Quality Assurance Model

24 Feb

(McCarthy, Murphy, Ní Ghaora, Oppermann)

Objective:

Our aim was to create a pre-implementation model to enable the identification of the quality attributes required by an organisation therefore ensuring the success of the Information System. The correct identification of the elements which align best with the business needs of the organisation is in our view the first step in determining the scope of the project that the management team has been tasked with. A clear vision of the areas of the Information System which are to be developed to deliver high quality to the organisation is imperative from the beginning of the project.

Our concept has been developed on the premise that there is a need for organisations to isolate the attributes that will deliver high quality to their firm and remain resource savvy in the pursuit of the ideal Information System.[1]

Our model will provide potential customers with specific categories of quality and associated attributes which they must focus on to ensure Information System quality.  We propose the ‘Quality Assurance Model’, we feel it fully encompasses the three main categories of IS quality and their underlying attributes.

The three main categories being;

1)      Service Quality

2)      System Quality

3)      Information Quality

These three categories are widely accepted as the main contributing factors of IS quality.[2]

 

Quality Assurance Model

1

We feel if companies use our model in the implementation and planning stage of the Information System then they can ensure that the system they intend to implement will provide high quality outputs in the areas which they have identified as essential to their organisation. We also propose a tool which a management team can use to consult & reach consensus on the areas of the Information System which must be focussed on to ensure the delivery of high quality, we call it the ‘100 Point System’. This model will be discussed in detail further on in this paper.

However we would first like to outline the attributes and categories of our ‘Quality Assurance Model’, why we chose them and why we feel they are of importance in relation to an information systems quality.

User Interface:

  • User Perspective – This ensures that you design your system with the end user in mind throughout the whole development process. Without thinking of the eventual end of day users then the design may be completed with fundamental flaws and require expensive re-designs, e.g. the Sony ‘Boomerang’ [3] 

Usability:

While service quality is a broad term, it is stated in Pitt et al. 1997 that “commonly used measures of IS effectiveness focus on the products rather than the services of the IS function. Thus, there is a danger that IS researchers will mismeasure IS effectiveness if they do not include in their assessment package a measure of IS service quality”. This highlights the importance of usability and the other dimensions of it which are shown in the framework.

Whether the end user is a customer or employee, usability will play a role in the quality of an IS. In the paper “Framework for Quality Metrics in Mobile-Wireless Information Systems” by Ruti Gafni, he highlights usability as a “quality quantification of an IS”.

According to ISO/IEC 9126-1, 2001, an information security standard and best practices publication, usability can be broken further down to the following four dimensions;

  • Understandability – How simple a system is to understand is without doubt a huge aspect of its ease of use. This paper is entirely devoted to measuring understandability and highlights the importance of this dimension of usability.[4]
  • Learnability – is defined as how easy it is for a user to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design. If a system is easy to learn then it is very likely that a user will use it again.
  • Operability – Is the capability of the software component to enable the user (system developer) to operate and control it.
  • Attractiveness – The capability of the system to be attractive to the user [5]

System Design:

The way in which your system is designed may well be its competitive advantage. Design has become a central core competency to a great deal of S&P 500 companies;

“Anybody now can turn out any product, what will differentiate is that unique design flare that’s built into a product, that’s what creates the value.”  (David Frost, British Chamber of Commerce)

£20 billion is spent a year in the UK on design, leading the UK to the forefront of most design frontiers, design is also the largest single source of intangible investment in the UK. [6]

  • Future Proof – When ensuring the quality of your system it is important to plan ahead, create a system can be updated a new technology becomes available, e.g. future proof your system. These might include Distributed Systems, Multimedia Interfaces, Advanced Operating Systems and Human Computer Interface (HCI) Development Environment’s.[7]
  • Technology Optimisation – Your system is limited by the technology of the day, your design should maximise the current technology for the best quality and performance. [8]
  • Design Cycle – The design cycle ensures your system is evolutionary, it engages in design, prototyping and evaluating. Undergoing this process allows it to guarantee quality and maintain a good relationship with their users. [9]

Security:

Information Systems are inherently vulnerable and the information assets which it contains must be protected. This is true of all organisations however it may be that it is of more concern to certain industries, which is an issue for each individual organisation to ascertain. The main aspects which must be considered are the importance of the data which they hold and the implications if this data was to be released or was accessible to those without permission or authority and the potential damage to the business reputation if this data was to be hacked.

