Quality assurance in project management and its types

One of the main concerns for the project managers is that the outcomes of each project meet the expectations. this is why the project managers need to implement processes that ensure quality outcomes. Quality Assurance (QA) helps ensure that the project team produces quality deliverables.

QA is among the most important final steps included in a project roadmap.  Across various industries like the IT industry, construction industry, and several other industries, project managers use quality assurance to ensure that the final product or service meets the quality standards and is of the highest quality. For project managers, it is impossible to ignore the benefits of QA and it is why project managers need to learn about QA and implementing QA processes to be successful in their careers.

What is quality assurance in project management?

Quality assurance or QA is a series of actions taken to ensure that the final product or service meets the quality expectations. The focus of the QA is on the processes the team uses to maintain quality standards. It ensures that each step in the project is thoroughly inspected and refined for achieving highest quality. For example, the project manager may require each member of the team to submit weekly progress reports. The implementation of QA in a project means setting requirements that ensure the team achieves high quality outcomes.  

Quality assurance or QA offers several benefits. However, the most important benefit it offers is higher customer satisfaction. With higher customer satisfaction, the level of customer loyalty will grow higher.

Across several industries businesses have come to recognize the criticality of Quality Assurance in project management. Many of them have created dedicated functions to ensure quality assurance is applied across all projects. Sometimes quality assurance system is also referred to as quality management system across various organizations.

Applying quality assurance in project management:

Companies implement quality assurance to make sure that no mistakes happen during the execution of a project and to minimize risks. Project managers must also keep quality assurance in mind right from the beginning of the project and before they plan the quality of their deliverables. It helps bring the focus to the areas where they can improve their work and the team’s efficiency. If project managers miss this part, then trying to fix the quality issues later can lead to significant growth in costs and delay. However, focusing on QA right from the beginning will help the company strengthen its reputation and maximize customer satisfaction.

Project managers can complete quality assurance at any stage of the project. Even when selecting their team, they can adopt a quality framework that makes sure that only the most suitable people are a part of the team. The team members can also carry out self-checks to ensure work is being carried out according to the set standards.

QA monitoring can also be made a part of the project plans and other functions involved where necessary or sometimes a third party can be brought in to help with QA. Companies need to have a proper project management tool and strategy in place to make projects less vulnerable to potential quality related risks.

Suggested Reading: Hurdles to the adoption of a project management methodology.

Three types of quality assurance methods:

The type of quality assurance method used by a company can vary by industry and based on the project’s goals. However, there are three common types of quality assurance methods used in project management.

They are:

  • Statistical process control
  • Failure testing
  • Total Quality Management

Statistical Process Control:

Statistical process Control or SPC is commonly used in companies developing chemical or technological products. This method uses statistical processes to develop quality standards. Project managers that use this method depend on data and charts to monitor ongoing progress.

The project manager collects and analyses data to develop a set of processes for achieving expected outcomes. He regularly compares the outcome with data to monitor ongoing progress. The SPC method involves discovery, investigation, prioritization, analysis and charting. Internally, the project managers can carry out SPC using project data or data from the studies conducted by the QA team.

Failure Testing:

Failure testing method is commonly used by project teams working on developing physical or virtual products. In this method, the teams test the components to make sure that they meet quality standards. The use of failure testing has become quite common across various industries including automobiles. For example, automobile companies carry out crash testing to test vehicle airbags and other safety components to check out how safe the car is for passengers.

However, when failure testing virtual products, the project teams test them for various high stress scenarios to know how the program or software will perform under high usage scenarios or against cyber attacks.

The focus of failure testing is on testing a prototype or the final product to know if it can survive high pressure scenarios and is ready to go to the market.

Total Quality Management:

Under the Total Quality Management methods, quantitative methods are used for making continuous quality improvements to a product.  Such quality assurance processes use quantitative methods to detect and eliminate errors and to continuously improve the output. TQM focuses on building consistent and predictable processes. It uses several types of modules to manage the various phases of the project.

TQM also supports project teams and offers data and analysis for planning and implementing future updates. The TQM method is quite popular in improving assembly line efficiency.

Quality Control versus Quality Assurance in Project Management:

While sometime people may use these terms interchangeably, quality control and quality assurance have different meanings in terms of project management. Overall, quality assurance has a much larger implication in project management compared to quality control. QC is just a tip of the iceberg. However, both are important components of a larger quality management system.

QC involves inspecting, testing and reporting outcomes to see if they match the required standards. QC and QA are together a part of a larger quality management system which also includes goals and procedures.  While QC is a much smaller subset, QA covers almost all components of a quality management system. The focus of QA is generally on the larger picture while QC only focuses on the details of the final product.

In simpler words, QC deals with the final product whereas QA is applicable throughout the project at all stages. Suppose a software company is developing a new software. It implements QA processes that ensure that the software is free from bugs and errors at every stage of development. QC has a much limited scope. It will only look at the finalized product and see if it conforms to the set quality standards. Project teams using QC are able to fix any problems in the final product before it is released to the public. QA ensures that any problem does not grow too big to control. If a project team does not use QA processes and only depends on QC carried out at the end of the project, rectifying the errors at the end may become a too big task for the team. What if mistakes have been committed at each stage. It is why QA is essential. It does not just minimize the chances of errors but also minimizes the chances of delay and controls quality risks which might otherwise increase the project team’s work load.

In this way, the main difference between QC and QA lies in their timelines. For example, while QA will occur throughout the project at all the stages, QC will occur after the product has been finalized. However, if the team detects any errors or problems through QC, the project manager can use this information to improve the QA processes for implementation in future projects.

QC aims to detect errors or problems in the final product whereas the focus of QA is to reduce or remove problems and errors in the final outcome.  The aim of quality control is to pinpoint any errors or problems that may cause the product to malfunction or offer lower quality than expected. However, QA focuses on the product’s quality throughout all the phases to ensure that the final product is of the best quality.

Both QA and QC seek to maximize customer satisfaction, but the time for the QC generally comes at the end of the project. QA is an ongoing process that starts right from the beginning of the project and ends when the project manager is satisfied with the quality of the outcome.