Entrenching quality into business requirements

Quality, when not done right, can cause major repercussions to any organisation. Be they reputational, financial or political repercussions, quality must be at the forefront of any organisations mind when it comes to solution delivery.

Throughout 2015, Qual IT conducted surveys at a variety of conferences and industry events, to benchmark IS quality across large New Zealand organisations. One of the questions that we asked participants was ‘who owns quality in your organisation?’

The majority of people we talked to (CIOs, Project Managers, Technology Professionals) said that in their organisation it is the Business Line that owns quality. Through this ownership the Business Line is accountable for the reputation of the organisation, it places control of quality with the Business Line, including budget, time, resources and the importance placed on it. Doesn’t it?

We then asked Project Managers what they viewed as the most common reason for a project running over. The large majority (52%) stated that poor requirements which evolve into delays were the most common reason. These results suggest projects could enhance IS quality by focussing more on requirements during the business analysis phase of projects.

Irrespective of the development methodology, and how these requirements are garnered, the ‘requirements’ stage becomes the most vital point of the whole project. It outlines what is to be delivered, setting the tone of what is to come.

If the requirements have been poorly built, this can lead to their misinterpretation. Consequently there will be holes in the development, and an increased risk that the final product won’t meet expectations.

When scoping the project and building the requirements, quality needs to be a key consideration the whole way through. Understanding user expectations when compiling the requirements, ensuring their testability, and undertaking a quality check on the requirements documents are all ways that ensure quality throughout the project.

Planning and undertaking testing throughout all the different facets of the project can save a significant amount of time and money. Instead of building something to later learn that it fails to meet expectations, testing should occur in the first instance and save the organisation from failed components.  Including a test strategy that covers all aspects of the project will ensure quality and success for each different component within the project.

Understanding user expectation is a huge part of the process. Countless projects and systems have failed because the users requirements aren’t fully understood. Even if they don’t fail, misunderstandings can add months and countless thousands of dollars onto a project as redevelopment is required to bring it up to scratch. Agreeing user expectations from the start and building these into the requirements will avoid costly mistakes and ensure quality and success.

The final inclusion is a quality check on the business requirements themselves. It can often pay to bring in an objective third-party who can look over your requirements and ensure they are rock solid. Assumed understanding can lead to meanings and context being lost further down the chain, or complete miscommunications. Engaging a third-party can ensure that quality is present right from the requirements stage and is set up in a way that it will flow through the rest of the project.

One company who realised the potential of an IS project through early engagement with quality is PGG Wrightson. When scoping the project and building the requirements, they considered the user’s problems and needs, and made allowances for testing in their budget.

The National Sales Support Manager for PGG Wrightson said, “There was a massive reduction in risk and it gave us confidence that we were sticking to the right milestones.”

So while IS quality is a big, scary, and potentially risky aspect of a business, it is something that is vital to the success of a project. Business Line need to be engaging with it early in their projects and setting themselves up well for the full run. Working with a third party, as PGG Wrightson did, can be a useful way to ensure quality in a project.

To find out more about how PGG Wrightson realised the potential of their project through early engagement with quality with Qual IT’s help, download the case study here.