Project quality is a key cornerstone of any project, governing the standards that our project will be measured against. It is important that we understand not only what quality means, but also the different elements that make up quality.
As project managers, we need to understand how to measure quality, and how to ensure that the people working on our project and the materials we are using can be demonstrated to be of a suitable quality standard.
What does the term quality mean?
The APM definition of quality is ‘the fitness for purpose or the degree of conformance of the outputs of a process or the process itself to requirements’.
Quality is our measure of how our project and the elements that make it up fulfil our project requirements. It considers not only the physical materials, but also the people involved and the processes used to complete the project. It is important to understand quality as an overarching element of our project. It is not related to one single element, but the project as a whole.
The things that make up quality
Quality is made up of four key elements: management, planning, assurance and control.
Quality management is the overall approach to quality. It includes quality planning, assurance and control and involves the coordination of these activities to ensure an effective quality management strategy. It is our overarching structure for managing project quality.
The APM definition explains that quality planning ‘takes the defined scope and specifies the acceptance criteria used to validate that the outputs are fit for purpose to the sponsor’. Quality planning is where we set out how we will ensure the quality standards of our products internally.
Quality assurance focusses on the processes involved in ensuring quality on the project. Assurance aims to demonstrate to stakeholders that the organisation is in a suitable position to be producing quality products. This covers areas like staff training, ensuring that there are records in place for levels of training to demonstrate that staff are qualified to work on our project, and audit, which shows that the processes laid out in the project management plan are being followed.
Quality control focusses on ensuring that the product that the project is producing is of the required quality. This may involve inspection, measurement or testing to confirm that the product meets required quality standards. Having a quantitative measure to present to stakeholders shows that the product meets requirements and clearly defined criteria. Doing this demonstrates that throughout the project the required effort has been put into ensuring that the product will conform to the specifications set out in the business case.
By taking each of these elements into account, we can generate a complete picture of the quality management of our project. A project manager should be able to demonstrate their understanding of the success criteria being used to exhibit project quality. They should also have clear oversight of the strategies in place to demonstrate assurance and control to confirm the quality standards of the processes and products.
The APM website offers useful definitions.
It is important to understand quality and how the different aspects of it interact with the rest of our project. A project manager must understand the need for a quality management plan to govern quality on our project; quality planning to set out quality success criteria; quality assurance to demonstrate the standards of our processes; and quality control to provide metrics for the quality of our products. Each of these elements contributes towards the project’s quality standards in a different way, but all are important in contributing to overall project quality.
If you take the time to put a quality management plan in place and ensure that you have processes in place for establishing quality, you will be able to demonstrate to the project sponsor and stakeholders that you have led and completed your project to high quality standards.