down their operational costs by applying the principles of lean management. Consultancy firm McKinsey & Co recently cited a case of how global law firm, Seyfarth Shaw, is saving millions of dollars every year by cutting down wastage and identifying areas of inefficiencies and eliminating them.

Service companies need to have process-oriented approach if they want to identify areas of inefficiencies and wastages. The best example of such a process-oriented approach is McDonald’s. If you visit a McDonald’s restaurant – anywhere in the world – you will find that there are clearly defined processes for even the smallest of operational activities.  The aim behind standardization of these activities at McDonald’s is to maximize efficiency while ensuring that standard quality of products and service is delivered to customers.

Service organizations that have successfully applied the principles of lean management have used lean principles such as process-mapping. In process mapping a company maps every process that is there in the delivery of service to a customer. Then when the processes have been mapped, those processes can be identified which do not create any value for customers. These processes are then eliminated in order to make the entire value chain more efficient.

In the contemporary competitive scenario, services companies need to have the same focus on efficiency and quality that manufacturing companies, like Toyota, tend to have. Service companies too need to standardize many of the routine processes in order to make them more efficient and control costs. They need to focus on the processes in order to improve quality and ensure that the same standard quality is delivered to customers, every time they buy the service.

Service companies should continuously strive for maximizing the value created for customers, if they want to stay competitive. Lean management is a great tool for achieving competitive advantage over competitors – both for manufacturing & service companies.

If you want to understand more about how to apply principles of lean then you should do iACT’s courses in Six Sigma and Lean Management.

You own a business? Why are you scared of Six Sigma and Lean?

six sigmaLean and Six Sigma are two ways in which a business can maximize the value created for its owners or shareholders. Lean is about continuously cutting down wastage in the production processes. Wastage is defined as anything that doesn’t result in creation of value for customers. Value is anything that the customer will be ready to pay for. By cutting down wastage continuously, Lean makes the processes more efficient.This in turn lowers the cost of production and operations. Lower costs translate into higher profits for the owners and shareholders of the business.

Six Sigma is about continuously improving the processes so that defect-free high quality products can come out. A Six Sigma process is one that churns out defect-free products 99.9997 percent of the times. This means that in a production run of 1 million output units, only 3.4 units turn out to be defective. The defect-free products due to Six Sigma mean higher customer satisfaction. Higher customer satisfaction usually translates into higher sales. Higher sales mean higher revenues. Also because the products are defect-free the cost of replacing defective products comes down. Both these factors – higher revenue and lower costs- translate into more profits for the owners of the business.

In spite of these benefits many small and midsized businesses do not implement Lean philosophy and Six Sigma. One major reason for this is lack of awareness about Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma among the owners and management of such businesses.

Another reason lies in cynicism of business owners and managers. They tend to dismiss Lean and Six Sigma as fanciful fads that are not worth the time and expenditure required. Obviously these people are driven by prejudices and gut feeling and not by available data about the benefits accrued to companies from these two philosophies.

Some businesses suffer from the fallacy that implementation of Lean and Six Sigma is very costly and hence they are suitable for large organizations only. The truth is that these two philosophies are as beneficial for small businesses as they are for large ones. Another common fallacy is that these two philosophies are applicable only to manufacturing organizations. Actually they have been applied successfully by many service organizations to deliver high quality, error-free customer service at lowest possible costs. The core of Lean and Six Sigma is process oriented approach. This approach is equally applicable to manufacturing and service organizations.

Some business owners and managers are simply too conservative and are driven by fear of the unknown. But if you own a business and you are too conservative then nothing is more suitable for you than Lean and Six Sigma. Don’t be afraid. Go and try it. You may soon be laughing all the way to banks.

STATISTICAL & MATHEMATICAL MODELING

compassMathematical & Statistical modeling are widely used in the industry for various purposes. There usage has been increased drastically in Quality & Analytics domain over a period of time. Now days various companies are using these things for new product development, baking artificial intelligence into new the developments & many more. It brings a value to the product because over a general thinking it gives a new ways of decision making to the management & helps them in taking the strategic decisions.

