How to Measure Quality in Project Management – A Quick Guide
There are many different aspects that we might consider when we want to measure quality in project management. Quality can either be measured by achieving the project goals or benefits, maintaining the level of performance over time, establishing what proportion of resources are devoted to high-quality activities.
In this guide, we will focus on defining project quality, review methods and indicators for quality assessment. You’ll find out what metrics matter when it comes to examining the output of your project and how these metrics relate to the overall project success.
- Introduction (what’s quality in projects?)
- Ways to measure project quality
- How do you measure quality?
What does Quality Mean in Project Management?
Measuring quality in projects is difficult because there are so many definitions of it. For example, an activity may seem to be high quality, even if it is only minimally successful, or low quality even if it is highly successful. What are the factors determining its success?
Quality definition by PMI
PMI defines quality in project management as “the extent to which all declared objectives are achieved or omitted, in the time allowed for achieving them.”
This definition is quite a mouthful, isn’t it? So, let’s break it down into component parts.
First of all, the word “objectives” is important because they are what you are intending to achieve with your project. These will certainly change over time as the project develops – increasing or decreasing in number – but you still need to be able to define them. You will come back to this point later.
Now for the second part of the PMI definition: “in the time allowed for achieving them.” This is where we can measure project quality. You need to define your target time for completing each work item of your project plan. Next, you compare the amount of time it actually takes to complete an element against your target. Is it faster or slower? This is what you can use to measure quality in project management.
Let’s define quality other than the PMI approach:
In project management, quality means the degree to which a project achieves the objectives that were set upfront. It also defines the standards for an activity resulting in a product that meets the project’s objectives within the allocated time period.
Quality refers to the likelihood of reaching the stated objectives or desired costs, or both. When we manage quality this means we make the process of project management perform for the stakeholders at a desired level of excellence – from improving teamwork, tools, resource usage, and processes, to making sure that the whole project is fit and effective.
This means that the process of project management will be driven by quality. The standard for measuring quality in project management processes is to achieve your objectives. If your activities are not up to standard you will have to repeat them, so it is important to understand what these are.
Now that we know what quality is in project management, let’s talk about the ways to measure it.
Ways to Measure Project Quality: Methods and Metrics
In order to measure quality it is important to know what factors can influence the quality. This will allow you to adjust your project strategies and management accordingly.
There are some different factors that can affect project quality, which you need to find out about during the planning phase.
Here are a few of them:
- The knowledge and experience of the project team
- The nature of activity being conducted
- The development environment/organization structure/methodology used.
If these major factors are unsuitable, there is a risk of failure so they should be taken into account when planning the project or activity.
Quality assurance is the process of verifying quality to ensure that it meets all quality standards. The process should be ongoing throughout the project, and should always begin with an assessment of the project’s objectives.
It is not just about checking that your criteria are met for each deliverable to be produced – you need to check if the deliverables are deemed valuable for your stakeholders. So you must continue to assess whether you are actually delivering on your original objectives (even if they seem like boring or difficult tasks!) This means you will need to identify exactly what your real objectives are, both at the beginning and throughout the project.
Like quality assurance activities, quality control is an overall process used to ensure the success of a project. Quality control ensures that the project delivers on its objectives ahead of schedule and within budget.
Quality control has three basic steps:
- Creating a quality plan – reviewing the overall project objectives to help determine whether each activity being conducted meets or exceeds your target standards.
- Performance assessment – tracking the adequacy of progress towards the project’s goals and assessing how quickly you are reaching your time milestones. This should be done regularly throughout the project to help you identify any variances at an early stage so that they can be corrected quickly before they become unmanageable or even insurmountable problems.
- Corrective action – identifying potential problems, determining the root cause, and implementing solutions to ensure that any issues are fixed.
The size of the project being undertaken will have an influence on how efficiently it is being run and whether it can be completed successfully. The size and complexity of a project will definitely affect your personal workload as will any other factors such as whether there is funding available or too much overhead work such as administration or staff management.
Quality Assessment Methods
Now that we know the factors that affect project quality management, let’s look at methods of assessing it.
There are several methods available for measurement of project performance and deliverables.
These are typically used in baseline planning, resource allocation, and other activities where you need to determine whether your project is ready to start.
1. Process Metrics
Process quality indicators are used to assess how well your processes work in general. They typically consist of data analysis of process performance over time, leading to outputs that correlate with the deliverables that your project should produce or other outputs you expect from the process or activity . The analysis will consider feedback loops (for example means of combining data).
These indicators can include:
- Process Loops: A process loop assesses if the processes/activities of achieving the outputs of your project are there and work properly. The output of a process or activity is compared to its inputs. The aim of this is to find out if there are problems with the process.
- Process Change: Process change is a very common metric and consists of assessing the performance of processes/activities against targets defined for them. You can measure these in the same way that you would baseline performance data. The difference is that you are looking for improvement rather than looking at whether they are meeting your targets.
- Process Improvement: This is a very important metric when you want to measure the outcome of your project. It involves assessing changes in process or activity performance from baseline against targets for improvement or levels of outputs.
