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First time right – The importance of QA

During a recent conversation with colleagues on process adherence and QA, I was asked a question on which is more important – First time right or On time delivery.

Of course, I gave an answer that suited the context of the conversation that I was having, but the question got me thinking and I thought it would be a good idea to document my thoughts.

At the face of time, it seems logical to say that both are equally important. And if things have been planned well, yes both will be achieved. Let us also assume that is most cases we can achieve both. But my thoughts here are about situations where there could be a conflict due to a variety of reasons and you are forced to make a choice.

First time right should be the top-most priority for anything that we expect to deliver (an output, product or service) to a customer or we would expect to receive as a customer.

As a customer we would want to get a product or service that is built to meet the stated requirement. We would not want or accept a product or service with any malfunction or defect. We would be willing to wait for a few more days to ensure we get a defect free product or service.

Drawing a parallel to project delivery in Data and Analytics, with all the pressure of deadlines with technical challenges, changes, defects and a host of other issues, project teams are always under pressure to deliver on both.

We work in Data and Analytics and most of our customers are senior business users. If we are building Dashboards for visualization and Analytics, we need to ensure that we get everything right the first time or the deliverable will simply be sent back to the development team. There are a few key reasons for this:

Most business users are very well versed with the data that they work with, so they can easily spot a discrepancy
They have other tasks to also do and hence would want to ensure that the time they spend on review is productive
Focusing on on-time delivery at the cost of first time right, may lower the confidence in the development team

To create a fine balance between the two, there are a number of aspects that need to be covered:

High focus on QA as a process and as a culture within the organization. This is a key step to ensure First time right
Ownership and proactive communication at all levels within the organization to identify any challenges in meeting first time right and on time delivery objectives
Proactive communication to the customer on challenges faced and seeking customer support if required
Building a culture of QA for each individual is a very important aspect of First Time Right

Each individual must take ownership of his/her tasks and certify QA completion as per the organization process and guidelines. Taking ownership of one’s tasks also means highlighting challenges and issues in a timely manner, to allow for adequate time for discussion and resolution.

Of course, in an Analytics project, QA focus manifests itself in many ways. On the data side the following needs to be done:

Data Extraction – optimization, data integrity, data quality checks
Data Transformation – optimization, validation of transformation business rules, data validation
Data Loading – optimization, performance testing, validation of business rules, data validation

From the perspective of User Interface, the following points need to be addressed:

Look and feel as per requirements / wire frames – readability, the flow of the charts, sort orders, data values
Charts or objects are relevant to the data being presented
Accuracy of the data from an end user perspective
Unit Testing of developed UI
Test case execution from an end to end perspective by an independent person
User training and documentation are the final steps that are validated and delivered

The above points are some of the guidelines that we follow to ensure that we meet the criteria of First Time Right. There is also a case for on time delivery over First time right. This is typically applicable to product deployments, where you will want to deploy a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) within the timelines to get early end user feedback. This will help to improve the product and the user experience of using the product.

Author


Kaushik Nag
Director, Business Excellence

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