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Software Quality Management: A Guide for Development Leaders
Published:Jul 12, 2023

Software Quality Management: A Guide for Development Leaders

Today, your digitally-native competitors are enjoying the lowest barrier to entry that’s ever existed. 

On top of that, the pandemic-accelerated shift to fully digital experiences set a very high bar for software to deliver supremely quick, accurate, and convenient interactions. 

What’s all that have to do with you? 

It means the software you’re in charge of creating and maintaining, as a development team leader, has to operate at an unprecedented level of quality. You already work hard to deliver superior software projects. But honing those strategies with the right tools can take your team — and your products — to the next level. 

In this article, we’ll help you level up by learning the phases of software quality management, the benefits of following this management style, and tips for getting even better at it. 

Getting to Know Software Quality Management 

“Quality” is an admittedly vague term. 

If you go by Merriam-Webster, one way you can think of quality is representative of excellence and superiority. 

In the software space, you might think of quality products as those that meet the initial requirements.

If we combine both ideas, software quality means products that fulfill business requirements, meet compliance specs, provide an excellent user experience, and do it all without bugs or defects. 

Software quality management (SQM) is the comprehensive process of making sure software meets the above quality standard and aligns with business needs by being delivered on time, within budget, and in a way that creates infinite maintainability.

The Stages of Software Quality Management 

Quality doesn’t just happen — the development team manager has to plan for it and build it into the product and processes.

So before we dive into SQM benefits and improvement tactics, let’s walk through the main stages of software quality management you can enact throughout the development process to bake premier functionality right in.

Software Quality Management Stages

Quality Assurance

Software quality assurance — QA for short — is the process of building an entire environment that ensures software products being created meet your quality criteria.

At its core, QA focuses on implementing well-defined, high-level standard procedures and methodologies. It doesn’t just govern a specific project. QA should set the tone for development culture at your company.

QA happens proactively, before and throughout the software planning phase. This is when the team leader creates a set of resources meant to guide all software development and maintenance.

This “playbook” of sorts should include: 

  • An outline of the development methodologies and procedures that will be used 
  • A plan for quality audits throughout the development phases
  • Documentation on process standards
  • Process checklists that ensure the team follows procedures for quality outcomes 

Quality Planning

The QA step is all about setting overarching standards. Quality planning, on the other hand, focuses on project management — that is, putting a unique plan in place for the specific project at hand. 

During the software planning phase, leadership will create a quality plan that takes the standards set above and documents them in a way that’s applicable to the current build. Included in this plan are also the details surrounding the next phase — quality control.

The quality plan developed here will outline what quality control actions to execute, when, by whom, which techniques they should use, and which resources (training, tooling, documentation, etc.) they might need to get it done. 

This step really drives home how a software quality management system ensures and improves the software production process and outcomes.

Quality Control

The quality control stage revolves around carrying out activities that guide software development according to your quality standards.

In other words, it’s all about finding and fixing bugs.

At this point, the people you’ve appointed as testers — quality engineers, quality assurance professionals, etc. — conduct a variety of tests to check for breakdowns in usability, customer experience, and even regulatory compliance. They raise any issues they find with the software engineering team, the team fixes the bugs, and the quality engineers test again.

This is a more reactive, corrective step in the software quality management process because it has to happen after at least some software development is complete. It should take place in the software development phase, and we’d also recommend spanning it into your maintenance phase if you want to make sure you’re establishing a track record of quality. 

Quality Improvement

Last (but of course not least) is the quality improvement step. 

This step, which happens when you’re maintaining the software you’ve launched, calls for introspection. This is when tech team leads should look back at the quality standards set, processes used, and feedback collected to see if and where there’s any room to make things more efficient and effective. 

It can be tempting to skip this stage, but don’t. At least don’t skip it if you’re committed to continuous improvement of your product quality and company reputation over time. 

6 Reasons to Prioritize Software Quality Management  

If your team doesn’t already have a software quality management procedure in place, you definitely want to get that going. Here are the main benefits to building out a better quality assurance process. 

Improve End-User Experiences 

Great development team leaders don’t just care about the software — they care deeply about end-users. 

Deliver the value those users want by building high-quality processes that lead to high-quality software. 
Quality software is more likely to create an experience customers love. And that’s critical to your success. Because nearly 90% of customers find the experience just as important as the product or service they receive from a business.

Majority of Customers Rank Experience as Important as Product/Service

Grow Software Retention

Where else can great customer satisfaction lead?

