Key Fundamentals of Quality Management in the IT Project

Quality management is the practice by which "quality" is defined, produced and controlled within projects and as part of the project management process. But is that all it is?  In fact, "quality" goes beyond that to be a principle by which all projects should be managed and delivered.  This article discusses the varied roles that "quality" plays as a management principle and process. Read on for more.

What is quality? That is not an easy question to answer. In practical terms, quality is the degree to which project deliverables reflect best practices and expected results.  If the project is completed on time, is that quality?  Perhaps.  If the project is completed on budget, is that quality?  Perhaps.  If the deliverables meet success criteria, is that quality?  Perhaps.  If the project was completed using adopted standards, is that quality?  Perhaps.  The reason for all these "perhaps" is because quality is not defined by any single element - it is a totality of circumstances and conditions.  And that's the key to achieve "total" quality for any given project.  Quality must be defined for each project and once defined, all related tasks and deliverables can be measured against that benchmark.

"A picture is worth a thousand words."  For an illustrated view of project definition see our informative infographic Defining Projects for Action and Approval.

Quality is a Partner for Project Management Success

Quality management is not an entirely independent project process. In fact, quality management has close tie-ins to many other project processes, to the point where quality management is often indistinguishable from its partner processes, including:

  • Requirements Planning: To form the basis of quality expectations and specifications.
  • Risk Management: To evaluate the likelihood and impact of quality related failures.
  • Change Management: To maintain quality expectations by limiting unwarranted changes to deliverables and scope.
  • Issues Management: To identify potential quality defects as soon as they arise to enable resolution early on in the project lifecycle.
  • Status Reporting: To ensure that the project manager is advised of potential quality defects and problems as soon as they arise.
  • Project Performance Evaluation: To evaluate "quality management" effectiveness, and to improve future practices.

Quality Management Goals and Objectives

To achieve project success on all essential levels (results, costs, time and customer satisfaction), quality management must be more than just an administrative exercise. Quality goals and objectives must be established at the project selection and definition phases, to include one or more of the following elements:

  • To minimize the subjective nature of quality by defining “quality” in clear, measurable terms.
  • To produce results that meet quality standards, within project scheduling and budgetary requirements.
  • To minimize costly defects and errors.
  • To eliminate costly and non-productive re-work.
  • To maximize customer satisfaction.
  • To maximize team morale, performance and productivity.

Taking Steps to Make Quality a Constant

Quality is an objective. As a practical matter, quality will be obtained when deliverables and outcomes are produced according to needs, plans and specification. Quality management is an ongoing process, applied within projects at a global level (through best practices and standards) and at the “per-project” level, where quality specifications and management steps are applied according to specific project needs. Process quality and deliverables quality are joined at the hip ... while high quality processes cannot guarantee high quality results; low quality processes will certainly impede high quality results. As such, the quest for quality, whether for process or deliverables, must address the following key elements:

  • Management Objectives - what are you trying to accomplish through quality management?
  • Quality Specifications - how is quality to be defined for your projects?
  • Quality Consensus - how will these quality definitions be applied, approved and accepted?
  • Quality Control - how will quality be managed and measured as the project proceeds?
  • Quality Defect Correction - how will quality defects be analyzed, mitigated and removed?

In order to achieve expected results, quality requirements and expectations must be clearly stated and defined. But definitions are only a beginning. Once a project is underway, quality must be continually managed and assessed to ensure that these requirements and expectations are fully realized. Quality control takes place at various points in the project cycle, through a number of validation and verification activities and techniques, including manual reviews, automated reviews, prototypes, pilot programs, lessons learned reviews and third party quality audits.   (Take Note:  Project-specific quality management procedures should be documented as part of the project governance plan). 

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