Perform Quality Assurance

December 3, 2009
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One significant aspect of project management is the act of making sure that each and every item is produced according to rigid quality standards. Underlying basis being if these standards are adhered to and close control of processes used are maintained, quality of the output item can be assured. Audit of QA processes and quality control measurements ensure that the right quality standards and operational definitions are in use. Periodic audit of the QA processes are essential too to ensure that they are giving rise to the desired quality in the output items. These audits and/or peer reviews are to ensure that current state is what was visualized in terms of quality and undertake any tweaking that has become necessary, if at all.

The quality assurance or the QA activities are run in conjunction with process improvement activities. Any process improvement that reduces waste and makes the process a little more efficient cannot be overlooked. Processes must be run at the most efficient and effective state given the state of knowledge available currently and in the combined wisdom of not only the project management team but also all the other interested stakeholders as well.

The QA processes are typically run by a specialized QA department. It is also usual to have the department report to authorities to whom the project manager reports. That ensures that not only they are not under the same deadline pressures as the project team as also project manager would not be able to force the QA to accept unless he is satisfied. Thus they would not be tempted to cut corners. The department’s first commitment is to enforce the QA processes that include standards and process control defined in the QA plans. This direct reporting also demonstrates the commitment of higher management, that they are committed to fulfill the quality requirements fully.

The Process

The structure of the QA process itself can be described the way all the other processes in the PMBOK are described. This is in terms of the inputs specific to the process, what tools & techniques are used to process these inputs and what are the outputs generated out of the complete process.

In those terms the inputs that this process uses are the project management plan, quality metrics, work performance information and quality control measurements. The project management plan, as always, is the mother of all related plans so that it is an absolutely necessary input. The QA plan and the process input plans provide you the necessary QA process overview and the process improvement plan provides you the necessary analysis processes to detect improvements.

Quality metrics are the dimensions that define the overall quality to be achieved and the work performance information tells you how much of that is actually achieved. The dimensions of work performance include the numbers indicating technical performance measures, project deliverables status, schedule progress and costs incurred. The performance as measured by the QC measurements is what tells you exactly where we are. QC measurements are the documented results of quality control activities. The formats, usually, would have been specified in the quality planning phase.

The outputs, the documents, generated out of all this processing include projects management plan updates, change requests, organizational process asset updates and other project document updates. Change request take care of the changes to be made to the project activities, quality activities etc. or even a change required in one of the deliverables. If there are any changes required in the project plan as a consequence of these changes they need to be taken care of too. The process assets updates take care of any knowledge that has been generated and are captured in the process documents.

Quality audits and process analysis are the two major techniques in use during the Perform QA process. The tools and techniques used during the plan quality and perform quality control processes.

Quality audits are geared towards identifying the good and best practices being used, identifies all the gaps and/or shortcomings, sharing good practices used in earlier projects, offering assistance to project team to improve implementation of processes and improvements in productivity and updating the process assets through the lessons learnt from such audits. Audits will have to be very structured to be most effective. The review also will have to be independent of the project team to help identify whether project activities are following the policies, processes and procedures as dictated by the organizational as well as project policies.

Correction of deficiencies arising out of audit results should reduce cost of quality and result in increased satisfaction of the stakeholder/sponsor and/or customer. Audits can be used to confirm that earlier changes requested are actually implemented whether for improvements or preventive/corrective actions. Process analysis attempts to identify problems their root causes, problems and constraints experienced. More importantly if a non value added activity has been discovered that can be eliminated.

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