Quality Assurance Activities in Project Management
In project management, quality assurance (QA) activities establish a systematic process of reviewing the plans and methods adopted by the project team to verify that they can meet the intended quality standards. A quality assurance activity is not a testing process but part of the project review process.
In this guide, we talk about the different types of QA activities that you need to carry out to review and troubleshoot your projects. It is part of the Quality Management Section in the Project Implementation Guide.
Quality Assurance in Project Management
The success of a project often depends upon one thing: did we get the highest quality deliverables?
Quality is fundamental to project management success and cannot be considered in isolation. It is the product of careful planning and diligent follow-through. Without proper quality assurance activities, the chances for project success get significantly reduced because it is nearly impossible to identify potential project risks and take appropriate action effectively.
Quality assurance is a systematic effort to prevent defects, ensure compliance with specifications, and provide evidence that the project team delivers products and services of the highest quality. It includes the identification of potential weaknesses and risk areas, preparing and executing quality management activities, and monitoring project performance in relation to quality standards.
Why Quality Assurance is Important for Projects
Having a rigorous quality assurance process for every project you undertake is important. If you don’t, your final product or service may contain defects that degrade or jeopardize the result.
The following explains why project managers should carefully plan and execute quality assurance activities.
- Quality is a crucial success factor in project delivery. The higher the quality level, the more likely a project will meet its goals and objectives.
- QA identifies potential project risks. Of course, quality is even more critical in risk identification than project planning. However, as quality relates to many other aspects of project management, it is a good source for identifying potential problems early.
- Quality assurance activities increase the confidence of stakeholders. By implementing quality standards throughout the project, you demonstrate that everyone has made a serious commitment to producing a high-quality deliverable. The high-quality deliverable, in turn, gives greater credibility to your project plan and the final product or service.
- QA signals that the project team is being thorough. Your final product or service will exceed the expectations of your audience if it has undergone rigorous QA. A high-quality product will have fewer defects and stand up to scrutiny from stakeholders and the marketplace more efficiently.
QA Activities: Plan, Audit, Analyze
There are three key activities of quality assurance in project management, as follows:
- Develop a Quality Assurance Plan
- Audit Project Quality
- Analyze Project Quality
With these activities in place, your project team can deliver enduring quality and maintain the deliverables’ functionality, reliability, and performance.
Let’s review each of the activities.
1. Develop a Quality Assurance Plan
The first quality assurance activity is about planning the overall process for assuring quality. Its purpose is to design a quality assurance plan template (an efficient tool to ensure quality in a project) and monitor problems and drawbacks that may appear during the project implementation process. Then, the quality team needs to use such a plan to do the rest of the quality assurance activities, such as Audit and Analysis.
The basic steps in creating a quality assurance plan template are:
- Set up project assurance goals (why review the project’s quality?)
- Assign responsibilities to QA team members and determine management hierarchy (who will carry out the quality assurance activities?)
- Gather relevant information on project standards and define compliance criteria (how to make quality assurance?)
- Identify a set of measurements and metrics to determine quality levels and performance (is the project performed under appropriate quality levels?)
2. Audit Project Quality
A quality audit is a regular, systematic review of project activities to identify whether these activities are performed in line with organizational processes and tactical decisions. In addition, a project quality audit aims to reveal any missing or inefficient policies, procedures, and strategies that reduce quality levels and increase the probability of project failure.
During a typical quality audit session, the team, under the supervision of the project manager, can review quality metrics (like budget deviation, on-time performance, failure rate, and defect frequency) and measure project activities against the quality baseline.
Auditing quality allows for identifying and correcting any deficiencies in project activities. As a process, it results in decreased cost of quality management and enhanced product acceptance and customer satisfaction. Often quality auditing activities are carried out by external and independent auditors that provide expert knowledge and advice.
The quality assurance activity produces a formal confirmation document that proves necessary changes to the implementation process and serves as a foundation for developing corrective actions.
3. Analyze Project Quality
Quality analysis is a set of steps to examine and investigate a specific project activity and identify what enhances the activity’s value. In addition, project quality analysis aims to review quality levels and define necessary improvements in the existing quality management framework.
The quality assurance activity allows examining experienced problems, deviations in constraints, and any activities that provide value. It includes root cause analysis, fit analysis, methods for identifying and solving problems, and techniques for developing corrective actions.
For instance, during fit analysis, product testing is used to examine product features and check whether they fit into the user acceptance criteria. A testing plan becomes a scenario for analyzing, assuring, and validating product quality.
Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control
In project management, quality assurance activities are not the same as quality control (QC). QC is a process that involves using an accepted method to test a product or service to determine whether it meets specific requirements (e.g. through digital testing). Quality assurance is an ongoing activity that involves risk identification, planning, checking, and learning.
Quality assurance involves a process of continuous improvement through the use of QA activities to verify and improve the project deliverables. In addition, quality assurance activities demonstrate that the project team and client are working towards common project goals. For example: if the project quality standards were not clearly stated, it would not be easy to understand what the customer wants from the project.
Quality control, however, is verifying that all the design and manufacturing processes are correct, according to a specified procedure or standard. It involves preventing variation from occurring and ensuring the consistency of products or services. For example, ensure that the inspection standards used are correct and applied consistently (i.e., inspectors are following the same criteria when evaluating deliverables).
Quality Assurance Strategies in Software Development
Here are four key strategies for quality assurance in software development projects:
- Enable collaboration. Working in a collaborative environment, the members of your development team share the exact meaning of software quality standards and requirements and stay in sync with detected quality issues and risk management activities.
- Track quality issues and bug submissions. By enabling an entire life-cycle of quality traceability – from identifying and documenting issues and their sources – your team can predictably find the right lines of code for testing and ensure accurate test results and coverage status.
- Incorporate risk mitigation. This quality assurance strategy helps achieve more predictable cost, timing, and quality as the development team can control risk and optimize resources to achieve quality objectives and confidently deliver priority functionality.
- Automate QA reporting and analytics. A well-performing quality system is based on timely, accurate, reliable information about quality requirements, issues, and assurance processes. Automation helps improve QA analytics and project management reporting for informed decision-making.
The quality assurance activity provides a confirmation that the project is performing in line with organizational processes and tactical decisions. QA produces a formal document that proves necessary changes to the implementation process and serves as a foundation for developing corrective actions.
A quality assurance plan requires an ongoing commitment and effort from the project team, similar to the way a healthy diet and exercise keeps people healthy. It is important to note that the overall success of a project depends on the ability to manage quality risks.