Has Potential...but could do Better

In a previous blog post – No Phone Home, I talked about how I’d been without my mobile phone for two weeks after the screen got smashed. The day that post went live, I got my phone back, and life was good again.

It soon dawned on me, though, that something wasn’t quite right. One of the major selling points of Sony’s flagship phone (the Xperia Z1) is the 5” Triluminos ™ display, which gives “pictures on your camera phone that are razor sharp and incredibly bright”. This wasn’t quite the case with my newly repaired screen.

Text was now slightly blurred and hard to read. Colours that should have been vibrant were dull and lifeless. And everything seemed to have a slight yellow tint.

At first I thought it was just my perception, and that I’d somehow forgotten what the phone looked like while I was without it – but then I looked at the Sony website and realised I wasn’t making it up – the quality didn’t come anywhere close.

I sent it back.

All this got me thinking about how important quality is. Or, as Robert M. Pirsig refers to it, in ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, “Quality” with a capital Q – although his concepts of Dynamic and Static Quality are a little beyond the scope of this post.

Quality isn’t about just ticking a box on a progress sheet to show that you’ve given something a cursory glance. Quality is about user experience.

There is a tendency to assume that Quality is something that you pay extra for, but as Pirsig says, “Quality tends to fan out like waves. The Quality job he didn’t think anyone was going to see is seen, and the person who sees it feels a little better because of it, and is likely to pass that feeling on to others, and in that way the Quality tends to keep on going.”

Quality is about delivering that little bit extra. In the case of my phone, it may be that they tested that the phone switched on and the display lit up, but they didn’t actually check that the picture looked OK or that they’d calibrated it properly.

Now, I know from my own experience as a software developer that it’s extremely frustrating, when you think you’ve done a job, to have it come back. And as a customer, if I pay for a service or make a claim under warranty or insurance, I expect a certain level of quality. After all, no one wants to find a dead mouse in their morning slice of toast, a la Hovis….

Quality begets quality. Where a project involves several people along a critical path, bringing Quality to every role is crucial.

In terms of software development, effort in the early stages of discovery and scoping will pay dividends when the developer knows what to write and the testing department know exactly what to test for.

At the end of the project the customer should as a result get a robust system that does exactly what they asked for. There’s a balance to be had between doing things quickly and doing them well, and most importantly managing the customer’s expectations.

There’s also a big difference between Quality Control and Quality Assurance. The first one’s about product, the second is about process.

Quality Control is what you should expect as a customer – that everything about the product meets the specifications.

Quality Assurance is about taking a development process, and doing things in a certain way. Everything is looked at, and streamlined to give the customer confidence in their buying decision.

Our QA team have worked with our developers to create a suite of tools to allow us to integrate fully with the software build process, so we can continually test for bugs and have checks and balances at every stage. It’s a phenomenal process which we’re really proud of – Simon blogs about this in a bit more detail in ‘Automation: Not Just for a Parallel Universe’.

It also meant a great deal to the whole team at TSG to be recently accredited with the International Quality Management Standard ISO 9001:2008 – this is a recognition of the level of investment we’ve made across the whole of TSG in our infrastructure to make experiences great for our customers.

In an industry where there are so many companies offering such a wide variety of services, if we aspire to stand out from the crowd, then being known for Quality is an excellent goal to aim for.