Understand the Characteristics of Quality for Your Project

It is hard to define product or service quality at a high-level because the term “quality” is vague and means different things to different people. You must take the time to define the lower-level characteristics of quality for each specific service or deliverable. If you want to ensure that a service or product meets the client’s expectations of quality, you have to understand the underlying characteristics of quality.

For example:

Product Quality – The Product is: Service Quality – The People are:
Reliable
Easy to use
Easy to maintain when completed
Available when needed
Flexible for future needs
Good value for dollars spent
Intuitive / easy to understand
Secure
Well documented
Minimally defective (doesn’t have to be perfect)
Responsive (good response time)
A match to client needs
Responsive
Competent
Accessible
Courteous
Good communicators
Credible
Knowledgeable of the client
Reliable

Use Quality Control Activities to Validate the Quality of your Deliverables

Quality control activities are those that are focused on the overall quality of the deliverable being produced. Depending on the type of project, the following activities are examples of quality control activities.

  • Deliverable reviews / peer reviews / technical reviews
  • Checklists to ensure that deliverables are consistent and contain all the necessary information.
  • Standards to ensure consistency
  • Inspection of third-party materials and deliverables
  • Product measurements and comparison to targets
  • Structured methods to ensure standard, proven processes are used
  • Testing of IT solutions

Don’t “Goldplate” (Deliver More Requirements than the Sponsor Requested)

You should always strive to carefully set expectations and then meet those expectations. However, if you are not confident in your ability to deliver, you may also have heard it is better to under-promise, but over-deliver. This is actually a good thing if it refers to your ability to deliver your work earlier than promised or for less money than you estimated. However, it is not the right thing if you deliver more requirements or a higher level of quality than the client requested.  

The term goldplating refers to delivering more quality than what the client requested. Even though it might seem that this is a good thing, it is wrong for two reasons. First, the primary focus of the project should be to make sure that you deliver what the client wants – on time and within budget. By adding in additional work, you increase the risk that the project will not meet its deadline or budget. If you end up missing your deadline date, you will not find sympathy if you explain that the date was missed because of adding more work than the client agreed to.

Second, if you goldplate, you are taking it upon yourself to make a business decision on what is of most value to the client. There may be some good reasons why the quality level was defined by the client. There may be more value in having the solution completed early and for less cost.  The point is that this is a client decision and not one that the project manager should make.

Make Sure Quality Management Focuses on Processes, Not People

The focus of quality management is to build the right processes so that the entire team can produce the deliverables that meet the client’s expectations. Therefore, if a particular deliverable has a quality problem, the project manager and project team should focus on how the project work processes can be improved – not on trying to determine who is to blame.

Most problems with quality are the result of poor or inadequate work processes, not because of the malicious act of a particular person. In fact, it is thought that at least 80% of quality problems can be resolved by changing and strengthening business processes. Less than 20% of problems are under a team member’s control. Furthermore, the processes that your organization utilizes are largely determined by management. So, when workers or team members have quality problems, it is important for managers to identify the weak or broken processes involved and fix them. This is a management responsibility – not the responsibility of the staff. This does not mean that everyone cannot be involved. However, the setting up and enforcement of business processes is primarily a management responsibility.

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