Quality control and quality assurance are both important for the success of your business. As its name suggests, quality assurance, or QA, is designed to maintain a desired level of quality in a product or service. It also enables organizations to clearly formulate their goals, identify strengths and weaknesses in their work, evaluate their performance and take the steps needed to deliver better results. This practice can help you avoid costly mistakes and mitigate risks.

The Role of Quality Assurance

Any business, big or small, must follow specific procedures and ensure that its projects are managed effectively. Let's say you're planning to launch a new product. You can't simply create the product and put it on the store shelves.

First, it's important to make sure it meets certain quality standards and provides value to the end user. That's why you need a quality assurance plan, or QAP. Its role is to ensure that production quality meets customers' requirements and adheres to industry standards. At the same time, it helps minimize errors and identifies areas of improvement.

The QA planning process tackles every aspect of product or project development, from its overall performance to the maintenance of basic functions. Its structure depends on the organization's requirements. For example, startups or small companies can use a quality assurance plan to accelerate their growth and increase customer satisfaction.

A QAP document should include clear quality objectives, tasks and responsibilities for each team member, milestones, processes, project data assessment, validation and verification methods, response actions and more. The QA planning process will differ from one organization to the next. Follow these steps to create a quality assurance plan.

Define Quality Objectives

Start by defining the quality goals for your project. Describe each objective in measurable terms. Consider any relevant federal and state regulations that may apply. Write everything down in the QAP document.

Your objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable and time-bound. Use the SMART formula (specific, measurable, appropriate, realistic and timely) to clearly define your goals. Determine how many defects are acceptable and seek ways to remedy them in the longer term. Also, make sure your company's quality targets align with customers' expectations.

Assign Roles and Responsibilities

In general, large organizations have their own quality assurance teams. Small businesses, on the other hand, either outsource this task or assign specific roles and responsibilities to their employees.

If you're a startup or a small company, consider training your staff in quality assurance. Assign them specific tasks based on their skills. A good QA team will be able to detect and fix potential issues in early stages, prevent mistakes in manufactured products and help meet customers' demands.

As a manager, it's your responsibility to establish processes and rules for everyone to follow and to make sure the requirements for each project are clearly laid out. You also need to constantly encourage your team, monitor its performance and provide meaningful feedback. Consider different scenarios that may occur and determine a set of procedures to be implemented by each department.

Implement the Quality Assurance Plan

Decide which tools and resources will be needed through the QA planning process. Also, make sure your quality assurance plan is in accordance with the company's measurement plan, documentation plan, risk management plan and other supporting processes. Everyone in your organization should be on the same page.

The QAP document will provide clear guidelines on how to implement the QA planning process and will describe how it aligns with the company's mission. It should be easy to understand and cover each step of the process. Review it every few months and make any changes that may be needed. Include different types of control reviews, such as documentation reviews, deliverable reviews, peer reviews and more.

Measure the Results

Lastly, assess the progress and improvements brought on by the procedures and then adjust the quality assurance plan accordingly. Keep the initial goals in mind and determine whether or not these objectives have been met. Communicate the results to your team and reward their efforts. Update the QAP document with new guidelines and policies if necessary.

Preparing a quality assurance plan is a team effort. That's why it's important to get everyone involved. Every department in your organization, from marketing and sales to customer service, plays a role in this process. When done right, QA planning can save you time and money, increase customer trust and boost your company’s performance and efficiency.