Assuring Quality In Your Project

Perform Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance and Quality Control are two project management activities quite commonly confused one for the other. Controlling quality is simply about confirming that project output conforms to documented requirements.

Assuring quality is the way of looking at quality plan and quality control measurements of the project to ensure that organization’s quality standards, policies and processes are implemented on the project. It is also a way to take feedback from the project and improve performing organization’s quality policies and processes.

The exercise involves auditing project’s quality requirements and results from quality control measurements. This is typically done by a team outside of project management team, and the goal of this exercise is to continuously improve quality processes, eliminate activities that do not add value and share best practices from other projects in the organization with the project team.

If process improvements are identified and are to be implemented on the project, then project manager raises a change request to make necessary changes to project management plan.

Costs incurred during Assuring Project Quality falls under Cost of Conformance section of Cost of Quality model.

What do I need?

The inputs are obvious and simple.

Quality management plan

This defines the approach to implement performing organization’s quality plan on the project. The other subsidiary plan to consider is process improvement plan.

Project quality metrics & their values

Quality metrics indicate specific project or product attribute to be measured against specific values, along with any allowed variance. For instance, a software project may have a quality metrics on defects – zero critical defects, maximum of 2 major defects that have work around, and a maximum of 4 minor defects – for the deliverable to be passed.

How do I do it?

Some of the techniques are given here –

Affinity diagram

Affinity diagram

Affinity diagram

Dictionary meaning of affinity is “a natural attraction or feeling of kinship”. When you have a group of ideas this method can be used to group them, and this is how it is done –
• Write an idea each on a card
• Look at each of the cards and see if it is related to any other idea
• Combine similar ideas together
• Continue this till all cards are used up, you can even have multiple rounds till all are grouped
This method can be used to create WBS.

Process decision program charts (PDPC)

Process decision program charts (PDPC)

Process decision program charts (PDPC)

This technique is used to prepare contingency plans. This method identifies consequential impact of failure on plans, and create contingency plans to reduce risks.

Here is the procedure -
• identify tree diagram of proposed plan, the last level of which has activities
• for each activity brainstorm what can go wrong
• review all potential problems, remove improbable and insignificant ones
• for each problem brainstorm potential countermeasures (either to prevent, or remedy when problems occur)
• use criteria such as cost, time required, ease of implementation and effectiveness, mark impractical ones with X and practical ones with O.

Interrelationship digraphs

Interrelationship digraphs

Interrelationship digraphs

This is a tool to identify relationship amongst a group of issues. An Interrelationship digraph takes a group of issues, and establishes cause and effect relationship between them, helping you to identify seemingly minor issues that feed into major problems.

Tree diagrams

Tree diagram

Tree diagram

The simple representation of hierarchical data such as work breakdown structure (WBS) or resource breakdown structure (RBS) or even organizational structures are examples of tree diagrams. The relationship between hierarchical levels is called ‘nesting’ relationship or ‘parent-child’ relationship. This is a great tool to visually group related information.

Prioritization matrices

This is used to list issues, identify alternative solutions, decide on the criteria to evaluate alternatives, prioritize them and apply to alternatives to arrive at rankings that represent priorities.

Activity network diagrams

Known as arrow diagrams, network diagrams, activity chart, node diagram, and CPM (critical path method) chart. These are used in project scheduling methodologies such as PERT (program evaluation and review techniques), critical path method and precedence diagramming method that we used in Sequence Activities process.

An activity network diagram shows required order to tasks in a project or process, best schedule for entire process, potential problems and solutions. With this one can identify critical steps that may impact overall duration of process.

Matrix diagrams

These show relation between 2, 3 or 4 groups of information. It then given relationship about relationship between these groups such as strength or roles played by different individuals. Six different matrices are possible – L, T, Y, X, C, R and then roof-shaped, depending on how many groups are to be compared.

Quality Audits

These are the process reviews done by performing organization’s quality assurance team. These will determine the extent to which project adheres to the quality policies, processes and guidelines given by the organization. For many a projects this is a soft point – where some of the proposed quality policies are not followed in the project. This is really double whammy – the project has to take the brunt of issues arising out of not following the processes and also deal with repercussions of not following company’s quality policies.

As a project manager, it would be a good practice for you to find about all policies prescribed by the organization upfront during project. Then critically look at their value on the project look at the cost of implementing them and corresponding benefits. Also, think of refining processes to suit project needs, and get a confirmation from project’s sponsor and performing organization’s quality assurance team on which of the policies will you be using on the project. This will avoid any issues later during quality assurance process.

Quality audits,

  • Identify policies, activities and processes missed in the project
  • Share best practices from other projects in the organization
  • Offer help in implementing quality control activities, processes and guidelines
  • Log the lessons learnt during audit into organizational process assets

Due to these steps one can see improvements on the project in terms of reduced defects, improved productivity of quality control team, increased customer satisfaction.

Process Analysis

This is about following the approach given in the process improvement plan – a subsidiary plan of project management plan. And identifying those activities in the processes, which do not add much value. Process analysis involves looking into causes of these activities or processes and coming up with corrective or preventive actions.

What happens when Quality Assurance project management activity is performed?

  • Change requests – these are raised to suggest corrective or preventive actions that improve the company’s policies, processes and guidelines.
  • Updates to project management plan – changes to quality process improvement plan, quality management plan based on the findings from this process.
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