What Is Quality Management

Quality Management has four components: quality planning, quality, assurance, quality control and quality improvement. This article will analyze quality assurance and quality control.

Before my many years in the quality assurance and quality control arenas, I assumed they were the same. I could not have been more wrong. I did not realize there are clear distinctions between them.

Here’s how they really break down:

Quality Assurance is focused on the methods that are chosen for development and testing, checking if the team is doing things with the right method.

Quality Control is focused on the product, its functionality, interface, and performance.

In testing a software application, it is necessary that the team conduct and perform both disciplines.

The obvious distinction between the two is that Quality Assurance is process-oriented, whereas Quality Control is product-oriented. I am a huge proponent of QA. Now having made that statement, we are all leery of being “processed to death.” Having been a QA lead in a prior role in a strict Agile environment I lived what it was like to be burdened under too much process. However, there must be both QA and QC to succeed in delivering a satisfactory end user product. Some of the features of QA are it is process based, it is proactive, and it prevents defects. Some of the features of QC are that it is also process based, it is reactive, it finds defects. QC focuses on fixing while QA focuses on preventing. Without QA, a team cannot establish the best testing practices; without QC, they cannot deliver the product according to requirements.

As an example, when I was at Eastman Kodak, my manager asked me to find out what the group could improve on. I added a field for bugs in Jira for escaping defects (those found after release by end users). After collecting the data for a few months, I shared it with the managers. The data showed we needed to implement some quality process changes. There were many reasons why so many defects got by us. We simply did not have a test case for uncovering the defect. A full regression test was not completed before going live. A test case review was not done. The tester misinterpreted the test case and the expected result. We did not have a code freeze before UAT and on and on. All these quality assurance practices were put into place and over time escaping defects decreased significantly.

What this example shows is that the actual testing performed in the quality control phase of testing is going to succeed or fail based on the quality assurance processes in place to ensure that the test plans, approaches and process followed during the quality control are effective. Both phases are symbiotic and must be managed for the optimal testing outcomes.

As you consider the quality management process for your business operations, be sure that the team implements both quality assurance and quality control practices.


~ Tom