Quality assurance (QA) aims to keep the quality of a product or service at a specified level, focusing on each stage of delivery or production to make sure there are no issues. Maintaining a high-quality level is essential for the continued success of a business. A good quality assurance program will support businesses' goals by clearly identifying the areas in which they do well and those that need some work. Following a good quality assurance plan reduces the chance of costly mistakes and mitigates risk.
It should be noted that quality assurance is not quality control (QC). QA focuses on defect prevention while QC focuses on identifying product defects. A QA plan differs from QC planning, though there may be some overlap between the two.
Using a Quality Assurance Plan
Every company, no matter how big, needs to have procedures in place that make sure its products are managed successfully. You can’t just have an idea and immediately begin selling the product or service without having done some work to make sure it meets quality standards.
Every product or service should offer value to the person who purchases it. A quality assurance plan (QAP) makes this happen, ensuring that the quality of the product meets the end-users’ needs and any industry standards that are present. It also reduces the chance of errors in the production process and highlight areas that need improving.
A quality control plan covers all aspects of project/product development by addressing different functions, how they perform, and maintaining or making changes when necessary.
Using a quality assurance plan template is an effective way to make it adaptable depending on the company’s needs. For example, it can be adapted to be specifically for product or software quality assurance. Whether the organizational focus is on growth or customer care, each QAP focuses on those defined areas.
Steps to Create a Quality Assurance Plan
If you’re building a QAP from scratch or making modifications to one that’s already in place, here are six steps to follow.
1. Define Quality Objectives
The first step to quality control planning is to define your goals. One formula that is often used in this process is the SMART formula. Goals should be:
They need to be clear, measurable, and something that can be realistically attained in a timely manner.
Quality goals also have to match what your customer is expecting. If the quality of your product is low, it ends up failing both the customer and the company. You should also make sure that you adhere to any government regulations that could apply to the project as well.
2. Roles and Responsibilities
When you decide to move forward with a quality plan, there are various options. Big companies may have an entire department dedicated to QA whereas small ones may have to go outside the organization or assign additional roles to current employees. Training staff is important as is giving them jobs that meet their skill set. You want a team in place that can detect and repair issues in the early part of product development. This staves off mistakes and makes sure that the company meets its end-users' expectations.
The QA team, no matter what form it takes, has to have processes and rules that everyone understands and follows, making sure that every project is clear in its objections and expectations.
3. Implement the Quality Assurance Plan
Once the plan is ready to go, it’s time to implement your new quality control procedures. Make sure all staff members have been trained and are aware of the contents of the plan. It’s also essential that your team has the tools and resources it needs to meet its targets.
The plan should be clear in how it backs the company's mission and should be simple so there is no question that everyone understands it and that each step of the process is followed. Consult with HR and production to confirm that the QA plan meets risk management and documentation guidelines as well.
4. Examine the Results
Once the Quality Assurance plan is active, consider it a living document that can adapt and evolve as the team sees fit. While the initial goal of the QA plan should be held at the forefront, they are also used to make sure the team’s objectives are being met. If not, why and how do new policies and guidelines make this happen? Listen to the team, other employees, and customers to make sure you are meeting everyone’s realistic expectations.
5. Make Adjustments
After listening to feedback and looking at the original goals, make adjustments as needed. While many suggest a plan audit every two to three months, this can happen sooner if needed. If a flaw is found or there are problems that need addressing, making adjustments sooner rather than later is helpful not only in meeting the company’s goal but also in saving or increasing sales by putting an improved product or service forward.
6. Keep Your Team in the Loop
Staff wants to know what they are doing is working. If the QA plan has improved the organization, let them know. Positive or constructive feedback makes for a more solid team and lets them know they are making a positive difference for the company. That you are empowering staff to make a difference inspires them to continue to do a good job and gives strong input into the QA process. So, have staff follow the plan, give both positive and negative feedback, and listen so adjustments can be made.
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What Do You Think?
Quality assurance is vital to maintaining high standards of product quality and continued business success. Did we forget any important steps for creating a quality assurance plan? Comment with your ideas below.
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