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What is Quality?

By Bill Ferrarini, Senior Quality Assurance Analyst at SunGard Public Sector, and CISQ Member


Quality is more than just a word, it’s a passion of mine.


In 1974 I was fortunate enough to experience Quality Circles. It was definitely that moment, when you realize that you can make a difference. I got into the PC software development industry in the early days, at a time when the Industry was in need of a direction, an industry crying for standards and quality. The first decade of this emerging industry was extremely tumultuous, a young industry struggling with its identity, finding the players that would shape it into what it is today, a multi-billion dollar industry.


Somewhere along the journey, quality became important to companies who developed and published software. Providing software that was relatively ‘bug free’ took the industry by storm. In the early 1980s, companies, left and right, were adopting Best Practice guidelines like ISO 9000. An entire industry of management and training in the art of quality grew up around companies like IBM, Lotus, Borland and many others. Colleges offered degrees in Quality Resource Management. A literal explosion of quality concepts took hold of this country from software development to automotive manufacturing.


Today, Quality is still quality.


If we look at a definition of quality as such:


The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.


Sadly most companies still treat QA as the end of the road, the last gate before release. This allows much waste of resources and money. Consider this chart below:


 CISQ SW Defect Chart


If you find a defect in the design stage the cost to fix this is minimal, if you find a defect in the Testing Stage the average cost to fix would increase by 15. Essentially it costs $1 to fix in design stage and $15 to fix in Testing and $100 to fix in Maintenance. Finding a defect in the field is really undeterminable as to what the cost is, if it is a legal issue it could cost the company its life!


What should we do?


For years the belief that QC cannot test something until it is complete, but that is not so. Quality can be ‘Built In’ by following these suggestions:

  • By consulting and involving the Quality Analyst in the design of the product as the Voice of the Customer.
  • Assign the experts in the industry to the design team.
  • Involve the people who support your customers in their day to day operations. Why not? They are certainly closer to the Customer than the developers.
  • Then Measure, Measure, Measure. It is important to know how far you are from your goal at any given time.


  • Celebrate the wins, no matter how big or small. It helps to build character and pride, and that will show in the finished product.


About the Author


Bill Ferrarini is a Senior Quality Assurance Analyst at SunGard Public Sector. Bill has over 25 years of experience testing software, hardware, and web browser based systems. After beginning his career as a software developer, Bill has been devoted solely to furthering the Quality Management movement. He has a diploma in Quality Management, a degree in Video and Audio Production, is a former certified ISO internal auditor, and an accomplished musician.

2 thoughts on “What is Quality?

  1. Good job Bill!!! A concept so simple , yet today it is sometimes forgotten. I think Agile has closed the gap between the QA Analyst and the Developer and Product Owners, to some degree. Thanks for sharing!!

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