Why is project quality often neglected? Well, it's hard to manage things we don't understand. And quality seems to be an esoteric concept to many people. Therefore, let's define quality and discuss some practical ways to manage project quality.
1. Make quality management pragmatic. Many people do not invest appropriate effort towards quality because they do not understand it. The Project Management Institute defines quality as “conformance to requirements and fitness of use.” According to this definition, quality comes through clearly defining and meeting the requirements of the users and stakeholders.
2. Plan for quality. During the planning process, determine how you will manage project quality. Quality management plans may include:
3. Start your project with a focus and commitment to manage project quality. If inspections and tests are conducted periodically throughout the project lifecycle, the team is more likely to find defects at the point of origination, saving time and expense later.
4. Invest in quality management reasonably. The amount of time spent on quality should be commensurate with the size and complexity of the project. Remember – there is a cost for quality. The cost should not exceed the benefit.
5. Conduct appropriate tests. Do not skimp on critical tests. For example, some software teams do an excellent job testing the software functions but fail to conduct stress tests. When the software is implemented, the functions work great for a few users. However, when thousands of users hit the system, the system crashes. Furthermore, make sure end–to-end testing is performed.
"Quality is everyone's responsibility." —W. Edward Deming
6. Protect the time for testing. Most testing occurs towards the end of iterations or the end of projects. Therefore, testers are often in a crunch. If developers get behind on their development tasks, the testers are often the ones who are adversely impacted. For instance, the testing time is cut.
7. Discuss fixed-date projects with your project sponsor. We must apply our knowledge, experience, and creativity to delivering the products in the desired timeframe. However, the project manager must know when to negotiate tradeoffs of schedule, scope, quality, cost, and risks.
8. Buying commercial software packages does not ensure quality. Many times organizations purchase software solutions. Little thought is given to quality. Before purchasing commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software, talk with some of the vendor's customers. What was their experience in terms of software quality? How does the vendor respond to requests to fix software defects? How timely are the fixes? Who pays for these changes? Be sure the capture the roles and responsibilities and other critical quality management information in your vendor statement of work.
I hope this article has caused you to think deeper about your approach to project quality. On an upcoming project or an existing project, develop a quality management plan. Look at lessons learned from prior projects. What can you do to improve quality and mitigate quality risks?