A project may be delivered on time and within budget, but if it fails stakeholders’ quality requirements, it’s still a failed project. This is why project quality management is such an important part of project management.
The project quality plan is a key element of the quality management process, instrumental in ensuring the quality and success of a project.
Overview: What is a project quality plan (PQP)?
A project quality plan is a component of the project management plan and outlines the required tools, tasks, and processes the project team must use and execute to achieve quality expectations. It provides guidance on the project’s quality requirements, and it defines how to manage and validate the quality of a project and its expected outcomes throughout the project phases.
In larger projects, a standalone quality planning document may be needed.
A project quality plan is sometimes called a quality assurance plan, quality management plan, quality control plan, or project quality management plan. No matter how your team or organization refers to it, the bottom line is it must achieve two main goals:
- Identify the project’s quality requirements
- Describe how quality assurance and quality control procedures will be carried out
3 processes in project quality management
For a project to achieve its quality goals, it must undergo three processes.
1. Quality planning
This process involves identifying the following information:
- The project’s quality requirements
- What makes a deliverable acceptable
- How quality will be managed and controlled throughout the project’s life cycle
- How to measure quality
- How quality information will be delivered, such as through meetings or via email
- What is expected of the project team
- What qualifications (e.g., hours of experience, licenses, certifications, etc.) team members, suppliers, and contractors must meet
- Which training must be offered to specific personnel
- What to do when quality problems are found
- Which quality reports and documents to prepare — and by whom
All this information is documented in the project quality plan, which will then be shared with everyone involved for approval.
2. Quality assurance
Quality assurance provides customers, certifying bodies, and other relevant stakeholders with the confidence that the project’s quality requirements will be achieved.
Quality assurance activities include:
- Defining and standardizing project management processes
- Documenting and recording test performances and quality reviews
- Collecting lessons learned so similar mistakes can be avoided in future projects
- Establishing a quality culture in which everyone does their share to create a quality product
3. Quality control
Quality control is part of the much larger quality assurance umbrella and focuses on inspection techniques and operational activities implemented during project execution to satisfy project quality expectations. It ensures deliverables are of the highest quality and follow established standards.
Quality control activities include:
- Conducting product testing, quality reviews, audits, and assessments to ensure deliverables follow guidelines, standards, plans, and processes
- Identifying non-compliance and what’s causing project quality to fail
- Keeping quality control records for comparison against baselines and agreed-upon limits
- Recommending corrective actions to improve and maintain product or service quality
How to write a project quality plan (PQP)
The quality plan will differ from project to project, but the steps for creating one are generally as follows:
1. Determine the project’s quality standards
The project team must understand what quality means for the project, especially since the word can mean different things to different people.
To determine the project’s quality requirements, start with the stakeholder register. Each of your project’s stakeholders is likely to impose a quality standard, such as:
- Management will want the organization’s in-house quality standards followed
- The government and regulating bodies will want regulatory standards, codes, and other applicable laws observed
- The client, project sponsor, customers, or end users will expect project-specific standards heeded
2. Define your team’s quality responsibilities
Teamwork thrives on clarity, and your quality plan must document each team member’s role. When everyone knows who does what and when, you avoid quality management activities going unassigned or being duplicated unnecessarily.
Clarifying team member responsibilities out of the gate is so important in project management that risk management plans often include accounting for the possibility of certain people being unavailable for specific tasks at certain times — and then making backup plans so other people are available to pick up the slack if necessary.
3. Define the acceptance criteria for every deliverable
The acceptance criteria are the conditions against which deliverables are measured to determine whether they satisfy the requirements defined by the customer, end users, subject experts, and regulatory bodies, among other stakeholders. These criteria are necessary for quality monitoring and control.
Distinguishing the attributes and characteristics of a deliverable is not solely a quality management activity, it’s also a vital component of scope management.
4. Document your project quality plan
A quality plan is project-specific, as opposed to a generic checklist, and the quality plan documentation typically contains the following information:
- Deliverables: This section lists all the project’s major deliverables, including the qualities, attributes, or state that the deliverables must possess or be in to be considered complete and correct.
- Quality standards: Organizations usually follow in-house quality guidelines besides industry-specific standards for quality control and quality assurance. List those standards here.
- Tools: Indicate all the tools you’ll use to measure, manage, and control the project’s quality. These may include flowcharts, checklists, control charts, cause-effect diagrams, templates, software tools, etc.
- Roles and responsibilities: Provide a list of the people who will carry out quality functions, such as analysts, project testers, quality assurance specialists, quality control personnel, the person in charge of overall quality, and so on.
- Quality assurance plan: List all the quality assurance activities you will be implementing to ensure the project’s deliverables will pass quality requirements.
- Quality control plan: Indicate the quality control activities you will be performing throughout the life of the project.
Some of the above information will be available elsewhere. For example, team roles and responsibilities, including the requirements for each role, will already be outlined in the resource management plan. Where possible, it may be best to reference the document rather than duplicate the information.
5. Obtain approval for your plan
Getting the project team, client, or senior management to sign off on the quality plan is vital to keeping everyone on the same page. The plan will be the basis for your quality management strategy, so it’s important there’s no confusion over the quality standards and processes to follow, the persons responsible for specific tasks, and so on.
Because the plan will be referenced throughout the project, once approved, it has to be readily available. A good project management software tool provides enough storage space for uploading and sharing files and managing and controlling documents that can be accessed on demand using any device.
Also, related project documents may have to be updated once your quality plan has been finalized. Examples of such documents are the responsibility assignment or RACI matrix, stakeholder register, and the work breakdown structure.
Establish a plan and stay in control of project quality
Quality is one of several project constraints project managers must be mindful of. You can do everything else right, but if you fail to give quality the attention it deserves, the project will fail. A project quality plan gives your projects a fair shot at success. It clarifies the project’s requirements, defines what a quality deliverable looks like, and outlines the steps necessary to get there.