2. Product Metrics
Product metrics are used to measure whether the product that is being produced meets the needs of others. If your project produces a product that is sold or used by other parties, this kind of measurement helps to improve its quality. Product metrics will typically focus on the external, tangible aspects of your product.
- Product conformance is a quality metric that focuses on assessing whether your product meets standards and specifications. This is considered very important when the output of your project will be bought and sold, or used by other parties.
- Usability: If your product is to be used by others it will need to be assessed for usability. Usability is about whether the output of your project is easy to use.
- Reliability: If your product is to be used by others, there is a need to know that it will be reliable. This refers to the ability of the product to perform correctly when needed.
3. Outcome Metrics
Outcome metrics are used to measure whether you have achieved the expected outcome, or benefits for your stakeholders. Most projects have some kind of goal or objective, so it is important to know if they have been met within reasonable time. It is also important to see if the project is achieving its goals in the way it was intended, by basing your measurements on realistic performance.
Let’s lets list three examples:
- Outcome Quality: This refers to the quality of the results that your project is producing. This can be measured by comparing results with expected outcomes, and how well these are meeting your stakeholders’ needs.
- Outcome Cost: When you produce a product or provide a service, there may be costs involved in doing so . You can measure how much of these costs are necessary for achieving the goals of the project. This is a very important metric as it is linked to the budget.
- Outcome Timing: If your project has a deadline, it is crucial to know if it meets this deadline. A lot of projects have been unsuccessful just because they have not finished on time.
4. Value Metrics
Value metrics are used to measure if the value that you have created for stakeholders is higher or lower than expected. They are typically calculated with some kind of formula (typically an equation or calculation). Value metrics can be very complex, and usually require a consultation with your stakeholders.
Value metrics may include:
- Value Delivery: This involves using your product or service to achieve results. It is important to know if these results are meeting the objectives of the project.
- Cost Value: This metric involves assessing how much value has been created for stakeholders by looking at the costs involved with creating this value.
- Benefit Value: This is the opposite of cost value. Instead of looking at the costs, you look at how much benefit (value) has been provided by completing the project.
5. Scope Metrics
Scope metrics are used to measure the scope of deliverables. You need to know if your deliverables are within the expected scope of work, and whether there is any wasted scope. There are different ways of defining scope, for example:
- Scope Creep: This refers to when your project grows, either by adding new deliverables or introducing new parts that alter the original scope. If your deliverables creep or grow beyond what you need for this project, this could be costly to the whole quality process .
- Scope Control: If your project is supposed to be small or simple, it is important to control or limit the scope. If you don’t, your project may become too big and complicated for you to manage.
- Scope Variation: If there are many different variables in your project, you should consider how they will affect the scope.
6. Finance Metrics
Finance metrics are used to measure financial performance and the financial value of the project. They might include:
- Return on Investment (ROI): This is a common metric for measuring whether an investment in a project is working and how much value is being created in the process. It is calculated by dividing the amount of money spent in a project by the amount of money earned from it.
- Net Present Value (NPV): This is the total value of a project being undertaken, at a point in time. It is calculated by taking into account future (discounted) costs or benefits, and discounting them to find their present equivalent.
- Cash Flow: This is about knowing how much cash you are spending and receiving at any given time.
7. Project Management Metrics
Project metrics are used to measure progress of a project at a very basic level. They may include:
- Schedule: This is a metric that is used to measure how much of the target output has been produced or achieved in each portion of the schedule. It is also measured when it comes to milestones, which are when you should expect deliverables to be completed.
- Teamwork: When you are working in a team to produce your project, it is important that everyone works together efficiently. It is also important to know how well the different roles in your team are performing, or how much work each person has done in relation to the others.
- Cost: This is a metric that measures the overall cost of the project. It consists of basic basic costs involved with producing your output – including wages, materials and additional costs for overheads.
- Communications Quality: this measures how effective and effective your project is at communicating with stakeholders. It generally involves questions such as “are your stakeholders aware of your project?” or “how do you know if they are happy?”. You can also measure things such as whether they understand what you are working on, and whether there is risk involved in communications
How do You Measure Project Quality?
You break down your project into work packages – this will allow you to see the progress achieved so far against the time taken. This may not have been done for one reason or another, but it is always worth doing.
Ideally, if you are measuring quality in several different projects or programs concurrently, it would be helpful if each had a standard way of assessing its progress. You can then compare these direct with each other. Of course, the more similar the projects are – i.e., the same time frame and similar objectives – the easier it will be to make comparisons.
Even the way in which the organization is structured, the type of people it employs and how they are organized affect its performance. Measurement should be based on data that can be reviewed, analyzed and interpreted by management.
Information about the quality of an organization’s products is essential since quality affects sales. Information about products, quality and time of delivery is essential even if it does not directly relate to its customers. However, customers do care about information like this.
Therefore, price becomes irrelevant when customers make their buying decision. This means that if you want to get better results in terms of sales you need to focus on improving product quality. You can get deeper insight into your customers’ concerns through primary research.
Quality is an essential part of any endeavor whether it’s a business endeavor or something that you’re doing at work. By measuring your own quality you’ll be able to plan ahead and determine how much time is needed for each activity; by defining what you’re trying to accomplish with your project and what results are expected; which will allow you to decide if the activities are being done efficiently.