Various products have been launched which have made these models very simple & easy to use. Even with minor training users can deploy the models very effectively. Even in small businesses this is of a good use. Learning Statistics can help businesses to go for forecasting for planning and taking decisions on a certain hypotheses created. In Stats, we get meaningful information from huge amount of raw data and make a decision about nature of a population based on a sample taken. In a simple Statistics we do estimating the population based on the sample.

The aim of learning Statistics is to understand and be able to interpret statistical calculations performed by others. Uses of statistics in Business are everywhere; such as Quality, Market Research, Planning of new products, Reporting, Human Resourcing, Management, Reporting & many more. Now days its usage has been extended to gaming like casinos, Cricket matches predictions. Based on the data only every event can be predicted. Many natural disasters that were unavoidable can also be predicted with good accuracy & this is the magic of statistical & mathematical modeling only.

The things that were not possible few years back like detecting the cancer in human body is now very well possible using these models. Every industry is making use of it & getting the benefits. As a user & a teacher of Statistics I would like to recommend everyone to learn it & gets it in flavor in the common ways of working.

Can Six Sigma Kill Innovation ?

Innovation_WideIn today’s competitive business environment, innovation has become the biggest source of competitive advantage for many companies. Innovation means coming out with a completely new product or product feature or service that was not seen before. Innovation can also be in the area of processes too where a business creates a completely new process of doing things.

Companies like Google and Apple have gained their competitive advantage through innovation. Google came out with a highly sophisticated search engine for the first time (it was not the first to come with a search engine though) while Apple came up with a smartphone that had features not seen before.

In order for a company to become innovative, the first step is to define what the business means by innovation. Once innovation has been defined from the perspective of the business and its needs, the resources required for supporting innovation should be provided to employees. These resources include investments in research & development capabilities. For instance Google provides its employees with sophisticated research laboratories and other tools required for research in the area of information technology.

The leadership of the business should show complete support for employees who have a creative outlook. If new ideas fail on implementation then such failure should be treated as a learning experience and not as a failure. Innovative organizations tend to have a very positive attitude towards failure.If a business wants to become innovative then it should not be too control-oriented. It should give freedom of thought and expression to employees. Employees should not be afraid in expressing their ideas to their superiors and seniors. Therefore businesses having a democratic style of leadership are more successful at innovation while those having an authoritarian style are less successful.

Practices like mapping of all the new ideas that are generated in the organization can go a long way in increasing the rate of innovation. Too much emphasis on bureaucracy and formal plans about proposed new ideas can have the effect of stifling innovation.Some empirical evidence suggests that organizations that are too much about Six Sigma and lean manufacturing may find their innovation rate slowing down.

Six sigma and other process improvement tools are to be applied on existing processes. Their principles cannot be applied in the area of innovation. So businesses will do well if they do not try to apply the established principles of Six Sigma on new ideas and concepts. When a new product or service idea comes up and the idea looks feasible enough to be implemented then it should be implemented. If it succeeds the business will prosper; if it fails then the business would become wiser.

Why do Six Sigma initiatives sometimes fail?

 

six-sigmaImprovement projects like Six Sigma and Lean manufacturing aim at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of processes used in an organization. These initiatives have brought tremendous gains for a large number of companies, like say GE for instance. But a study published in Wall Street Journal claims that 60% of corporate six sigma initiatives fail in achieving the desired results.

 

There are a number of reasons why many six sigma initiatives fail in achieving the desired results. An important reason is that after the initial enthusiasm, employees lose their motivation and go back to old ways of doing things. They do well as long as the six sigma expert assigned to them is there. Once the six sigma expert leaves them to their own, the team members tend to lose their motivation to continue with the six sigma ways.Therefore it is necessary that six sigma experts should continue working with a team for an extended period of team, say one year or two years. If small businesses find the cost of having full time six sigma experts too much they can use part-time services of these experts. There are a number of six sigma consultancies in India which offer part-time services of six sigma experts. Also, before a six sigma expert leaves the team permanently, adequate training should be provided to managers so that they are able to continuously motivate team members to keep implementing the six sigma ways.

 

Another reason is that performance appraisal of improvement team members is often not tied to goals of the improvement project. Performance appraisal should be tied to the goals of improvement projects like six sigma and lean manufacturing. When employees get rewarded continuously for achieving the improvement project goals, then they are likely to keep striving continuously for achieving those goals.Improvement teams should be small; they should not have too many members. When there are too many members in an improvement team then the probability of conflict of interest increases. The ideal size of a process improvement team should be between six and eight members.

