Because risk management and IT project management go hand-in-hand, experienced IT project managers never start a project without a risk-management strategy in mind. Often, at the heart of that strategy is a strong focus on quality control.

Before the ink on your IT consulting agreement is even dry, it’s time to start developing a formal quality assurance strategy to prevent or detect any errors or issues before they can cause problems.

According to Bender RBT Inc., a firm specializing in requirements-based testing, there are three good reasons to focus on improving the quality of your solution:

- Reducing the costs to detect and remediate defects
- Reducing the time it takes to deliver the software
- Improving the probability of successfully installing the right solution

By focusing on quality assurance and testing from the very beginning of a project, you’re more likely to detect potential problems well before they become costly errors that drive the project over-budget. At the same time, you’ll improve the quality of your solution, which in turn reduces your client’s risk of system failure.

Planning a solid QA program benefits your own IT project management business as well, because a well-designed QA methodology may cut your risk of your client suing you for delivering an IT solution that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.

Key Considerations in Quality Assurance

We’ve all heard the term used as a business buzzword, but what exactly what does “quality assurance” mean in the IT world? In essence, QA involves using systematic processes to examine the quality, effectiveness or efficiency of systems and software. Such processes are designed to:

- Identify opportunities for improvement,
- Implement those improvements, and
- Continually evaluate the project and the improvements made.

When it comes to software development, QA means monitoring development processes for quality, which often means adhering to standards such as ISO 9000 or CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration). Both approaches give developers and IT project managers a model to direct process improvement for virtually any type of project.

Regardless of the method used, quality assurance should begin before a project even starts and continue after the solution is delivered. A quality assurance methodology may involve advance planning before work begins, a detailed process for making and documenting changes, and a thorough QA testing methodology to identify and correct defects before release.

According to Bender, the idea is to move away from a focus on defect detection and toward a focus on defect prevention. Bender notes that the requirements-based testing process addresses two major issues: first, validating that the requirements are correct, complete, unambiguous and logically consistent; and second, designing a necessary and sufficient set of test cases from those requirements to ensure that the design and code fully meet those requirements.1

The overall requirements-based testing strategy, Bender notes, is to integrate testing throughout the development lifecycle and focus on the quality of the requirements specifications. This leads to early defect detection, which has been shown to be much less expensive than finding defects during integration testing or later.1

A well-designed quality assurance process with thorough QA testing typically includes the entire project team, asking each stakeholder to take on responsibility for the quality of the solution. Careful record-keeping is crucial, along with continuous monitoring of the QA process itself to gauge its effectiveness.

QA and Risk Management

A quality assurance methodology can be a valuable part of the overall risk management strategy for you and your IT project management business.

Without ongoing QA, your project could fall victim to costly and time-consuming setbacks, or even fail to meet established requirements. Even worse, a problem with the new solution might have a negative effect on other system components, causing downtime or financial losses for your client. In any of these situations, you could face a lawsuit.

On the other hand, the benefits of QA are clear. A controlled development and quality assurance testing strategy is likely to result in a better-quality solution that requires less maintenance, which makes for a satisfied client. Implementing a QA strategy early on also saves time for you and cuts costs for your client. After all, it’s easier and cheaper to fix a problem early in the course of a project, before it causes a snowball effect that requires extensive and costly rework.

Detailed QA documentation also helps you reduce scope creep and delays, both of which can add to costs and frustration levels for your client. At the same time, your business gets a better handle on the management of risk because your QA and testing methodology reduces your exposure to a client lawsuit.

Should any question arise about how project glitches are being handled, you’ll be able to show the client your QA testing documentation to prove that any defects have been identified and addressed, and that progress has been monitored to ensure that the solution will meet requirements.

If the worst happens, and you find yourself facing a professional liability lawsuit, your QA documentation may come in handy in court. Regardless, having detailed documentation on hand shows that you’re an expert project manager who is taking every precaution to deliver a product that will meet or exceed the client’s needs.

Author's Bio: 

Jim Cochran is the President of TechInsurance, a professional liability insurance company. Jim understands how to reduce risk for techs by supplying them with the proper liability insurance packages.