Quantifying Quality

A Quality Assurance professional faces one of the most burdensome questions of all specialties in digital media: Go or no-go? In theory a QA professional could be excused for saying “no-go” more than “go“.  For one, it is highly unlikely that all defects are fixed or addressed (has that ever happened, really?). In addition, we didn’t write the code, we didn’t choose the layouts, colors, typography and we certainly didn’t forecast ROI. But nobody wants to hear no-go, so in practice we’re in a dubious quandary to quantify the unquantifiable: Quality.

First and foremost, quality is subjective. Having spent half of my career in creative disciplines, it’s difficult to be agreeable with design work that doesn’t speak to me. That being said, a very important and often-overlooked artifact is the key to defining metrics for quality: the acceptance criteria document. In its simplest form the acceptance criteria document defines the agreed upon set of stories, cases, preconditions and expectations for an application. How does this measure quality, you ask? The trick is to start with the correct definitions. How many conditions must pass in order for it to be a quality product? This is precisely where true quality assurance must step up and shine.

The QA professional’s task is to make a solid recommendation for these metrics based on his/her expertise and knowledge of the client and project. Then to get every key decision maker to agree it. Doing so will quantify quality in realistic terms everyone understands and alleviate the burden of saying “go” when the inevitable question is posed. And to top it off, the QA professional is armed with a shiny new and resourceful little document.

There. Now, everyone’s on the hook.