 

Last, but not the least, the key executives of the company should actively participate in the improvement projects rather than simply supporting them. This way they would be able to continuously monitor the implementation of the improvement principles over a long period of time.The goal of Six Sigma, Lean manufacturing and other such improvement initiatives is to bring a long lasting improvement in the processes of the organization. If they are able to bring only short-term, temporary changes then they would be deemed a failure and nothing else!

 

Avoiding financial disasters with Six Sigma

Financial-crisis-2008Operational risks are quite common in the area of financial services. Financial services include everything from banks to various other financial intermediaries. Financial services play a very important role in the economy. Therefore failure of any major financial services provider, like a big bank, causes considerable pain for the larger economy.

 

This was seen once again during the 2008 financial crisis when investment bank Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and was subsequently liquidated. The cause of 2008 financial crisis was pinned down to failure in risk management at major banks and investment banks, like Lehman Brothers.

 

The Bank of International Settlements (BIS), located in Basel, Switzerland, is the international banking regulator. It sets the operational and risk management norms for banks across the world. The BIS has recommended that by using Six Sigma, banks and other financial institutions can greatly improve their operational risk management. Operational risk in a bank can be frauds, breach of rules and processes relating to operations, impairment of physical assets or impairment of the technological infrastructure.

 

Six Sigma strives for reducing variation in processes. This means that it strives for setting standard operating processes. Standardization of operating processes reduces the risk of failure in implementation of operational practices. Six Sigma also strives for continuous improvement of processes. Continuous improvement in operational processes at financial institutions can greatly reduce operational risks.

 

One major Six Sigma tool is Failure Modes Effects Analysis (FMEA). The FMEA can be applied effectively for managing operational risk at financial institutions like banks. The FMEA tool basically involves documenting the failure points of a process. The risks associated with each failure point are then prioritized on the basis of the damage or harm that can be brought by materialization of that risk. Once the risk prioritization has been done , risk mitigation plan is made. By applying these steps of FMEA to processes at financial institutions, the operational risks can be brought down considerably.

 

Key risk indicators (KRIs) are another Six Sigma tool that can be applied for making risk management at financial services more effective. The KRIs can be plotted on a control chart. The frequency of occurrence of a KRI can give an idea about the probability of the risk getting materialized. Early identification of a risk is one of the most effective ways of risk management.

 

In days to come increasing number of banks and other financial institutions are likely to apply Six Sigma for risk management. There is no stopping for Six Sigma it seems – from the manufacturing workshops it is now spreading into the august vaults of banks.

Six Sigma, a matter of life & death

sixsigma Six Sigma is about improving quality continuously by eliminating defects. A six sigma process is one where the probability of defect is just 3.4 per million parts. One industry in which defect in process or output results in maximum damage is the healthcare industry. Unlike other industries a mistake or defect in processes can be a matter of life and death in healthcare.There is nothing like product recalls in this industry.

 

 

United States is the most developed country with a very sophisticated healthcare industry that has state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities. Still the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of America estimates that nearly 1 lakh people die every year in America due to mistakes made by doctors and other professionals working in the healthcare industry. Another study by Harvard University claims that 1.3 million Americans face injury annually due to mistakes at hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

 

If this is the scenario in America, then the situation must be worse in India which has a much less sophisticated healthcare infrastructure. Ironically Six Sigma has still not found large scale application in this crucial sector. Training of healthcare professionals in Six Sigma will go a long way in reducing errors made by them. This in turn will improve the quality of healthcare delivered to citizens. The quality of healthcare is an important component of the quality of life in a country.

 

Application of six sigma techniques in healthcare processes will enable identification of root cause of defects, errors and problems. It will result in reduction in variability of processes. A process oriented approach should be nurtured among healthcare professionals. Large hospitals aiming to deliver high quality health services should invest in training their staff in Six Sigma.The simple Six Sigma approach of DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) can go a long way in improving healthcare services. Patient care processes can be made more effective through the use of Six Sigma techniques.

 

A few healthcare organizations have started implementing Six Sigma. And they are seeing positive results. It is high time that the rest of the industry sees the importance of Six Sigma. The cost of errors in healthcare industry is much higher than in any other industry. Six Sigma is therefore more important for healthcare sector than for any other one.

