We all have slightly different ideas about what quality means. For some, it means the product doesn’t break down, fall apart, or explode (looking at you, Samsung). For others, it’s about that item exceeding expectations. In the world of project management, it’s a little closer to the former: Quality means ‘how well a product or service fulfills its requirements.’
These requirements are predefined and, before the product goes to the customer, it needs to meet these criteria. You can see why it’s important: Low quality will upset your customers. And if you upset your customers, your business is in big trouble.
If you put a formalized plan in place, it helps ensure you are meeting your quality. That way, there’s no ambiguity, and no one wastes time discussing whether or not something is good enough to send out. Meanwhile, consistently producing top quality products means happy customers, and that’s always good for business.
Let’s take a closer look at the world of quality management plans.
What is quality management?
Quality management is the process of maintaining quality through every stage of the project. As a concept, it’s related to triple constraint (the interplay between time, cost, and scope, and the effect they have on quality). These three things need to be balanced carefully, and in such a way that quality doesn’t dip below the predefined requirements.
There are two types of quality managers need to keep an eye on:
- Product quality, which is the thing you produce, could be an app, a website, a cake, an ad… you get the idea.
- Process quality, which is guaranteed by project managers making sure the processes that surround production are all geared up to ensure standards are maintained.
What is a quality management plan?
it’s imperative that your team upholds quality. If it dips, you’ll have unhappy customers. Quality management is the process of ensuring standards are maintained so this doesn’t happen — and a quality management plan is all about making those standards official.
It’s part of the project management plan, and it should describe guidelines, policies, activities, resources, and procedures that help teams achieve the product or services’ quality objectives.
Why are quality management plans important?
A quality management plan is the best way to make sure everything you produce is reliably and consistently of a high standard. Here are some of the benefits:
1. A good product
The proof is in the pudding: If you have a good quality management process in place, your product will be good. Your customers will be happy, your sales healthy, and your stakeholders will leave the boardroom smiling.
2. Faster production
When everyone knows what to do, and to what standard, work just flows a little easier. You won’t waste time discussing if something’s good enough to send out — it either is, or it isn’t.
3. Lower overheads
Integrating quality into key stages of the production process means that when you catch errors, they’re easier to fix, both in terms of budget and time.
4. More trust among stakeholders
Meeting every deadline while producing reliably high-quality work has the added bonus of strengthening the relationship between that team, not to mention between the team and other departments/stakeholders. At key stages, other teams, stakeholders, and bosses can see progress, share their thoughts, and shape the product’s direction as it moves onto the next stage.
Who is responsible for the quality management plan?
This all depends on your project, your business, and your way of working — but generally speaking, it’s the project manager’s job to create this document, communicate it, uphold it, and update it.
While doing this, they’ll usually collaborate with the wider team, as well as stakeholders and other managers and departments. And the team presents it back to key stakeholders after they finish. So the short answer to this question is… everyone is responsible, including:
- The project manager
- The team, or selected team members
- Managers of different departments (if relevant)
- Product testers
- Customer reps
How quality management will affect your budget
It costs money to avoid issues, and resolve them. Incurring costs before or during the project categorizes them as ‘conformance’ costs. Any money spent rectifying mistakes is called ‘the cost of nonconformance.’ The more experienced you are in creating a product, the lower these costs will be. But the Cost Of Quality (COQ) can be steep if you’re making something for the first time.
Cost of conformance fees cover things that help ensure a project remains on-track throughout its development. This could include testing, training, materials, and inspections — to name just a few. Usually, the more you spend here, the less you’ll need to spend on nonconformance fees.
You only incur nonconformance costs if the product fails its quality checks. These could include new materials, overtime, or — worst case scenario — the cost it takes to completely redo it. Sometimes, these issues have secondary costs, including loss of business, liability claims, and warranties.
Implementing quality checks throughout the production lifecycle (or continuous improvement as it’s known) can help keep these costs low because issues are caught often and early, rather than later on when most of the budget has already gone.
What should your quality management plan include?
The plan can be a line, a simple, single-page document, or a big, complex thing that spans multiple products, services, and projects. Generally speaking, it should include the following sections:
- A short summary explaining your approach to quality management
Have discussions with the team and selected stakeholders to define what quality means. Then, distill your findings down into a few short lines and put it at the top of the document. By keeping the customer or stakeholder’s needs tied to the product, it’s easier to narrow your focus and stay on track.
- The deliverables
Next, define the products or services that you will review. Here, it’s worth adding what quality looks like for each of these (for example, load speeds and functionalities).
- Roles and responsibilities
Note who will be responsible at each stage of the project, and who is responsible for different quality checks.
- How you will test
Define what the different checks involve, and at what stage they must take place. Sometimes, these checks can be automated — a handy technique known as continuous integration. Because checks are done automatically, developers can focus more on coding, while the fact a machine is doing the testing lowers the chance of human error, improving code quality.
- A quality check log
It’s important to make sure you complete every check. You can do this on pieces of paper, or better still, use project management software. Configure workflows to send out quality check reminders, and automate as many processes as you can so your team can focus on other things.
Quality management is a useful framework for ensuring high standards at every stage of the production pipeline. Once it’s in place, you’ll be able to reap the benefits, including happier stakeholders and customers, fewer errors, and a more streamlined way of working.
Backlog, our own project management tool, comes with a dashboard that shows real-time project metrics. Meanwhile, online Gantt charts make it easy to schedule tasks, while Kanban boards make it easier for your team to self-manage and pull tasks through whenever they’re ready to work on them.
Because it displays everything in one place and updates continually, managers can see at a glance if team members carried out all the quality checks, and most importantly, how they went. This makes it easier to act quickly and catch quality problems before they snowball into bigger issues.