There are three elements which must be considered when considering the levels of security required from the Information System:

  • Confidentiality – Managers must insure that information is shared only with authorised personnel within the organisation. The encryption of data is a method of ensuring data cannot be accessed by unauthorised users.
  • Integrity – This involves ensuring that the data is accurate and has not been changed inappropriately to give misleading or false information.
  • Availability – This means that the information system responsible for delivering, processing and storing the information is available when needed. This can refer to the downtime of a system, and its percentage of downtime per year is a good indicator on how available that system is.[10]

Database:

As discussed in the team’s blogs, the importance of databases cannot be understated. It is impossible to evaluate the quality of an IS without looking at its database. What is more, when deciding what you want from your database, it is essential to realise that trade-offs must be made.

2

This further supports our quality assurance models principle, that frameworks being used to implement Information Systems can be too broad and that individual firms must decide their own needs. Here are elements of the database which we feel are most important;

  • Data Accuracy – Dallas Dogger, CEO of Storman Software says; “when other members of the operation rely on management data to make decisions for the business, it’s crucial to be consistent and accurate”. This video highlights the problems poor data accuracy can cause. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4gj_RdtKCw
  • Data Completeness – Is the extent to which the expected attributes of data are provided, for e.g. a customer field would not provide the end user with sufficient data if it did not have complete info about the customer including contact number and name etc.
  • Data Format – Data must be structured for consistency as well as performance, so data format can have a huge bearing on this.
  • Database Performance – The overall function of a database is to satisfy the end user. Database performance can be defined in different ways, depending on the end user and the data at hand, as well as the goals. Response time is a factor, as well as capacity and scalability. (via Girtab)

Databases can be built in several different structures, each of which will satisfy the end user in different ways. Databases can be indexed differently, and several different schemas exist. This can affect the end users experience, and therefore the quality.

100 Point System:

To ensure the Quality of an Information System we propose a points system.

A management team is presented with an allocation of 100 maximum points, these points can be invested into the subcategories which they highlight as representative of the areas which require most investment to provide them with a high quality IS.

The system works by assigning values to our IS Quality hierarchy as seen above.  For this model prototype we have chosen 100 points as the total which the company can spend on its quality assurance information system. These 100 points may be divided amongst the different sub categories and attributes allowing them to be customisable to the client’s needs. Each of our five subcategories is assigned 20 points by default. These 20 points is divided between the underlying attributes. The company may for example require less an emphasis on the user design perspective and reduce its 20 points to 5.  In this instance they have identified that this aspect of the IS less significant to the company and now have an additional 15 points in their ‘Available Points’ to spend on other factors  which they deem have greater importance e.g. Security.

So as an example, Bank of Ireland may place less importance on how their online banking system looks, but still want to ensure a basic quality, in this scenario they can use the Quality Assurance Model to rank the required quality output using the 100 points system. As shown above they may reduce the importance of the design features to use their ‘Available’ points to spend on performance or online security.

Here is an example of the ‘100 Point System’ in default with an even spread of points

3 

Here is an example of the 100 Point System being used by a Financial Services Business

4

You can see that the bank has only used 77 points of their allotted 100, therefore they have 23 points left to use in the Information Quality category. It is clear immediately that the bank has placed more of an importance on its security needs compared to its user design.

We would recommend a questionnaire to be completed by department heads to enable them to establish the level of importance of & therefore the quality required from each subcategory, e.g. a bank and its’ security requirements.

The questionnaire may contain questions like;

1)      How significant out of 10 is user interaction with your system?

2)      How significant out of 10 is security to your system?

3)      How significant out of 10 is database performance to your system?

4)      How significant out of 10 is it that your system is future proofed?

The questionnaire however may be an idea for further research.

Summary:

We developed this framework as a tool to be used by management teams, the aim of this hierarchy model & the ‘100 Point System’ is to encourage management to focus on the areas of the Information System which are most important to the organisation. We believe by visualising & identifying these elements of the Information System which they deem to be the most important to their organisation will ensure high quality deliverance from the system.

The concept for this model was developed based on our belief that the high failure rate of Information Systems is due to the attempts to achieve high quality in all areas of an Information System and the misuse of the organisations resources in these attempts. A misalignment of the vision for the Information System & the business needs creates frustration for the users and in many cases leads to its failure. One example of the catastrophic failure of an IS due to the lack of a coherent vision & the incorrect allocation of resources is the Student Universal Support Ireland(SUSI) [11]

We believe this framework provides management with a tool to create a vision of the high quality system they want but also a system that is realistically aligned with their business needs.

 


1https://sopinion8ed.wordpress.com/2013/02/10/context-is-king/

2 http://www.asiaa.sinica.edu.tw/~ccchiang/GILIS/LIS/p9-Delone.pdf

[5] Source: Usability metrics for software components – Manuel F. Bertoa and Antonio Vallecillo

[6] https://sopinion8ed.wordpress.com/2013/02/10/information-systems-quality-design-3

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