High-Value IT Consulting: 12 Keys to a Thriving Practice
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Apply for external certification Continue to recertify on an annual basis Communicate regularly to all employees, explaining the potential benefits of ISO certification The costs for attaining and keeping certification can be calculated by adding up the individual amounts in several categories The first of these includes the capital costs for maintaining documentation and disseminating the process to employees This cost is variable and can be reduced by relying on a manual process that involves storing documentation in filing cabinets or cardboard boxes, instead of building an electronic storage system on top of an intranet, Lotus Notes, or some other development tool The next cost category to consider is also the least flexible This involves assigning an individual resource, generally on a full-time basis, to maintain the system, train employees in the use of the quality process, collect customer feedback, and coordinate interaction with external certification organizations The last cost category includes the actual cost of certification and supporting an annual external audit ISO certification is effective for a period of up to three years Like most other processes, ISO certification has its own potential pitfalls and traps These are what generate the extensive public pro and con debate For example, one potential pitfall is that the ISO process does not guarantee quality in services or products, but rather that a documented process was followed This means that inefficient or impractical processes could be documented in the first place and then followed diligently by the organization as part of their quality process Another pitfall is the expense associated with generating too much documentation and too many processes, compared to the actual business of the organization
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An organization might opt to produce a proprietary QA process using the components discussed earlier Figure 15-4 provides the major touch-points of a QA process that some organizations have adopted The essential elements of this approach include the following:
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A quality assurance team of three to five individuals is established to build a QA handbook A quality assurance manager reports quality issues to a chief executive sponsoring the program Engagement managers must use the QA handbook to explain quality expectations to their teams The engagement manager must ensure compliance with the QA handbook The QA manager routinely audits engagements to gauge compliance with the QA handbook The QA handbook is kept up-to-date by the quality assurance team
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Figure 15-4 shows that a quality plan and an engagement plan both need to exist These could be in the same physical format, but from a logical perspective, quality activities can be highlighted for clients and the teams in order to demonstrate how quality is going to be ensured throughout the engagement At the beginning of every engagement, a quality plan should identify key points in the lifecycle where the following events will occur: Sign-off process Specification of which deliverables will be reviewed, for how long, and who will sign off on them from the client side Deliverable walkthroughs Identification of the deliverables that need to be produced and specific points in the engagement lifecycle where they will be reviewed by the QA team Testing Involvement of the QA team and the testing team in building the test cases for ultimate acceptance of the solution being built Roles and responsibilities Identification of the roles, responsibilities, and the people involved in QA for the engagement
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High-Value IT Consulting: 12 Keys to a Thriving Practice
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Sample QA process
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Several tools have a mandatory role in implementing an effective QA program These are examined here Process Definition The QA handbook contains the process definition for the organization to assure quality The most up-to-date version of this handbook must be available electronically or in hard copy From an electronic perspective, an intranet or web site is useful for allowing access to all consultants wherever they are working in the world Hard copies offer a good backup approach, but they are difficult to maintain in the most recent version Information/Data Repository This is a vital tool for the QA process By specifying a data repository for all engagement deliverables, you automatically create accountability and an audit trail Documentation should be maintained for every client The collection process should begin at the pursuit level At this time, a directory structure can be created on a network or mapped to an intranet with a graphical metaphor (such as a notebook table of contents) Such a structure could consist of the following sections: