Evolving Quality to Enable and Support a Global Digital Organization

This is a guest post by Prem Ranganath, a senior director and global head of IT delivery excellence and risk assurance at Quintiles Inc. He is passionate about introducing a quality mindset and practices in school from kindergarten so that quality is ingrained into interactions and decisions early on. Prem teaches a graduate level course on software quality and product management at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. He blogs at The Art of Quality.

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As a champion for quality and continuous improvement, it is always interesting to use the future lens to predict where quality is headed. While the perspectives I share here are from an IT organization’s perspective, I believe that many of the trends I refer to are applicable to all functions and industries.

In my experience, the following are the top three trends that are shaping the future of quality in IT, based on current and emerging customer expectations.

1. Quality has a strategic role in enabling successful digitization and digital product management

While the aspiration for digitization has been in corporate corridors for several years, along with some pockets of accomplishment to tout, there is a more concerted understanding now as to what it really takes to become digital.

We know that becoming a truly digital enterprise requires a committed transformation. Building, sustaining, and scaling this transformation across functions and/or geographies is not merely a technology problem.  It is evident that a successful digital transformation requires meticulous orchestration of peoples’ capabilities, processes, data, and cultural factors. Digital transformation also requires the coordination and balancing of a dual enterprise model (innovative digital organization and business-as-usual components). These factors must be managed and ensure that customers’ quality of experience is not compromised.

The quality organization can be an enabling force in driving change with a keen eye on institutionalizing a culture of quality. A critical factor for this cultural shift is to enable a shared commitment to quality and doing away with any reminiscence of a siloed approach to quality.

2. Focusing on a Minimum Acceptable Product (MAP) is important for Minimum Viable Products (MVP) to succeed

The Lean Startup movement  is seeing rapid adoption in large enterprises. There are several case studies and metrics to show that it is possible to scale the lean startup framework within large organizations. The enterprise class lean startup has led some people to assume that this is an opportunity to eliminate disciplined processes and deliverables, although this is not true.

The viability (MVP) of an idea is an important consideration to evolve and validate through experimentation. However, as validated ideas enter the mainstream of development and scale, the need to ensure the acceptability (MAP) of the product by customers requires an adequate blend of agility and experimentation in defining, implementing, and improving processes and practices.

A dual enterprise model cannot be successful by decoupling the lean mindset and MVP from the primary delivery framework and methods. The lean startup principles and Lean Startup Canvas are simple and proven to be successful when they are integrated into an organization’s delivery framework. It is important not to create a divide (or even the perception of a divide) in an organization by requiring one part of the organization to adopt lean startup, while insisting that another stick to legacy or a homegrown hybrid framework.

Integrating lean startup principles and enabling the mindset of outcome-driven teams within a large organization can be very interesting and rewarding. The integrated model can be a great opportunity to blend agility with discipline, and the quality organization can be an important influencer, enabler, and advocate for this change.

3. Expectations for quality are increasingly focused on collective experiences

In an increasingly connected and cloud-enabled world, the scope of what we have known to represent “quality”’ has changed. Quality is no longer a space that is centered only on Total Quality Management (TQM) principles and software engineering practices.

In recent years, quality has begun to represent the convergence of TQM, software engineering, user experience, security (cyber and other), and risk management. A growing recognition and acceptance that a culture of quality is the critical factor that enables quality to be organically integrated into practices, deliverables, and decisions. If this factor is not prioritized, the odds of seeing lasting success with product and service quality will be severely diminished.  Not even the “coolest” of methodologies and tools can improve product quality if the softer aspects, including the enablement of a culture of quality, are not addressed.

As mentioned in #1 above, as customers’ expectations for quality have shifted from the product or service to the quality of collective experiences (product or service quality, interactions, decisions deliverables, value realization), it is timely for quality organizations to revisit their objectives and engagement model. To provide assurance on the collective experience, it is important for quality consultants and practitioners to transcend the traditional software engineering view of quality and revisit the other facets of what represents quality.

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