The PMBOK® defines quality as the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements. A project is said to be meeting its quality expectations when all the project requirements agreed at the inception of the project are met, and thus the resulting product or service is usable for the relevant stakeholders.
Quality is Subjective
Quality for one individual will not be adequate for another. For example, the youth will consider a mobile phone as being of high quality based on its look and feel, brand name and its specification such as camera quality, memory capacity, screen resolution, ability to connect with other devices etc. and based on the support to run applications on the phone. However, for someone in the age group of 60 and above, the ability to take a phone call or send an SMS and whether this can be done without much hassle alone may define the quality of the mobile phone.
To understand the quality requirements tailored to projects, it is necessary to have an exhaustive Quality Management training such as the Certified Manager of Quality Training.
Quality has many faces
The definition of quality depends on the context and the business domain. For a service-oriented organization such as a bank, a restaurant, an airline etc. quality of service is identified through the level of customer satisfaction. For a product such as a mobile phone, a vehicle, a computer etc. quality means conformance to product specifications and its fitness for use.
In the context of healthcare sector, mission-critical military activities etc. quality is measured through precision and accuracy. Precision refers to the granularity of measurement and how fine the outcome can be measured. Accuracy simply put is the correctness of the output or being close to the desired value.
Quality is everybody’s responsibility
Quality in project management is two-fold. Project Quality and Product Quality. Project quality is to ensure that the project is executed in line with the triple constraints of time, cost, and scope. If the project is within the defined tolerance levels of these three dimensions, then we can say that the project is of high quality. Projects are carried out to develop a solution; i.e. product, service or a result. If this solution meets its specification or meets the needs of the stakeholders then it is said that the solution is of high quality.
Meeting the quality expectations is not merely the responsibility of the project manager, but of everyone involved in the project. Achieving quality involves cost where it is the responsibility of everyone involved in the project to manage the same. Increased efforts and costs can increase the quality of output but a ceiling on this investment has to be fixed. Yes, it is the responsibility of the project manager to manage this ceiling value and to ensure optimal levels of quality within the project but he or she can only do this with the support of his team members. The optimal level of quality can be achieved when the incremental cost of achieving quality is equal to the incremental revenue from such quality improvements.
Cost of Quality
In order to achieve this, the project will have to incur some cost and this is known as Cost of Quality. This includes all costs incurred over the life of the product by investment in preventing non-conformance to requirements, appraising the product or service for conformance to requirements and failing to meet requirements or in other words rework. Thus, the cost of quality is of two main types-
- Cost of Conformance – This is the money spent during the project to avoid failures through prevention or appraisal. Prevention costs are costs incurred to prevent errors by the way of training, documentation, maintenance of equipment, quality control etc. Appraisal costs are incurred to assess the quality by the way of testing (quality assurance), inspections, etc.
- Cost of Non-Conformance – This involves the money spent during and after the project because of failures. Two main types of such costs are cost of internal failure and cost of external failures. Internal failure costs involve rework, scrap costs that are incurred before the solution is released. External failure costs are more critical where these are incurred to rectify damages of products failing once released to the customer. Such costs include liabilities, warranty, loss of business, damage to image etc.
Quality Management is an important aspect of Project Management. PMI® thus has given a central position to the same when defining the knowledge areas in the PMBOK™. It is thus important for project managers and team members alike to understand the importance of quality and to better manage projects to achieve all expectations pertaining to quality.