Quality assurance management no longer needs to convince the C-suite of its contribution to the bottom line, says Lusi Zheng, senior director of quality assurance, with Gartner.
Zheng cites three important trends in quality assurance: digital capabilities, operational transformation and public value shifts. Each one entails more pervasive digital capabilities, data analytics and “hyper automation.”
Operational transformation within this ecosystem becomes an essential point of focus. When it comes to public value specifically, “customers are expecting multiple dimensions of quality in their products. We have the social responsibility piece — still high quality, but lower cost. It's really tough to balance for someone in a quality role.”
These three themes transcend industry, but some verticals such as the food industry are impacted more than others due to regulatory complexity.
Zheng sees quality management shifting in four ways. First, it’s becoming more predictive. Second, it’s becoming more connected. “We're thinking about an ecosystem now,” she says. “It's not this value chain but a web of suppliers and partners that we're dealing with.”
Next is the growing flexibility of quality management. “There's a lot of tension between quality and costs, quality and speed,” Zheng says. “That's creating issues within organizations.” Finally, she says, “We see quality becoming more democratized across the business, both in terms of responsibilities and skill sets.”
As to the technology investment that’s needed now, “There are two angles to it,” she says. “One is technology helping with automating manual tasks — things around pulling data with dashboards and spitting it out. The other piece is actually helping augment our judgment. Especially as we democratize quality, people further down the chain will have to make decisions regarding quality, and you want technology or artificial intelligence to nudge them and say, ‘You need to go further in that particular quality test.’”
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