31 Jan 2013
Addressing Quality in Your Project
How many times have you heard your customer complain that the product you have delivered doesn't meet their expectations?
This is as a result of not addressing their expectations early enough in the project to get it right. You can learn how to do this with 5-day PRINCE2 Practitioner Training.
But customers also bring problems too! They often don’t seem to know what they want.
It is your job as a project manager to work with your customer to establish their quality expectations and then to create some measurable criteria against which you can deliver something fit for purpose.
Where Do We Start?
At the beginning... of the project.
During the early stages of the project – Starting Up – you should be talking to your customer about the solution:
- What they hope it will do
- How it will work
- What it will look like
These initial expectations will be little vague and may require some prompting and input from you to gain clarity around what the expectations mean.
You can find out more about how to begin a project in this post - Starting Up a Project (SU) Process.
An example might be that a customer may want something to be user-friendly – you will need to establish exactly what that means – does it mean 2 clicks to completion, clear easy to read fonts, more graphics or pictures to explain complex terms etc.
In a PRINCE2 project, your objective in Starting Up is to capture the customer quality expectations in a document called a Project Product Description – this document describes at a high level what the project is going to deliver and its quality attributes. You will also capture more specific acceptance criteria which describe in measurable, quantifiable terms the exact criteria the expectations will meet to be acceptable to the customer.
So right at the beginning of the project, we should have a pretty good idea what our customer expects in terms of quality from their final deliverable.
This will form the basis for scoping the project and planning the products and activities required to meet the expectations.
How Do We Achieve Quality?
So the next step will be to establish the ground rules and approach of how quality will be achieved. This is the creation of the Quality Management strategy. The purpose of the strategy is to define the following:
- Who is responsible for the strategy
- The procedures and processes that need to be followed including any standards that need to be met to ensure quality
- Any reporting requirements
- Any records that need to be kept
- Any roles and responsibilities required
This strategy is essential as we need to know this information in order to plan the quality activities required for the products we produce.
So now that we have a strategy outlining our approach, the next step is addressed when we tackle our planning.
As you know, you will need a plan. This plan should identify among other things, the deliverables or products you will be creating or producing. These should be identified when planning and specifications created for each product at the planning stage. These specifications are known as Product Descriptions in PRINCE2.
The objective of a Product Description is to hold information about the quality criteria that is expected to be met of each product being created or delivered by the project, and how these will be met by describing the type of tests to be carried out and who will be responsible for conducting them.
When the Product descriptions are created, they will be approved by the Project Board and then given to the relevant team managers responsible for the creation of that product.
How Do We Know We Have Met Criteria?
As each product or deliverable is created, so they must be tested. At designated points in time, the products will be tested to ensure they meet the criteria described in the Product Descriptions.
The tests will be carried out and the results recorded, which eventually provide a record of evidence for the customer that the criteria of the products have been met.
At the end of the project, the customer will review the Project Product Description to ensure all the acceptance criteria have been met and may well also be provided with the approval records of the tests carried out of the individual products.
In all, the final result should be a happy customer!
If you want to make sure you're ending a project correctly, take a look at our post 'Closing a Project (CP) Process'.
If you want to learn more about PRINCE2 processes, try our Brighton-based PRINCE2 Courses.