How to Set Quality Goals for Your IT Projects

We know the dot-com phenomenon (and bust) was driven, in part, by poor software and systems quality-so why are organizations still managing quality like it's 1999? There are key quality objectives every organization should have for their software and systems, and to run projects effectively. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Rex Black offers steps on how to remove bugs before delivering software into the data center, how to test for the right problems with the right metrics, and how to optimize quality from a financial point of view.


We're all fascinated by Web 2.0 now, but remember Web 1.0, the dot-com boom that became dot-bomb? One major reason for the crash was poor software and systems quality-both for the Websites themselves and the hardware and software behind them. While Web 2.0 has a lot more speed and sizzle than Web 1.0 ever did, many organizations still manage quality like it's 1999-relying on gut feel and good luck when making go-live decisions. Is this any way to run a serious business?

Businesses need to define their quality objectives, along with metrics and goals for those metrics. Having quality goals allows serious organizations to effectively and quantitatively manage projects and quality. In this article, I'll discuss why organizations sometimes overlook this important program, and show you the steps to develop useful, measurable quality goals.

Serious IT professionals use techniques such as budgets, schedules and configuration management to manage all significant IT projects. Cost, schedule and features are all important elements of a project and deserve careful objective management. But some people subjectively manage the fourth important element of a successful project: quality. Perhaps they believe that quality is an intangible that defies quantitative management.

On the contrary, you can successfully manage quality using smart metrics derived from specific business objectives. While objectives vary, let's use three typical objectives for quality to illustrate how to set quality goals for your IT project.

1. Remove most of the bugs before delivering software into the data center.

2. Test for the right problems to remove the important bugs.

3. Optimize quality from a financial point of view.

For each of these objectives, derive a question related to our effectiveness for that objective:

1. What percentage of the bugs do we find and remove?

2. Do we find and remove a higher percentage of the important bugs?

3. What is our cost per bug found and removed prior to release compared to the cost of a failure in production?