Quality vs. Grade

Quality and grade are two terms that can often be confused with one another. What is high quality vs high grade? Are they synonymous? No. This post will dive into the differences between the two terms and how they apply to your deliverables.

I’ve often had the discussions with colleagues about what defines a “high quality” deliverable. Is it a piece of software that does everything you ask and more? Is it coming in under budget and ahead of schedule? It’s important to discuss with your project stakeholders what truly defines “quality” in your project and make sure that you are all understanding the difference between quality and grade.

Quality is the measurement by which your deliverable satisfies the requirements. If something is of high quality, it means that it has met the expectations of the recipient. For example, if you commit to building a piece of software to perform a complex calculation based on a series of inputs and your software produces the correct result, in the expected time frame, with the appropriate error handling, etc. (basically everything that your customer had asked for and expected), then you have produced a high-quality deliverable.

Grade is something that often gets replaced with the word “quality”. When someone says “high quality”, they can sometimes mean that something is of a better design, construction or robustness. This is really the definition of “grade”. When you go to the grocery store, you don’t see AAA-quality steaks, you see AAA-grade steaks. This means that the raw material, the design, the construction and many other aspects of the deliverable are of a better class.

In the world of software, a higher “grade” of deliverable would mean that likely much more work has gone into the design of it, perhaps using more enterprise-level tools for the construction and deployment of the solution. Example, a higher “grade” solution would perhaps make use of a SQL Server database rather than a lower grade database solution using MS Access. By building a higher “grade” of software, perhaps you are including more robust error handling or ensuring that the design is scalable to be able to incorporate future enhancements – something a lower “grade” of software may not have.

Grade of a deliverable is determined by the requirements that are defined by your project stakeholders. Quality is the measure by which what you deliver meets those stated requirements.

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