NDP Blog
Simon Whittaker

Quality Assurance - cheap words or not?

In the world of digital agencies, most seem to think of QA as either automated testing, or snagging before going live. But this ‘digital’ vision is fundamentally different from how almost any other manufacturing or service sector thinks about QA.

I like the BMW example. Do they complete their snagging on the forecourt, with the new owner on hand? Nope. Do they complete their snagging as the cars roll off the production line? Nope.

BMW deliver beautifully built cars because they think about quality at every single step of the production process. And they do it that way for one reason. It’s much cheaper to get it right at the outset, than it is to try to correct it later.

It really is that simple.

So we have to ask the question ‘are we special’? Or is the reality that we are missing an opportunity to learn, just because we think ‘we are special’.

But we are special... (aren't we?)

I knew you’d say that. And I know your justifications too - digital products are largely bespoke, clients change their minds all the time, digital is always evolving.

But does this really wash?

It’s interesting at this point to open any one of a number of standard books on Quality Assurance - because the textbook profile of an organisation with quality problems looks like this:

  • They excuse themselves by saying their products have varying requirements

  • They have a system of corrections that keeps customers happy

  • Their staff each have their own definition of quality

  • They don’t measure cost of rework required to gain client acceptance

Ouch - because that sounds an awful lot like the digital sector. But to the rest of the world, that’s no excuse for not fully implementing ‘classical’ QA - it’s simply a known starting point.

So how do we fix this? And do we even want to?

Well - to answer the second question first - other industries have fixed the QA challenge because of the hugely positive impact it has on their bottom line. Put simply - QA reduces the cost of producing a product that people want to buy.

The question of how we fix this is, at one level, is no harder than biting the bullet and reading a good book on the subject - no harder than realising we are not special.

At NDP, we’ve been on this trail for a number of years and make no mistake, it is hard. But the impact of a simple implementation of the commonly understood principles of QA has been very revealing:

  • We are better at delivering quality product on time and on budget

  • That quality is ‘durable’ - our products perform better and last longer

  • The cost of delivering this is offset by improved production efficiency

  • We now have a means to drive improvements on an ongoing basis

  • Our staff are happier and our clients are happier too

In conclusion, the digital sector, while continuing to be groundbreaking, can still learn from other more established sectors.

In fact, we’d be fools if we didn’t.