Quality Standards
Our cookbook often talks about quality but what is that and how do we measure what we produce?
Our quality management is aligned with the ISO9001 Quality Management standard. Some of our team have achieved ISO certification for a number of organisations in the past and we use that experience to implement our own quality management system that works well for us and our clients.
We have also been certified for Cyber Essentials, an industry supported certification scheme developed by the UK government to ensure that we have implemented the tools, processes and practices to cover essential cyber security precautions.
Quality management is about setting quality objectives, defining the processes to achieve those objectives, measuring progress and continually improving our ways of working to meet or exceed the objectives.
Quality management doesn’t only apply to service delivery, it runs through everything that the business does, from recruitment through to sales and support.

Quality Staff

To operate at our best we need to take care of our staff. When someone new joins the team we take them through the on boarding process and once that person has settled in we review the process, we look at what went well and we identify areas that we can improve.
Keeping staff up to date with their skills and experience is as important to the business as it is to the individual and our clients. We set up personal development plans for all members of the team so that we can set objectives and put in place a plan to help people develop those areas they want to improve or begin to explore. We review the plans every 3-6 months to make sure the plan is being implemented and to adjust the plan if circumstances have changed.
It’s not always possible to put a number against those processes that we’re measuring but we can identify whether we’re on track, whether something has improved or whether we need to take action to improve. When we can’t use numerical means of measurement then we fall back to the human approach, talking through the goals, what’s happened and agree whether or not improvements have been made.

Quality Operations

It’s important to set operational targets and continually monitor our progress towards them. We set objectives for common operational processes such as sales so that we can monitor the effectiveness of our processes, the approaches we’re taking and the amount of effort we put into sales.
Taking care of the operational side of the business is just as important as service delivery because this is the foundation upon which we all sit. Taking care behind the scenes, running the business as efficiently as possible allows our staff to focus their attention on the service delivery.

Quality Service Delivery

Within the process of service delivery there are a lot of elements that we look at individually to improve their effectiveness and efficiency. Service delivery involves a lot of communication, discussion, making decisions and producing shippable work.
Because we deliver in iterations it’s easy to introduce breaks in order to review what we do.

Estimating

Every sprint begins with a planning session. We estimate how much work can be completed during the sprint and we commit to that. We review the accuracy of those estimations at the end of the sprint and look at ways in which we can improve. Although we don’t guarantee to complete everything accepted into a sprint, the estimations set a level of expectation that we should aim to achieve. The estimations we set need to be achievable.

Daily Standups

Each day we talk about how work is progressing and we can use this brief meeting to change the direction of our work if necessary.

Quality in Sprints

There are quality processes triggered during the development of each user story, checking the quality of what we’re producing, looking for bugs and checking that stories meet the agreed completion criteria. Some of these processes are manual, some are automated. It’s a wide net to avoid anything sub-standard reaching the production environment.

Sprint Review

The team demonstrates the completed stories at the end of the sprint, reiterating the intention of each story, what it aims to accomplish and how that fits into the overall picture. This is an opportunity for users to provide their feedback about what works, what doesn’t and how we can improve.

Retrospective

The team sits down at the end of each sprint to talk about how well the sprint was delivered. It looks at how accurately the stories were estimated, how it can address any shortcomings and which of the good things it needs to continue with.
It’s no good assuming that everything is going well. It’s important to record where we’re at now, to agree ways to improve and reviewing the effectiveness of those improvements regularly. If the improvements worked then great, if not then we re-adjust and try again.

Quality Summary

A quality management system is about doing things as well as possible, continually measuring and inspecting how effective you are and trying out new approaches to improve your effectiveness and the quality of what is produced. Not every change will result in a positive result but what’s important is that we learn from our successes and failures and progress from there.