The fifth area of knowledge of PMI's PMBOK refers to all activities and processes related to responsibilities, policies and quality objectives. Quality is a key pillar in project management.
What does the quality of a project mean? Simply stated, the quality indicates that the result delivered by the project meets the defined expectations of the project.
According to the PMBOK itself, quality is:
"The degree to which a set of inherent characteristics meets the requirements."
Thus, quality management is the set of practices whose objective are to ensure the outcome of the project is sufficient to meet the goal or set objective.
Unfortunately, this premise is often not met. It's very common to venture into large projects that do not meet the proposed needs. This can happen for multiple reasons, to which we can refer to as the three great enemies of quality.
- The lack of communication between the sponsor and the team associated with the project is one of the most common ways of damaging project quality. There are times when the team appropriates the project from the collection of requirements, but the final delivery is not a suitable means to achieve the sponsors' goal. On the contrary, it may happen that the sponsor doesn't have a clear idea of how to reach their goal, so they can not give exact instructions regarding the requirements
- The intangible quality. Quality has a lot to do with perception, so the client will have a different notion than the project manager or the analyst who is responsible for realizing the most complex technical details. In order for this subjective character to not become an obstacle, it is desirable to arrive at clear agreements and commitments on what quality means in the expected result. In the case of agile methodologies, these agreements become the guiding principle of the project iterations, coagulated under the notion of user story: a discrete requirement, the minimum that can be delivered in a functional way.
- Conformity with what is planned. Or, what is the same, to think that the requirements will become a round product and finished as soon as all the planned work is completed. If progress is not measured continuously, assessing the needs for additional integration between requirements, adding new tasks and proactively solving incidents, the result may not be of the expected quality, but will be, at best, a product on which a second phase of work must be added.
To understand the great enemies of quality better, we will look at an example. Let us imagine that the project in question is a document management system with copy versioning, requested by an insurance company. The reason for requesting the document management system is that commercial area managers need to have visibility on all the policy offers that have been made to their customers to find guidelines in the negotiations and to design new promotions and pricing policies.
What happens in this project when the three enemies of quality are involved?
- Lack of communication: The commercial management communicates the product that has been imagined that will solve their problems. However, it does not explain its business need in detail, preventing alternative ideas from emerging that could better serve that outcome, such as a CRM module with supply chain analysis and aggregate information. The systems team is based on the requested features of the document management model, cutting some characteristics whose implementation would be too expensive.
- The intangible quality: When the product is delivered, the technical team and the project manager are satisfied and estimate the quality of the result by 90%. The most ambitious features are lacking, but they may be added at a later stage. The document manager works, is better than before, and deadlines and budgets have been respected. When the commercial director announces the new system to his team, he finds that nobody knows how to use it how it was intended. Understanding the dynamics of negotiations and extracting data is a long and expensive process. Although you can manage your documents well and improve productivity a little, no new pricing policies will emerge.
- Conformity with what is planned. Along the way, there are characteristics that could have saved the project, such as the connection with the payment and supplier management system, and an apparently minor technical problem has prevented the new document management system from highlighting the changes of the latest version With the previous ones, facilitating the work
What does it take to manage quality?
- Constant outward communication. It is necessary to understand the reasons and motivations of sponsors and clients to internalize what are the best requirements that guarantee quality.
- Negotiation and agreements to define the quality of results
- Pro-active problem solving
- Adoption of good practices. To help in this regard, we then review the good practices that, according to the PMBOK, should be followed by the project manager in collaboration with the team members to manage the quality of the project.
Phases of Project Quality Management
1. Quality planning
Quality planning is done in the first phase of the project. The quality plan can be an independent document, although it is better that it is part of the total project management plan we have prepared, it is a way of unifying the norms and criteria that govern the quality of our products or services. It establishes the rules, variables and factors that will govern the processes, tasks, activities and projects of the organization.
The quality plan of the project establishes the standards that will govern it. These standards may be standards of the company itself or also of the client, if for example it has an ISO of its own quality and sets its own minimum requirements. The contributions made by our client will allow us to establish the quality objectives of the plan itself.
The quality plan allows for establishing the deadlines and procedures of the quality controls in the project itself, so that it fits the marked requirements and the expected objectives.
2. Quality assurance
The quality assurance can be measured through an independent evaluation of the project processes. It is a question of supervising to verify that the plan is in accordance with the purpose we had set ourselves, and for this we must check that all tasks and activities meet the requirements set.
We advise you to appoint a project control team to assume quality assurance responsibilities. It is not only a question of measuring the final result, but also of controlling and supervising the different phases, tasks, activities and dependencies.
It is also important to make reports that improve the perspective, justify the changes and correct errors or point out improvements during project management.
3. Quality control
Quality control is similar to quality assurance. The difference between the two concepts is that the quality control is carried out by the team that works in that phase, process, task or activity. On the other hand, quality assurance is supervised by a group outside the group that works at that stage.
Quality audits are carried out on an ongoing basis in each project management process. In this way, the team ensures that the result meets the standards set in the initial quality plan.
These types of audits or controls can be carried out through inspections, reviews and tests. Thanks to the integration of quality control in a systematic way in the process, we have the margin and capacity of reaction, besides the possibility of correction in case of any failure or error. It is important that you make and update a record of the tests, a history that feels the basis of learning to avoid future mistakes in that project, or another one in your company.
4. Continuous Improvement
Quality controls and quality assurance are implemented from the quality plan. The goal is to correct errors and ensure that the result is in accordance with the target or end mark, and meets the set standards. It is desirable to involve all stakeholders in quality controls to be able to rectify and make deviations from the initial planning if satisfaction with progress is low. In projects, transparency is often the mother of quality.
The quality management of the project allows us to continuously improve, advance and grow our company. The project manager has to be documented in the initial phase on the quality management of other plans, which will allow him to improve efficiency and avoid repeating mistakes. Hence the importance of records of controls and quality assurances, as well as reports, since they not only allow to lead the current project, but also provide for and alert about future.
All the team involved can collaborate by providing ideas for continuous improvement. Shared satisfaction contributes to commitment and involvement. And all this has a positive impact on the company, its services, products and projects that you want to carry out. The initial phases in which the foundations and the organization are established are fundamental for the later development.
This article belongs to a series on the 10 areas of knowledge of PMBOK. Check out the previous articles in the series: