The Process and Product Quality Assurance process area involves the following activities:
- Objectively evaluating performed processes and work products against applicable process descriptions, standards, and procedures
- Identifying and documenting noncompliance issues
- Providing feedback to work group staff and managers on the results of quality assurance activities
- Ensuring that noncompliance issues are addressed
The Process and Product Quality Assurance process area supports the delivery of high-quality products by providing work group staff and managers at all levels with appropriate visibility into, and feedback on, processes and associated work products throughout the work. The practices in the Process and Product Quality Assurance process area ensure that planned processes are implemented, while the practices in the Service System Development process area ensure that specified requirements are satisfied. These two process areas can on occasion address the same work product but from different perspectives. Work groups should take advantage of the overlap to minimize duplication of effort while taking care to maintain separate perspectives. Objectivity in process and product quality assurance evaluations is critical to the success of the work. (See the definition of “objectively evaluate” in the glossary.) Objectivity is achieved by both independence and the use of criteria. A combination of methods providing evaluations against criteria by those who do not produce the work product is often used. Less formal methods can be used to provide broad day-to-day coverage. More formal methods can be used periodically to assure objectivity.
Examples of ways to perform objective evaluations include the following:
- Formal audits by organizationally separate quality assurance organizations
- Peer reviews, which can be performed at various levels of formality
- In-depth review of work at the place it is performed (i.e., desk audits)
- Distributed review and comment of work products
- Process checks built into the processes such as a fail-safe for processes when they are done incorrectly (e.g., Poka-Yoke)
Traditionally, a quality assurance group that is independent of the work group provides objectivity. However, another approach may be appropriate in some organizations to implement the process and product quality assurance role without that kind of independence.
For example, in an organization with an open, quality oriented culture, the process and product quality assurance role can be performed, partially or completely, by peers and the quality assurance function can be embedded in the process. For small organizations, this embedded approach might be the most feasible approach.
If quality assurance is embedded in the process, several issues should be addressed to ensure objectivity. Everyone performing quality assurance activities should be trained in quality assurance. Those who perform quality assurance activities for a work product should be separate from those who are directly involved in developing or maintaining the work product. An independent reporting channel to the appropriate level of organizational management should be available so that noncompliance issues can be escalated as necessary.
For example, when implementing peer reviews as an objective evaluation method, the following issues should be addressed:
- Members are trained and roles are assigned for people attending the peer reviews.
- A member of the peer review who did not produce this work product is assigned to perform the quality assurance role.
- Checklists based on process descriptions, standards, and procedures are available to support the quality assurance activity.
- Noncompliance issues are recorded as part of the peer review report and are tracked and escalated outside the work group when necessary.
Quality assurance should begin in the early phases of work to establish plans, processes, standards, and procedures that will add value to the work and satisfy the requirements of the work and organizational policies. Those who perform quality assurance activities participate in establishing plans, processes, standards, and procedures to ensure that they fit work group needs and that they will be usable for performing quality assurance evaluations. In addition, processes and associated work products to be evaluated during the work are designated. This designation can be based on sampling or on objective criteria that are consistent with organizational policies, work requirements, and work group needs. When noncompliance issues are identified, they are first addressed in the work group and resolved there if possible. Noncompliance issues that cannot be resolved in the work group are escalated to an appropriate level of management for resolution. This process area applies to evaluations of work group activities and work products, and to organizational (e.g., process group, organizational training) activities and work products. For organizational activities and work products, the term “work group” should be appropriately interpreted.