Quality is one of those words that everybody understands and many have difficulty with to clearly explain what it is. Let’s solve the issue with a good example.
Imagine you are going to buy a house. You picture in your head how the house should look, how many rooms, the kitchen, view from the windows, the city and many more details. In basic you are picturing the house you want in your head.
Now that you know the specifications of the house you are also thinking about the price. What should such a house cost? In what price range should it be? It should be affordable for you.
Lastly, when do you need it? Do you need it soon? Or can you wait for months and make it a long search?
What we just did was define the triple constraint which consists of 3 variables:
- Scope: your visual image of the house
- Cost: the price range of the house
- Schedule: when do you need it?
Quality is delivering the minimum expectations on these three variables.
- Scope: minimum an Apartment with 4 rooms in Amsterdam
- Cost: max 450.000 euros
- Schedule: within 6 months
This means that if one variable changes another has to change as well:
- An extra room in the house (scope) => prize will increase (cost) and maybe it takes longer to find or build (schedule)
- You need the house within the month (period) => you have to adjust the minimum requirements of the house (scope) or maybe pay more for a house that fulfills those requirements (cost).
- You want a lower mortgage for the house (cost) => that means maybe no garage (scope) or searching longer (schedule)
For our example it means that if we deliver an apartment with 4 rooms in Amsterdam for 450.000 euros in 6 months, we will deliver quality to our customer.
High & Low Quality
But of course we want to deliver high quality. We can do this by over delivering on the minimum requirements that were set of the triple constraint. The same apartment for 400.000 euro or in 3 months, etc.
Unfortunately we sometimes deliver low quality. This happened because we went under the minimum requirements that were set. The house only has 3 rooms or cost 500.000 euros, etc.
We now only talked about customer quality and didn’t talk yet about our own quality. Many times this is forgotten by yourself and in businesses.
If you can only deliver minimum requirements of that new IT solution (quality) by sending 10 extra engineers this week to make sure it is still finished before end of month, you might get customer quality but the extra cost of sending those engineers make it low quality for your business.
You can’t only look at customer quality and forget other stakeholders involved in this. There are many expectations and they all need to be managed.
Go deep on scope
Cost and schedule are many times the easiest to understand. The danger lies in scope. People always think that they clearly tell their requirements but this is almost never the case. It’s so important to go deep on scope and to keep asking questions.
When you think you are complete and have a nice functional requirements list of what needs to be delivered, the customer suddenly also has technical requirements like the fact that he want his house being build in a ‘green’ way or that the kitchen is of a certain brand.
For many people it’s not just receiving that 450.000 euro 4 room Amsterdam apartment in 6 months. It’s also that they want to have a weekly call from you to hear if you have an update. That you know that they also want to hear about same kind of apartments in other cities. That they prefer communication over email instead of you calling them.
The details can go deep. If everybody would just accept when I would say they can trust me and I arrange that apartment in scope, cost and schedule. It’s your job to find out what is expected from all people involved, your stakeholders.
The definition then becomes:
“Quality is delivering the minimum expectations of all stakeholders.”