The Qualiverse - Cost of Quality
Could you imagine blindly following a recipe in the kitchen without checking or tasting your food along the way? I remember my friend had a recipe for a Penne Alla Vodka dinner-for-four once called for five HEADS of garlic to go in the sauce! Not five cloves... five heads. We were in college, and he was a beginner cook, he didn’t think twice about it and chopped up an obscene amount of garlic (and I’m Italian) added it to the sauce, cooked it up, and served it without tasting it. We literally thought something was burning. It was the garlic. The entire pasta dish had to get thrown out...all that food...all that garlic...wasted. The dinner was ruined. We still had some salad, but there was no main course.
Naturally, as his skills matured, he learned to spot potential typos in recipes. He learned to taste his food along the way to make sure he was on the right track. He learned when he had to follow the recipe to a T (baking, for instance) and when he had some leeway (you can get a little creative with sauces). Most importantly, he learned to taste the dish before serving it to his friends. We still haven’t let him live down “Garli-geddon”.
The Testing Process
As you cook, you don’t think of tasting the food as wasting time. It’s part of the process. It’s the only way to make sure it comes out the way you want. It’s also the only way to avoid wasting food by throwing it out because it tastes terrible. No one complains that tasting food, or checking temperature on a roast, or letting the steak rest is a waste of time. It’s part of the process of delivering excellent food. This iterative testing process is not “inefficient”. It’s used to avoid waste and deliver quality. It’s also much better to taste along the way so you can course correct when required, as opposed to only tasting at the end. It’s the same as providing quality assurance while delivering AV systems.
What is a Quality Standard?
Could you imagine simply connecting a system together as shown on the drawings and turning it over to a client? I have seen this done before, and no one was happy. The systems were turned over to the users without ever powering them on. I think we can all agree that some form of testing is required before turning the system over to the client. The question is how much. We should definitely make sure all the promised functions are operational (function test), right? And we should definitely make sure it was built properly, as well as performs as intended (performance testing), right? And we should definitely have a method of documenting what tests were performed, both so an entire team can attack the problem together, as well as assure all the testing was completed (checklists), right? And we should definitely perform many small tests along the way so we can course-correct as required (AV9000 project milestones), right? Well, by that reasoning, we just described the AV9000 quality management standard! It’s simply tasting the sauce along the way to make sure it’s delicious.
Pay now, or pay later
I think that’s why I don’t understand why some people claim quality management is too expensive. Some form of testing HAS to get done before the users take ownership of the system. Should it be haphazard testing, or a documented, process-based testing? Testing is already part of the process in some form. AV9000 simply provides a way to deliver that testing completely and consistently.
Not only does testing have to get done, but it will also save all stakeholders money. Think about what happens when there’s an issue on a project. All work stops ($$) and a team of technicians go into a holding pattern ($$$). It may require additional hardware ($$) that requires expedited shipping ($) to avoid delaying the project. Additional engineering ($$) and approvals ($) are required. Escalation meetings with executives ($$$$) may be required, sometimes weekly ($$) or daily ($$$$). Projects may be delayed so temporary equipment may need to be rented ($$), or even a new space ($$$). Additional work may need to be added to the project ($$), sometimes after-hours ($$$), after the room has been turned over. And these additional costs are shared by everyone involved in the project (designer, installer, owner…everyone), and are very rarely tracked. When measured, the cost of poor quality, or ignoring quality, accounted for 10-15% of a project’s cost on average, and was observed to be as high as 40%! Is it any wonder that integrators selling projects at 10-15% margins can’t turn a profit? They expect to realize a modest profit when projects are sold, but twenty nightmare projects later, they are in the red. Not to mention the opportunity loss for future partnership with those technology managers because the systems have so many issues.
How Can you Save Money?
It is ALWAYS less expensive to do it right the first time. It is also ALWAYS less expensive to catch issues earlier on in the process where there is opportunity to fix things. That’s all this quality stuff is trying to do: consistently deliver complete systems on time, within budget. It’s not more expensive to implement quality management processes. It’s WAY more expensive to ignore them, especially when you start to measure all those hidden costs of poor quality. It is critical to taste the sauce along the way.