How to Improve Project Requirements and Quality

Is there a way to improve both project requirements and quality at the same time? Allow me to begin this discussion with an illustration.

picture of requirements notebook

I recently needed a television mounted on the wall of my office. A fairly simple requirement, right?

I told the handyman that I wanted the television to be head high. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the room and saw that the television had been installed a foot higher than I expected. The handyman did what I asked him to do but he used his head height, not mine. He was like the Jolly Green Giant – 6 foot 7 inches tall; I was 5 foot 6 inches tall.

Improve Project Requirements and Quality

Quality management is highly dependent on the clarity of the project requirements.  Why?

Quality is the degree to which a project meets the requirements. This definition assumes that the requirements are defined and that there are varying degrees to which the requirements may be met.

If the truth were told, many projects lack SMART requirements: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound. They’re vague, and there are little to no standards by which to judge whether the requirement has been implemented properly. Furthermore, stakeholders may not be engaged adequately in the requirements process.

Ill-defined requirements — like “install the TV head high” — make it difficult, if not impossible, for designers, developers, and testers to do their jobs. When defining requirements, define the fit criteria: “a quantification of the requirement that demonstrates the standard the product must reach.” For example, I could have specified the precise vertical and horizontal location for the television. With this, we would have had a way to measure whether the requirement was met (and avoid the rework, time, and extra expense).

Additional Requirements and Quality Management Articles

Want to know more about project requirements and quality management? Check out these additional articles:

Do You Make These Quality Management Mistakes?

Last week, I talked about How to Develop a Quality Management Plan. Today, I’d like to share common quality management mistakes. Being aware of these failure points can help you and your project teams to identify and manage quality risks.

Quality Management Mistakes

1. Failure to Define Quality

Quality means different things to different people. One person may say that they own a high-quality diamond ring. A builder describes his quality homes.

What does quality mean to a project manager and the project team? Quality is the degree to which a project meets the requirements. This implies that the requirements are known and that the needs may be met partially or fully.

How to Develop a Quality Management Plan

Entering projects with little consideration to quality can be costly in numerous ways. Let’s look at the project risks when there is no quality management plan.

Image showing how quality improves value

First, we may not meet customer’s needs and expectations.

Second, the cost of corrective action and defect repair may be higher than expected.

Third, the cost of quality after the project may be higher and may decrease customer confidence.

Fourth, project communication may be more challenging since people expect different things.

Fifth, your team’s morale may suffer. Nobody likes missing deadlines due to rework resulting from the failure to understand the quality requirements.

How to Keep Your Projects Financially Fit

I received a Fitbit as a gift. “Fitbit tracks every part of your day — including activity, exercise, food, weight, and sleep — to help you find your fit, stay motivated, and see how small steps make a big impact.”

Keep Your Projects Financially Fit

Keep Your Projects Financially Fit

After using the Fitbit for about three weeks, I’ve discovered it works. How?

First, I see my performance — the number of steps, activity levels, and sleep — throughout the day. Fitbit even offers notifications for when I’m not active for long periods of time. This alone keeps me motivated.

Second, the Fitbit syncs to my iPhone Fitbit app where I can monitor trends. I can see if I’m going to bed and getting up at a consistent time, how many calories I’m burning, and how many days in a row that I’ve exercised.

Third, I can track my progress against my personal goals (e.g., run three days per week and walk three days per week).

Fourth, you can (I haven’t yet) even add friends into your circle to track progress, receive encouragement, and have a friendly competition.

Let’s look for ways to monitor and control our cost more intentionally.

3 Team Techniques to Improve Cost Estimates

Improve buy-in and support for your project budgets

Do you ever feel like the Lone Ranger when trying to improve cost estimates? You’re not alone. Actually, you have a team.

3 Team Techniques to Improve Cost Estimates

Many project managers are left to their own devices when estimating projects. This can be rather challenging. So, how can we improve our cost estimates?

I’d like to suggest something different — engage your project team and key stakeholders. Not only will you improve your cost estimates, but you’ll also get better buy-in and support in keeping the project within budget.

What kinds of projects would benefit from this approach? Large complex projects. And alien projects that are different projects than previously undertaken.

6 Practical Ways to Actually Improve Your Cost Management

PMP Exam Series - Cost Management

Think about it for a minute – what have you done in the last six months to improve your cost management?

Review the projects you’ve completed in the last year. How many of those projects came in over budget?

6 Practical Ways to Actually Improve Your Cost Management

Consider John, a savvy project manager, who was asked to manage a project to replace a dated network system. The project sponsor told him that he had $100,000 for the project. When John asked the project sponsor how the $100,000 was estimated, but he never got a clear answer.

As John started the project, he checked the historical records of similar projects as well as some other companies. His early estimate — an analogous estimate — was $125,000 with a range of accuracy between -25 percent to +50 percent. John shared the estimate with the sponsor and said that he would provide a more detailed estimate after completing a work breakdown structure (WBS) with the project team.

The team used the WBS to complete a bottom-up estimate, estimating each project activity and rolling the individual estimates up to higher levels and ultimately to a project total. John reported the revised estimate of $120,000 with a range of accuracy of -5 percent to +10 percent. The sponsor increased the budget to $110,000.

John worked with the sponsor and the team to find ways to further decrease cost. What could be excluded? How could the team get discounts when purchasing the equipment, software, and wiring?

Cost management is rarely a straight shot. We zigzag, don’t we? We give and we take, and we attempt to find ways to deal with the budget constraints we face each day. (If you have a spouse and children, you probably already understand these principles, huh?) Let’s look at some ways to improve your cost management.

My Top 10 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2016

Wow! It’s been a great year. So much so, I’ve decided to leave the corporate world to help more project managers than ever. Thank you for making this possible.

most-popular-blog-posts-of-2016

Approximately 42,000 visitors came to The Project Risk Coach in 2016, up from 33,000 visitors in 2015. Also up from 21,000 in 2014. As you can see, the visitors have doubled in two years.

Visitors spent an average of 4 minutes and 19 seconds per visit.

The top countries were:

  • The United States
  • The United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • India
  • Australia

Top Blog Posts for 2016

Here were the top 10 posts and the number of visits:

  1. How to Develop a Project Charter – 4,184
  2. The What, Why, and How of Projects – 3,229
  3. How to Determine Project Budget Reserves – 3,091
  4. Evaluating Risks Using Qualitative Risk Analysis – 1,993
  5. 7 Things You Ought to Know About Identifying Risks – 1,786
  6. 10 Surprising Ways to Make Your Project Customers Happy – 1,224
  7. How to Build a Risk Register – 1,060
  8. 7 Sharp Ways to Improve Project Quality – 849
  9. How to Break Down Your Project – 833
  10. Free Stuff – 813

Focus for 2017

As I’ve thought about 2017, one word continues to come to mind – ENGAGEMENT. While I enjoy sharing with thousands of people around the world, I want to engage more with individuals and small groups, both online and face-to-face.

I see my primary audience as practicing project managers in the United States with a college education, a large percentage with either a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree. Most are between the ages of 30 and 60. I plan to focus more on project managers working in the financial industry.

Irrespective of where you live or what you do, I hope you will always find The Project Risk Coach as a reliable resource of project management information.

Please Take My Reader Survey for 2016

Reader Survey 2016. Please help me help YOU. It is my sincere desire to provide as much value as possible in 2017. Click here to complete a quick survey.