Quality in business, professional engagement, software engineering and generic manufacturing has various different type of definition, depending on which framework, concept or guru who defines it. Generally it has an overarching definition of describing a product, goods or services as having a superior attribute that enlightens the user. In a more professional sense, it also means that the product fulfils its contractual obligation, some may call it fulfilling its fitness for purpose. It has to be clear that nothing is wrong as it all these different definition meant that the outcome or product is good. However, how quality is defined in the strategic organizational level and how it trickles down through the entire organization affects the employees and final outcome of the product greatly. It could form a DNA or culture of an organization. You can almost think of Apple and Samsung in terms of innovation because of how it identify or align itself with the quality strategy of the organization.
On another note, Quality is also about perception, it is not absolute but conditional and subjective because one person may be delighted while another disgusted with the exact product. It is different across different countries. For example, most would identify Sony (depending on when you were born!) as good quality and service, but we can’t deny that there are people who had bad experience with the product may say that it is lousy.
With the availability of Internet, communication and sharing in a global scale has caused competitiveness especially in terms of quality and price to an extremely competitive level. Products and services are opened to criticism (whether true or not, whether it affects one or many) and all this comparison are done side by side with the producers of products and services having no say in it. A bad product or services will no doubt open the producers to bad image and it could costs them a lot.
Producers on the other hand tries its best to conform to standards, requirement and specification that its product or services are originally designed or intended to be, but there is a very short ramp up time for learning and improvement. Software centric producers’ Call centers and support staff measure quality in terms of FURPS (an acronym representing a model for classifying software quality attributes (functional and non-functional requirements)):
Functionality – Consider Capability (Size & Generality of Feature Set), Reusability (Compatibility, Interoperability, Portability), Security (Safety & Exploitability)
Usability – Human Factors, Aesthetics, Consistency, Documentation, Responsiveness
Reliability – Consider Availability (Failure Frequency (Robustness/Durability/Resilience), Failure Extent & Time-Length (Recoverability/Survivability)), Predictability (Stability), Accuracy (Frequency/Severity of Error)
Performance – Consider Speed, Efficiency, Resource Consumption (power, ram, cache, etc), Throughput, Capacity, Scalability
Supportability (Serviceability, Maintainability, Sustainability, Repair Speed) – Testability, Flexibility (Modifiability, Configurability, Adaptability, Extensibility, Modularity), Installability, Localizability
So, if I were to simply give a definition of ‘quality’: the product or services’ ability to perform satisfactorily in service and is suitable for its intended purpose. You could find out more about a closely related topic, that is, Quality Assurance.
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