To customer loyalty

And loyalty isn’t simply nice to have. Retention among your software users continues to become more and more valuable as customer acquisition costs continue to rise

Boost Stakeholder and Employee Morale 

High-quality software is predictable in both its actions and results.

Predictable products delivered in a timely manner within the expected budget instill a sense of reliability. And reliability is something stakeholders and company employees both treasure and trust in. 

Prevent Compliance Concerns 

Companies are required to abide by all kinds of legal regulations related to the performance, quality, and safety of their products. And these regulations frequently change with time, location, and the locale of different users. 

Compliance is more likely with the help of a good software quality management plan that accounts for legal compatibility before building even begins. 

Cut Costly Rework 

Rework is one of the biggest thieves of budget, time, and employee morale when it comes to software products. 

When you’ve carefully planned each key development step using all the checks and balances that come from SQM, it’s less likely rework will creep in because you minimize mistakes.

Lessen Defects and Risks

The steps of software quality management don’t just catch inefficiencies and legal snafus. They can also reveal any red flags that could lead to security risks and defects that might interrupt consumer experiences (and send them running to your competitors).

Instead of depending exclusively on a software testing process that takes place at the very end of the software development lifecycle, SQM stresses proactive fault discovery and risk management, so you catch problems early and take action to avoid them — lessening the occurrence, impact, and rework that results from defects and security threats.

4 Tactics to Instill and Upgrade Software Quality Management

Ready to pursue software quality management in earnest — or just beef up your processes now that you have a better idea of the game-changing upsides? 

Perfect, because we’re going to end with several tactics for creating or boosting an SQM program that works. 

Apply Better Data in the Planning Process

The quality of software is inextricably linked to the planning process.

So what can dev team leads do to really level up the way you plan a project — without shelling out more time and resources? 

You can revolutionize a key element of planning: tracking and analyzing development time

Think about it: Some teams always seem to be rushing to finish sprints, close out tickets, and resolve bugs. Those teams don’t have the luxury of focusing on quality. But why the rush? The root cause is poor plans built on bad data about how long quality attributes and experiences take to build, test, and improve.

7pace solves this problem by making time tracking effortless and seamless for software teams.

In turn, time management and analyzing time becomes a tool instead of a chore.

Team managers can better understand scope, right-size the user stories, and keep driving toward efficiency without ever losing sight of quality. 

Always Be Iterating 

It sounds so simple, but it’s so often overlooked — to make software quality management as impactful as possible, use it to make ongoing product and process improvements. 

When you pursue a cycle of continuous refinement, you can enjoy the benefits of early problem detection, helpful continual feedback, fluid communication between product and go-to-market teams, faster time to market, and a brand and product known for reliable quality. 

How does a team — or an entire organization — make the jump from the perceived safety of “finished” projects and into the world of never-ending change? 

It can be helpful to adopt a system that already has iteration at its core — Agile product development. 

Go Agile 

Finding and preventing flaws as early as possible is the core goal of any software quality management procedure.

As we’ve touched on, the later a defect is discovered in the software development process, the more expensive it is to fix.

With a more traditional waterfall approach, performance testing doesn’t take place until later in the workflow. But with Agile development, testing happens earlier and more often — sometimes even in every sprint! And, having a testing strategy for quality is integral to Agile development beliefs, so it’s never downplayed in an effort to cut spending or time. 

When you go Agile, you take another step toward a culture where quality is less of an afterthought and built right into your every step. 

And, as we’re about to drive home, how your culture prioritizes quality is key. 

Make Quality Cultural

The routine of reviewing products and procedures and acting on feedback that software quality management requires opens doors for other departments to do the same — creating an environment that prioritizes quality.

This is how, across both your development team and your organization as a whole, SQM promotes a culture of meeting and exceeding requirements and expectations. 

When value becomes foundational to your organization, you’ll see a shift toward hiring, upskilling, management, and operations practices that focus on reaching product and process quality maturity. 

Put In the Work

A lot of organizations already follow some elements of software quality management. This is a major upside of tackling this development management style — much of it feels natural and familiar. 

But the pivotal change and benefits only come when development leaders make a concerted effort to string together the four stages of modern software quality management, and apply some tricks and tools to magnify their efforts. 

Time tracking (and the data it provides) can help. See for yourself!

Free eBook

Rethinking Timekeeping for Developers:

Turning a Timesuck Into Time Well Spent

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