Quality Assurance is a much misunderstood term. Even in professional circles, it is generally incorrectly used.
The reason for using the term Quality Assurance (QA as it is more commonly known) incorrectly is down to people not really understanding what it means.
Quality Assurance is generally confused with other terms from the world of ensuring quality.
"We need to QA this product to see that it works as expected"
"If there are any faults with this product, they will come to light when we check it during QA"
Both sentences above use the term Quality Assurance incorrectly.
Quality Assurance is about process and those involved with the process. Process is about how something is done. A process is the steps involved in doing something.
There are so many processes involved in everyday life and it's these processes that can be improved using Quality Assurance.
Some common examples of everyday processes are:
- driving a car
- setting the video cassette recorder to record a program
- setting the microwave to cook.
When driving a car, the process to drive off involves:
1. starting the engine
2. pressing the clutch
3. putting the car into the correct gear
4. releasing the parking brake (handbrake)
5. letting the clutch out and pressing accelerator
These steps taken in the above order will lead to the car moving.
Do this process differently and the results may not allow the car to be driven. If the car is put in gear before using the clutch, then the car will stall. If the clutch is released and the accelerator pressed without starting the engine, the car isn't going to move.
The correct process order produces the correct result.
A baker needs to bake hundreds of cakes every day. The process involved for one of the cakes the baker produces is:
1. Get 100 grams of flour
2. Add 5 ounces of water
3. Add 3 egg whites
4. Mix together
5. Bake at 230 degrees for 33 minutes
Now if this process produced a cake that was very tasty then in a Quality Assurance perspective the process is assured. As long as this process is adhered to, tasty cakes will be made.
Repeating this process over and over again will produce consistently good tasty cakes.
If the process breaks down and the wrong measure of ingredients is used or the wrong cooking time is set, then the quality of cakes will not match the cakes produced which are consistent with the correct process.
A consistent proven process is essential for Quality Assurance.