1540.0 - Quality Management of Statistical Processes Using Quality Gates, Dec 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/12/2010  First Issue
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The ABS is in the process of implementing quality gates throughout their collection processes. Although formal quality gates have not yet been implemented in all ABS processes, they are all quality assured with quality gates being a formalisation of the checks that are already undertaken by areas. However, early implementers of quality gates within the ABS have identified issues that should be considered when developing quality gates. The issues that have been identified for consideration are:

  • Dedicated resources for the review and development of quality gates;
  • Limiting the number of quality gates;
  • Eliminating duplication of gates;
  • Quality measures should be mutually exclusive;
  • Consultation with stakeholders; and
  • Placement of quality gates at critical control points.

Dedicated resources for the review and development of quality gates

It is important that adequate resources are dedicated to the development and subsequent evaluation process of quality gates. Having adequate resources to undertake this work is key to developing the quality gates as a considerable amount of effort is required to identify the risks and subsequent components of quality gates upon initial development. It is useful to consult with all stakeholders in the development phase of the quality gate to ensure that all avenues of quality at a particular point in time in a process are covered.

Limiting the number of quality gates

It is important to limit the number of quality gates that are to be implemented within a process. "The introduction of too many gates, or gates at inappropriate junctures will only serve to slow the process down and may ultimately devalue all quality gates" (Schubert et al. 2007). The time taken to complete an evaluation of a quality gate varies depending on the number and complexity of the quality measures contained within the gate. In general, a process with five quality gates requires less resources to complete the evaluation than a process with ten gates. It was found that many of the quality gates that are proposed in an initial consultation can be amalgamated into a few quality gates after realising that the identified risks are quality measures rather than themselves quality gates. Thus, decreasing the number of quality gates needed in the process.

Eliminating duplication of gates

Separate quality gates should not be created for each stakeholder type as it increases administrative burden. For example, where data is handed over from one area to another in the statistical process cycle the same quality gate should be used for each stakeholder. Each stakeholder would be assigned their roles in regards to the quality measures and delivery of information for that quality gate that they need to provide. This eliminates any potential duplication of effort because each stakeholder is aware of other stakeholder requirements for the quality gate. Furthermore, quality gates can be used for more than one particular process. It may be possible to create standard quality gates that can be used across all processes with only minor adjustments of some of the components (e.g. tolerance levels).

Quality measures should be mutually exclusive

It is important to make sure that each quality measure within a quality gate is independent of each other, that is, mutually exclusive. If quality measures are dependent on one another then the failure of one quality measure will automatically affect the success of the dependent quality measure. It is important to have quality measures that are mutually exclusive to eliminate the duplication of work as well as having quality measures that are each effective in identifying if there are problems with the processes. There may be certain types of manipulations that occur to the data during the process that require quality measures to be repeated in subsequent quality gates. This might be due to changes to data that may alter a quality measure's status from that of a green light to that of a red. In these cases it is important to repeat the use of quality measures in subsequent quality gates to ensure the quality of the process.

Consultation with all stakeholders

Quality gate stakeholders will vary from one gate to another. It is important to ensure that all relevant stakeholders to a quality gate are consulted with to ensure that the best quality gate is developed for monitoring purposes. These stakeholders may include staff working on a particular aspect of the process, managers of the process and other clients. Involvement of stakeholders should occur from the initial development of the quality gate. A workshop with the relevant stakeholders to flesh out the requirements of the quality gate is recommended initially with follow up meetings as required. These subsequent meetings can be either with individual areas or collectively during the development of the quality gate.

Placement of quality gates at critical control points

"Quality gates should be located at points in time when critical decisions need to be made in order to advance the project" (McKinsey & Company). The purpose of quality gates is to ensure that all required material is available before a process can continue, which emphasises the importance of placing the gates at key strategic points to aid in the identification of issues. Although some criteria may not adversely impact the final output, they do affect the overall quality of the end product. If quality gates are not placed at these key strategic points the issue may not be evident until the process is too advanced for problems to be fixed.