Confused? Don’t Be! Quality Assurance, Control and Improvement Explained

DifferencesYou have a translation program and are beginning to think about how to systemically measure and control quality. As we’ve described in other blogs, quality management has to be an integral part of your localization program. You have to control your reviewers, define quality, and establish a feedback loop. There is lots of talk about quality…and there should be. Releasing a product with poor linguistic quality damages your brand, fails to convince potential buyers to commit, and increases customer support costs due to misunderstanding.

But do a search on “quality control” or “quality assurance” and you get different definitions. We need to get our terms straight. These phrases are often used interchangeably — both in the business world and in the sphere of translation. Then you have “quality improvement,” which is generally understood to comprise the bigger picture, but everyone’s understanding of this one also varies. Regardless, the goal of each one is to make sure your localized product is as good as it can or should be.

What Are the Differences?

We can start to clarify this in just a few words:

  • Quality Assurance (QA) is about fixing bugs in the product
  • Quality Control (QC) is about following processes to prevent bugs
  • Quality Improvement (QI) is about building and executing a quality program

Let’s put the characteristics of each side by side in this table to take a deeper look.

Quality AssuranceQuality ControlQuality Improvement
Just before release During projects Before, during and after — ongoing
Error correction Error prevention Error management
Enforce quality Maintain quality Define and manage quality
Execute a fix Execute a procedure;
operate within a system
Define the process; build a system

What Are the Similarities?

You may think QA, QC, and QI are more alike than different — well, they all have “quality” in there, right? We believe these quality phases are not redundant. Moreover, they have less value when implemented singly: they should be taken together to form a holistic language quality program.

QA, QC, and QI all:

  • Take steps towards a level of quality required for the business
  • Can occur at any phase of the product development
  • Allow quality to be categorized, measured, and achieved

How Does It All Tie Together?

Real life examples can often clarify any confusion about overlap.  

  • Quality Control One example of this is something we call a “fix it review.” A product manager would ask for this when he is ready to release a new FAQ tied to a product and needs to make sure the content reads well and is grammatically accurate. He wants one more check to catch any errors before it goes out the door.

  • Quality Assurance Continuous review is an example of QA. Many of our clients struggle with having their in-country partners perform reviews of translated material. Our clients need these reviews to happen on an ongoing basis, but their human resources don’t have the time or aren’t professional linguists. Moravia provides linguistic reviewer programs for several of our Fortune 100 clients: dedicated bilingual linguists continually provide review and feedback against defined quality metrics.

  • Quality Improvement You can’t improve quality unless you have an understanding of what your problems are and have those represented in a useful format. One activity that falls under quality improvement is creating a dashboard to show trends, numbers, and severity of errors across content types, products, languages, and vendors, so that solid business decisions can be made. Moravia creates “linguistic quality dashboards,” integrating various data sources to provide analytics sliced and diced in useful ways. Moravia has provided several clients with tailor-fit solutions that provide drill-down visibility and actionable business intelligence across its quality program.

 

Do you have your own thoughts on quality assurance vs. quality control? Share them in the comments section below!