Quality assurance in project management is a process of verifying quality standards through inspection to ensure that the outcome meets standardization and quality requirements for a product or a service.
QA, which stands for Quality Assurance can be:
- Internal (when a company sets its quality standards) or
- External (when those quality standards require an external formal audit, authorization, or approval).
Internal QA is informal because you won’t get a certificate from a governmental agency. However, that doesn’t mean that it is less significant.
Unless you perform quality assurance by yourself, your clients and customers will do it for you through a failed product or poor feedback on service.
Setting standards in every facet of work is what distinguishes top-performing from struggling businesses.
Quality assurance requires that you maintain the standards you have selected. Maintaining QA standards is about taking action to address your declaration and intention for quality assurance. Be it in project management, product control, security compliance, or day-to-day work of how you meet goals and help your team perform; you need to be consistent in establishing a quality assurance system.
Any QA system must show that what you do across time is what you planned to do in the first place.
- The outcomes must match the plan.
- The result must match the goal.
So, how do you make sure you have such a QA system set in place?
It is not as complex as it sounds when you have the right formula for maintaining quality across the board, starting from you as a leader.
Quality Assurance in Project Management
If you have a certification in Project Management, you have probably heard this definition:
QA in project management consists of a series of actions to ensure all previous steps in a particular project process have been taken according to the project plan.
For example, this can be ensuring that progress reports have been submitted on time and in an appropriate format or that a team member has met the qualifications to perform a task.
QA is one of the four concepts of ensuring quality through the project lifecycle. The other three are Quality Planning (QP), Quality Control (QC), and Continuous Improvement (CI).
Quality in Service-based Projects
Continuous quality improvement is an essential element of a business strategy that aims for achieving goals with less variation and more predictability.
Quality of products is a core concept in manufacturing processes. However, it is equally applicable to service businesses. For example, Software Quality Assurance (SQA) is a service-based system. Although the final goal is a software product, such as a website or an app, the project lifecycle consists of numerous actions with different services. Software testing is performed to secure the product meets usability and performance requirements.
The purpose of SQA is to ensure that product quality measures up to the requirements, which is not easy to do because software development can be disruptive. Sometimes it takes a whole team of QA Software Engineers, Developers, and Testers to guarantee a failproof product. An external standard for quality assurance in project management for software projects is ISO 9001. ISO 9001 applies to: “quality assurance in design, development, production, installation, and servicing”.
SO 9001 ensures customers are introduced to the software development process and can evaluate it and give feedback as the project rolls out.
Unlike ISO 9001, ISO 9000 is the basic quality assurance model that warrants structures, systems, roles, and responsibilities for quality management are set in place in your organization. So you can view ISO 9000 as an internal QA standard, and ISO 9001 as an external quality standard because it warrants high-quality service to customers.
Manufacturers use an SPC (Statistical Process Control) tool to detect faulty products.
In the context of manufacturing, QA ensures the production process is executed in a way that maintains consistent quality for the produced items. In the context of the software development process, QA ensures that the sequence of actions follows through a process without gaps, errors, and bugs
As a rule of thumb, you don’t need that in a service-based system. What you do need is high internal standards of quality that meet your target audience’s needs and solve its problems.
You don’t need that in a service-based system. What you do need is high internal standards of quality that meet your target audience’s needs and solve its problems.
Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control
It is important not to mix quality assurance as a tool for examining processes with quality control (QC) as a tool for reviewing outputs.
If you run a business and want to use QA in project management for every aspect of your business, it is helpful to link QA with KPIs and QC with OKRs.
If you view quality assurance as a checkbox tool, you can set up all your projects and work processes as a system of actions. In such systems, everyone knows the steps they need to take at every time.
This system is easy to follow:
- It assures quality is there without the QA itself posing an unnecessary burden on your resources.
- It takes care of itself because you have taken the time to set up quality standards and make them an integral part of how your team works.
The Three Elements of Quality Assurance (QA)
QA consists of three crucial elements: objectives, specifications, and measurement.
- Objectives are closely tied to business goals and business strategy.
- Specifications describe how you translate goals into specific actions for job roles within a certain context.
- Measurement is a part of QA that provides a clear link between projections and realization.
The Role of QA in Project Management
You cannot achieve quality of outcomes without achieving quality of processes. That is the role of quality assurance in PM — to guarantee that quality is entangled in all processes so that the excellent standards by which a job is done are a part of the job’s outcome.
How to Ensure Quality Assurance in a Project
As a leader, you must play the role of Quality Assurance Manager for your business as a whole by:
- Installing quality in the hiring process.
- Defining the job role quality requirements.
- Setting guidelines about quality in task performance.
- Doing periodical self-checks for personal quality assurance.
- Prioritizing quality in the business strategy.
- Interlinking quality standards into project workflows.
- Measuring outcomes to ensure your progress goes as planned.
From the above, it becomes clear that quality assurance is a strategic goal, if not a priority, to ensure progress.
Quality Assurance Manager in Project Management
Many businesses make the QA manager a part of their team when working on a complex project. For example, software QA with multiple stakeholders requires a Quality Assurance Analyst who will hold everyone up to the task. The QA Analyst defines quality standards, especially when advanced technical knowledge is in question, and keeps everyone accountable.
There are many tasks the QA Manager can do, and not having one is costly when you have to keep an eye on multiple priorities and check many boxes.
When you don’t have sufficient resources to hire a quality assurance manager, you can either:
- Take that role yourself.
- Delegate the part to an existing team member.
- Hire a new QA person.
Whatever you choose to do, QA can drain your resources and create unnecessary bottlenecks in project management.
Listen to the Virtual Frontier Podcast to learn more about QA in Project Management
The problem arises when you sacrifice quality to resources or resources to quality because you don’t know how to adapt the process to the newly required quality standard.
In this either-or situation, mistakes often happen. And they don’t need to when you make quality a part of your strategy.
This means setting an example with your leadership principles to inspire a follow-through from your team.
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