Cars, Ford and Six Sigma

sixsigma-mini-logo
The automobile industry has been among the first industries to have recognized the importance of Six Sigma. The philosophy of continuous improvement, that underlines Six Sigma, has become the guiding mantra for leading automobile manufacturers. Ford Motor Company, headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan is one such company.

 

Ford has embraced Six Sigma wholeheartedly because the company believes that it results in enhanced profitability. Ford’s logic is clear: six sigma leads to better quality of product; better quality of product results in higher customer satisfaction; higher customer satisfaction translates into high customer loyalty; and higher customer loyalty translates into higher revenues and profitability.

 

Ford implemented six sigma successfully, in its organization, by first making the top management get committed to the philosophy. Almost the entire top management team of Ford, including its CEO, undergo Six Sigma certification training. Some of the key executives hold Mater Black Belt and Black Belt Certifications. The company has made huge investment in training thousands of its employees in Six Sigma. It is of the view that once the top management gets committed to Six Sigma, it becomes easier to implement it effectively across the organization.

 

Ford has also linked Six Sigma to the expectations of customers. So quality means delivering on the expectations of customers. For instance if durability and fuel efficiency are two expectations of customers from cars of Ford then the focus of Six Sigma implementation should be on continuously improving durability and fuel efficiency.

 

Six Sigma has helped Ford in facing competition from not only domestic competitors in America but also from the formidable Japanese and Korean competitors. Japanese cars are well-known for their quality and efficiency. When Japanese car manufacturers, like Toyota, entered the US market in the late 70s their quality became their competitive advantage over American rivals like Ford. Ford used Six Sigma to improve the quality of its cars and erode the competitive advantage of its Japanese manufacturers. It was successful to a large extent; it regained some of the market share that it had lost to its Japanese counterparts.

 

The case of Ford reveals three things. The first is that Six Sigma has a direct impact on the revenue and profitability of the business. The second is that Six Sigma implementation in the organization becomes more effective when the top management is committed to it. The third is that Six Sigma should be linked to the expectations of customers from the product or service.

How to make the individual employee more efficient?

SIX SIGMA Certifications_thumb[2] The principles of Six Sigma can be used by individual employees to enhance their productivity.Organizations should encourage employees to apply the principles of Six Sigma in their work life.

 

Often companies and businesses fail to realize that individual productivity of employees at work has a direct impact on the bottom-line (profitability) of the business. When the individual employees are more productive,organizational productivity automatically goes up.The higher the organizational productivity, the higher will be the value created for the stakeholders of the organization.

 

Many employees suffer from lower productivity at workplace because their work-area is disorganized.This is particularly true for service companies like IT firms which employ a lot of white collar workers.A recent study suggests that employees tend to lose at least one hour each day at work because their work area is disorganized.Japanese are famous for their obsession with efficiency.Therefore they were also the first people to have realized the significance of workplace disorganization in bringing down individual productivity of employees.

 

Therefore the Japanese carved out five principles for improving workplace organization so that individual productivity doesn’t suffer because of this. These principles are of 5S – Sort, Straighten, Scrub, Standardize and Sustain. And Japanese have successfully applied these five principles in the cases of both manufacturing and service industries.By Sort it is meant that employees should keep only those items at workplace that are needed. Any item that is not needed should be immediately discarded. Cluttering should be avoided at all costs at workplace.

 

By Straighten it is meant, that once the non-essential items have been discarded, the essential items should be kept at designated places. This helps in finding items easily when their need arises.By Scrub it is meant that the workplace should be kept absolutely clean. Employees working in manufacturing should keep their tools clean. This increases the efficiency and effectiveness of tools. Employees working on workstations should keep them clean. Clean workplace has a positive impact on the morale of employees. Higher the morale of employees, higher is their productivity.

 

By Standardize it is meant that organizations should establish some standards on how employees should keep their workspace. This helps in making employees strive for making the workplace more organized.
By Sustain it is meant that employees should regularly strive to keep their workspace clean. This can be achieved by making it a routine that at the end of every day at work, one should clean his or her workspace and ensure that everything is in its proper place.Six Sigma is about focusing on continuous improvement in efficiency and quality. It is as relevant at the personal level as at the organizational level.