Good project quality management techniques are important to ensure that a project delivers and end results meet or exceed the customer’s expectations. It is important to monitor the project continuously to prevent errors and misinterpretations. “Quality” refers to the ability of a process, or product to satisfy both stated and implied needs, with these needs being defined by the stakeholders.
Having a project quality plan will help determine which quality standards are important to the project. It will also help to ensure that the factors and activities that are required by the stakeholders are included, while unnecessary activities are removed. It is also important to remember that quality is an ongoing process. By refining and improving processes, the end result is continually improved until the level of quality desired is achieved
A project quality team should have good communication with the project’s key stakeholders, in order to determine their needs and their definition of quality. In every project, quality must be considered equal to in importance as the schedule or the budget. Schedules and budgets often require to be adjusted as the project progresses until the desired outcome is achieved. After all, even if the end result is on time and under budget, the project cannot be considered a success, if the quality does not meet requirements.
Project quality management begins by defining the quality standards to be used for the project. This definition will come from the stakeholders, beneficiaries, and often from the overall standards for the organization. Careful identification of the quality standards will help to insure a successful project outcome that will be accepted by the stakeholders. In addition to quality standards for the end result of the project, there may also be organizational quality standards that must be met for the actual management of the project, such as certain types of reporting or project tracking methods.
The deliverables of the project will be measured against certain characteristics that will determine their level of quality, dependent on how well they meet the needs of the stakeholders. Quality characteristics such as performance, functionality, suitability, reliability, and consistency are commonly used to measure the project’s end result. These quality characteristics are not only applied to the deliverable itself, but also any processes or methods used to deliver the end product, such as equipment or computers. Therefore, the required quality characteristics must be fully stated and understood before any services, materials or equipment used in any part of the project are procured.
A quality plan should be written to state the overall activities and tasks that are needed to meet the project’s quality standards. This plan will include a description of all relevant quality standards and definitions, as well as a description of all conditions that must be met to satisfy the stakeholders. The procedures that will be used to ensure that all quality standards are followed will also be part of the quality plan. All quality elements that are relevant to the project should be included, such as management responsibility, documented quality procedures already in existence, design and document control procedures and purchasing requirements. Procedures designed to deal with inspection testing, non-conformance and resulting corrective actions are also important, as are the methods by which quality records are maintained. The schedule for quality audits and any necessary training requirements should also be included.
Quality assurance processes are used to provide the stakeholders with the guarantee that standards are being maintained, and that the end result will meet their needs. As opposed to quality control, which occurs at the end of the process, quality assurance is planned during the project’s earliest stages. To facilitate this assurance, quality audits are scheduled, which provide a structured review of the project activities. As a result of these audits, corrective actions can be approved if necessary via change control processes.
The Shewhart Cycle
Often abbreviated as PDCA, this model includes four steps designed to help insure quality assurance. This includes “planning” to establish processes and objectives, “doing” to implement the processes, “checking” to evaluate and monitor the processes, and “acting” to implement changes if required to achieve the desired quality result. This cycle is considered to be never-ending in a constant quest for continual improvement.
Quality control is used to evaluate the project’s end results as compared to the stated goals and requirements, as well as how successful the project was in terms of budget, schedule and scope management. Evaluations are performed during quality control that will determine if the stakeholders accept or reject the end result. If rejected, rework actions must be planned in order to bring the end result up to expectations. As a result, adjustments are added to the overall process by means of a change control process.
Quality improvement is a continuous and systematic process that is used to find ways of removing waste or unnecessary actions to make processes more efficient and effective. If the current level of quality doesn’t match the expected level, quality improvement processes can be used to help identify and address the issues that may be causing the discrepancy. Quality improvement concentrates on identifying what needs to be improved, analyzing the processes, developing solutions or revisions that will solve the problem, and testing to verify that the new solution is effective.
Cost of Quality
In every project, there is a cost associated with the methods used to maintain quality levels. Poor quality is defined as the end result failing to meet the stakeholders’ requirements, or any level of error or waste. These costs include any expenses that would be associated with the overall failure of the project, if that were to occur, in addition to the preventative costs needed to avoid quality problems and the appraisal costs for testing, evaluation and inspection.