chapter  Chapter 1
27 Pages

The Strategic Role of Systems and Software Quality

WithRon S. Kenett, Emanuel R. Baker

Perfect quality, perfect delivery, perfect reliability, perfect service— these are achievable. … The quality system that will be embraced by any particular organization who takes the subject very seriously will aim for those goals and be measurable by the appropriate and dedicated use of the statistical systems that are now readily available.

—Robert W. Galvin Former Chairman of the Board, Motorola Inc.

This quote from the foreword of the Encyclopedia of Statistics in Quality and Reliability [11] presents, in clear terms, the vision of a top executive who decided to embark his organization on the never-ending journey of quality improvements. Galvin set up a goal of perfection that he operationalized in the form of Six Sigma in the early 1980s. In 1995, Jack Welch, Chairman and CEO of General Electric, mandated each GE employee to work toward achieving Six Sigma. Six Sigma was eventually adopted all over the world by small and large companies, not-for-profit and educational organizations, 4government services organizations, and health-care organizations. Since its introduction, and subsequent widespread acceptance, a number of variants have emerged, such as Lean Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, and Design for Six Sigma (DFSS).

Six Sigma is an outgrowth of the insights of W. Edwards Deming [9] and Joseph M. Juran [14] on how organizations can be managed to achieve the vision of Galvin. Six Sigma was preceded by other quality initiatives, such as Total Quality Management, that had varied success.

A key focused element in striving to build quality into the systems we acquire, use, or develop are the processes we use to specify, design, build, test, and install new versions or updates. The systems and software development community has also recognized that “the quality of a system or product is highly influenced by the quality of the process used to develop and maintain it” [8]. A sound process is needed to ensure that end-user requirements are accurately specified for the systems they acquire. The challenge is in making sure that the development effort results in a product that meets those needs. Moreover, the processes used to deploy, operate, and maintain the systems must not degrade the system’s quality. Such systems should be the driving force behind quality and customer satisfaction. This book is about implementing and managing with quality the processes needed to cover all aspects of a system’s life cycle, from concept to retirement.

The book is divided into four parts:

Part I: Strategy and Basics of Quality and Process Improvement

Part II: Assessment and Measurement in Systems and Software Development

Part III: Improvements and Testing of Systems and Software

Part IV: Managing and Reporting Data, and a Comprehensive Case Study

Part I consists of two chapters. In Chapter 1, we set the stage by addressing the strategic role of systems and software quality. Chapter 2 then moves into a discussion of the importance of process improvement relative to systems and software quality, and addresses various approaches for implementing process improvement.

Part II also consists of two chapters. Process improvement is difficult to achieve without using a model as a framework. These models are discussed in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 discusses measurement and measurement programs, which are essential for determining whether process and quality improvement has been achieved, and for determining the return on investment for process improvement.

Part III consists of three chapters. Chapter 5 discusses how the process improvement effort is structured. Chapters 6 and 7 move into topics related to demonstrating whether process improvements have provided the intended results. Chapter 6 discusses testing programs and Chapter 7 discusses beta testing and usability programs.

Part IV consists of three chapters. Chapter 8 focuses on data reporting from testing and usability programs, as well as data reporting from the user community. In Chapter 9, we discuss the use of systems development management dashboards, a useful took for decision making. The book concludes with a case study in Chapter 10.

5We begin this chapter with a brief overview of strategic planning, the first step in setting up effective, efficient, and sustainable process improvement initiatives.