For businesses and enterprises of all sizes, the products and services sold to and seen by customers reflect several quality processes during the production of the product. In other words, a quality assurance program is of the utmost importance for a company to keep product quality high.
The consequences of having a substandard quality assurance plan (or not having a QA program) can have many adverse effects on your company.
In the 21st century, where customers are spoiled for choice, not having a quality assurance program guarantees that your business will struggle to retain customers and boost revenue.
Simply put, your customer base will gravitate to businesses that manage to sell high-quality products consistently. There is a high chance that what separates this sort of business from a struggling company is a refined quality assurance program.
Before explaining how your business can establish a quality assurance program, let’s first discuss the basics of a QA program; we can then discuss how QA software can help your business gain an edge in the highly competitive 21st century!
What is a Quality Assurance Program?
Quality assurance, like quality control (the differences between these terms will be discussed shortly), involves determining whether businesses can sell a product or service to customers using various procedures to test product performance and quality.
How exactly do businesses determine if they can sell a product or service to customers? Essentially, predetermined standards are used to assess whether a product meets the specified requirements.
If quality assurance ensures that products’ live up to consumers’ expectations, then a QA program ensures that the QA process is applied to every stage of the production process.
A QA plan should ensure that quality guidelines and expectations are inculcated at every stage of the product life cycle (and in all operational areas at the company). Thus, quality goals can be applied by businesses to the design stage, production stage, and post-production stage. Additionally, a QA program can be applied to operational areas as diverse as hiring & recruitment, product design, customer relations, your sales team, and more!
At this point, it is worth briefly explaining the difference(s) between quality control and quality assurance. This will also help explain the purposes of a QA program. For a start, the focus of quality control is smaller than that of a QA program. Whereas quality control only focuses on detecting product defects at all stages of the production process, the focus of quality assurance is much broader.
As mentioned, a QA program must institute quality processes in all operational areas. The goal of these processes is more than just eliminating product defects – a QA plan must strive for continuous improvement in the products that companies sell to customers.
Finally, as a QA plan focuses on improving the performance of company processes and the overall customer experience of product use, data management plays a much more significant role in creating a QA program than quality control.
Essentially, the data gathered should pertain to how well the company’s quality processes and procedures are working. Companies can review and further improve their quality procedures based on this data. As we shall see shortly, data handling and sharing between QA team members are far more straightforward with the help of a software solution.
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Creating a Quality Assurance Plan in 8 Steps
No matter the type of industry or department (such as your sales team or research team) for which a QA plan needs to be created, here are some essential steps to help your organization create a new program.
Define Standards and Goals
This first stage is of utmost importance. Here, leadership and management must develop the standards and goals of the quality assurance program and what they want to achieve. Additionally, leadership can also devise the criteria to determine whether the QA standards and goals have succeeded.
Determine a Set of Procedures
With the standards and goals developed, it is time to devise the procedures that will serve as the ‘bread and butter’ of the QA program. In effect, this stage determines how the quality assurance program will be implemented.
Thus, leadership and management will assign roles and responsibilities to the appropriate staff at this stage. For example, in larger companies, a specific section will be responsible for QA processes; some employees might have to be designated extra responsibilities in smaller companies.
Share the News with Your Staff
Once the standards, goals, and procedures have been finalized, it is time to ensure that employees, leadership, and QA lead(s) are all on the same page and understand the new program in the same way. Thus, every relevant employee in the affected department must understand the quality aspects of the new program, as they are the ones who are essential for the overall effectiveness of the program.
At this stage, it may also be necessary to introduce training schemes should employees need them. It is also the responsibility of leadership, and the QA lead to ensure that every team has the required resources to implement the QA program.
Implement the New Policies
Your organization can now implement the quality assurance program! However, even during the initial stages of implementation, it is essential to collect performance data that will be used as the basis for feedback and reviews later.
Organize Feedback Sessions
As you collect more data regarding the performance of the QA program, the QA lead should organize feedback meetings with employees. These feedback sessions can provide an assessment of how projects have been impacted since the introduction of the quality assurance program.
Feedback discussions also offer the first opportunity for leadership to refer back to the original expectations and success criteria to see if they are being met. If the expectations are not being met, perhaps it is time to introduce a slight adjustment to the new quality assurance methods.
While providing feedback to your employees, your company should also analyze the progress towards meeting the predetermined goals and standards. By analyzing progress, it is also possible to identify problem areas and their reasons (this could be due to insufficient quality systems, resources, or training, for example).
However, should progress be uneven (or slower than expected), some minor adjustments might need to be made. This could be through providing more significant support to employees through additional training programs and other resources and tools.
Discuss the Impact
Discussing the impact of the quality assurance program can go a long way to empowering staff at your organization and should be made a priority! When teams understand that they are making a difference for their customers, their morale will undoubtedly be boosted, thereby contributing to a dynamic work environment.
Make Necessary Amendments
After completing the necessary reviews of the strengths and shortcomings of the assurance program, any amendments need to be made and communicated.
Depending on the finding of the assessment(s), some amendments might be indeed minor – such as providing more support or specific training for staff and team members. By contrast, at times, the initial goals or standards may have been too ambitious, meaning that leadership must subsequently revise their approach and create an alternative assurance plan (or adjust some of the methods of the existing program).
Advantages of Quality Assurance Program
Should your organization implement quality assurance systems, there are several advantages to doing so! Let’s discuss each of these in turn.
Enhanced Process Control
Firstly, by introducing quality assurance systems to every operational area – such as applying these systems to hiring and recruitment, the sales team, and the manufacturing process – your business will have far more control over every essential business process.
When businesses have more control over these vital procedures, they can direct an improvement in the products they sell to consumers and deal with customer concerns. However, enhanced management of these procedures also means that companies can reduce costs and create higher-quality products, thereby giving them a decisive advantage in the market.
Better Asset Management
Unsurprisingly, with a quality assurance system in place, asset management becomes much more straightforward. In addition, we have already mentioned that a quality assurance system saves time and money, enabling your organization to develop consistently high-quality products.
Moreover, a quality assurance system enables companies to follow better testing and compliance procedures. With better testing and compliance, businesses can improve the overall performance of company operations and the products they produce.
Fulfillment of Data Quality Objectives
Earlier, we mentioned data collection’s role in overall quality assurance. Of course, with a quality assurance system in place, data recording and its subsequent utilization can proceed quickly!
For all data users at the company, a quality assurance system enables users to collect and share data easily; this means it is easier to find ‘blind spots’ and potential areas for improvement. Furthermore, as we shall see shortly, the collection of important information pertaining to QA is made much easier with the assistance of a software solution.
Helps Prioritize Trust and Convey Integrity
Finally, it is obvious to consumers which businesses care about the consistent quality of their products; they also know which companies will offer them a better overall service and experience.
Of course, selling consistently high-quality products (or responding to consumer concerns promptly) is no small feat – it requires consistent effort and purpose. However, with quality assurance systems in place, it is easier to repeat these efforts. This also means that consumers will gravitate to your company due to the trust generated by producing consistently high-quality products.
For any quality assurance program to work to its maximum potential, data needs to be collected by the company. With this information collected, it is far easier for companies to understand which operational areas need improvement.
Collecting this vital information is far more straightforward with the assistance of a software solution. Should your business be interested in using such a solution, you should consult with the NonStop Group. The NonStop Group has a wealth of experience in helping clients establish dynamic data-sharing platforms (such as through the introduction of electronic forms) for diverse clients. In turn, this has allowed them to save time and money (while enabling them to understand their businesses even better). Should you want these results and more, contact the NonStop Group today!