In simple terms, when all the requirements in the project are entirely met; the quality is said to be maintained. Conformance to requirements laid out by the customer initially guarantees satisfaction. While customers are external stakeholders, internal stakeholder expectations should also be managed. Internal stakeholders are usually the project team, business heads, etc.
There are three key aspects to quality as per PMP® certification norms: Quality Planning, Quality Assurance, Quality Control.
Why is Quality Important? How to “Plan” for Quality?
Quality Management is planned into a project at the inception stage. This is because it is better to prevent mistakes earlier by implementing quality control rather than spot a mistake and carry out corrective measures. Quality planning is a cost-effective measure as opposed to a rework. To plan for quality, a cost/benefit analysis usually works well. A project manager may also benchmark a project’s quality with other projects or industry standards. Design of Experiments is a method used to identify which variables in the project are likely to cause unacceptable results.
Another simple approach is to prepare a checklist that can ensure that a task has been completed correctly. While conformance to requirements satisfies customers, project managers can also develop metrics to show that their project has contributed effectively to the business.
These could be metrics like repeat business/increased sales, due to the quality maintained in all earlier projects.
How do you “Assure” Quality?
Quality assurance is about executing the quality planning methods charted out earlier. In many organizations, there is a separate QA team who have an iron-hand over the project’s quality and scrutinize all aspects of the project to the last detail. This is done through Quality Audits. The PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) is a guide for the Project Management Professional course. It defines Quality Assurance as the process of auditing quality requirements and quality-control measures. It thereby facilitates continuous improvement of processes and deliverables.
The quality management plan is a subset of the Project Management Plan. This is the key document used by the QA team. This document details the quality standards of the projects, pass/fail criteria, and test methods to be adopted. Quality audits are essentially investigations into the project, that help check all the measures mentioned in the quality management plan.
When the audit identifies issues, there is a change request made, and the project plan is usually updated.
What is Quality “Control”?Is it different from “Assurance”?
Quality control refers to the process of monitoring the results of the projects and verifying if they comply with the prescribed quality standards. There can be a specific quality control team, or the project management team may perform this activity. Whoever performs this activity should be well acquainted with the metrics associated with quality control. Working knowledge of all the statistical tools used to interpret the metrics is a must. In the Quality Assurance stage, the standards and metrics required to measure quality are drawn out. In the control stage, they are measured, and the root cause for variation is analyzed.
Tools and Techniques for Quality Control
The tools and techniques to be used for quality control are the following:
Inspection- This refers to the process of measuring the output or deliverables and verifying if they conform to the requirements. This can be done through reviews, walk-throughs, and audits.
Control Charts- Control charts are graphic displays of the results of the project over a period of time. They are usually used to track repeat variables over a period of time. This measures if the variable is in “control” or outside the range. Factors like cost and schedule variance are usually measured. If a factor goes out of control, the causes must be identified. Subsequently, corrective measures should be taken.
Pareto Diagrams- This is a histogram that helps plots the defects, the identified causes, and the frequency by cause. A pictorial representation of these factors helps identify the root cause more easily. This diagram works on the principle that the majority of the defects are caused by the most minor issues.
Statistical Sampling- It is not cost-effective to measure all the deliverables and tasks individually. In such a case, a sample should be measured. Techniques to choose the sample should be based on the uniqueness of the sample and the importance of the sample to the project on the whole.
Flow chart- A step-by-step, sequencing and analysis of the process flow usually helps in root-cause analysis and identifying issues better.