Project Quality Management

PMI’s official definition of quality in the first edition of the PMBOK was, “The totality of characteristics of an entity that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.” The meaning of quality has changed a lot over the years, depending on who you talk to.

BusinessDictionary.com has defined quality as “a measure of excellence or state of being free from defects, deficiencies, and significant variations.” The International Standards Organization(ISO) has defined quality as “the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.” In manufacturing, quality means “strict and consistent adherence to measurable and verifiable standards to achieve uniformity of output that satisfies specific customer or user requirements.”

But, how exactly do you determine what a quality product or service is? As a project manager, how can you be sure that you have delivered a quality project? The answer is pretty simple: Quality is in the eyes of the customer. Its the customer who is paying for the product, service, or the project deliverables. They need to feel that the project is delivered according to their specifications and that it does what it was intended to do.

The difficulty in measuring quality at the project level lies in the fact that it tends to be elusive and is often a dynamic target. Some aspects can be a bit difficult to quantify because the qualities are of an intangible nature. If you question 100 project customers about their idea of quality, you will most probably get a 100 different answers because their present views or expectations keep changing depending on when and how the question is asked.

Let’s look at an example. In the initial stage of the project life cycle the customer might want a full function website to promote their product or service. In the middle of the life cycle when they see what functionality and features are being developed, they could change their mind regarding the look and feel of the website. They may end up wanting something completely different at the end of the project.

As you move forward with the project, you and your team will gather more details from the customer which will eventually help you in understanding exactly how they want the website to look and feel. This can be accomplished through well documented acceptance criteria and close communications.

Once acceptance criteria has been approved by you based on the customer’s requirements, your team can start developing or prototyping the website. This prototype will allow the customer to test the site and see how it responds and where the links take them etc. The closer you get to the end of a project, the more the product should align itself with the customer’s requirements and expectations.

For a project manager, it is always ideal to get a clear understanding of what the customer wants, as early as possible in the project life cycle. It is easier said than done though, especially when the customer is not fully sure what they want or what they expect at the end of the project.

Finally, at the end of a project, you will achieve the expected results only is if the requirements are concise and clear, verified, well documented, and most importantly approved. And, that’s only the beginning. The next important step is to assemble a team of qualified individuals and keep them focused on the approved project scope. These steps are essential if you want to achieve the highest project quality.