Quality Management Starter Kit

Executive Summary
Project Quality Management focuses on ensuring two things: the quality of project management and the quality of the products created during the project.
This starter kit adopts the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) framework of discussion. According to PMBOK, Project Quality Management consists of the following processes: Quality Planning, Perform Quality Assurance, and Perform Quality Control. These processes are applied to the work projects (e.g., IT projects, manufacturing projects, construction projects, etc.) as illustrated in the following diagram.
The following sections describe these processes. The discussion of these processes includes the overview in PMBOK format (i.e., input, tools, and outputs) and details that are based on IT quality issues and also the frameworks such as Lean, Six Sigma, CMMI and others.
This starter kit is presented in an outline (bullet item) format to facilitate quick learning, adoption and customization.


Main Sources of Information for further studies:
  1. Project Quality Management: Why, What and How, by Kenneth H. Rose, Publisher: J. Ross Publishing (June 29, 2005), ISBN-10: 1932159487
  2. Software Quality Assurance form Theory to Implementation, by Daniel Galin, Addison-Wesley - 2004
  3. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), by Project Management Institute, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  4.  ITIL – IT Service Management, Introductory Overview
1. Quality Planning

1.1 Overview
Quality planning, according to the PMBOK, “involves which quality standards are relevant to the project and determining how to satisfy them”.Quality standards here does not necessarily imply frameworks such as Lean-SixSigma, ISO 9000, CMMI, etc. Instead it implies a quality goal (a requirement) that is set by the company for a project. This standard may mean statements such as “zero defects with 50% reduction in cycle time”.
One of the fundamental tenets of quality management is: “quality is planned, designed and built in -- not inspected in”.
Thus quality planning is an integral part of the project planning.  The following diagram shows the main inputs received, outputs produced, and the tools and techniques used in quality planning. The following discussion gives additional details.  


1.2 Detailed Steps for Quality Planning

Getting Started in Quality Planning
  • Pick the right project (not too large, not too small or insignificant) for quality improvement
  • Develop a quality management plan.
  • Define a quality policy. Establish quality goals and timeline when the goals can be achieved. Be as specific as possible. Examples:
    • Reduce defects by 30%
    • Reduce customer complaints by 30%
    • Cut down cycle time by 50%
    • Good example of a balanced policy: “We will build good ships here, at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always good ships”. (From a naval shipyard in UK in late 1800s)
  • Determine who is in charge and who is responsible for quality.
Identify Customers
  • Identify all relevant customers by analyzing contracts (external customer who is paying for it), project organization (internal customers who are stake holders), and the intended product use (the end-user who will be using the product).  
  • Prioritize customers. Not all customers are equally important. Compare customers against each other to develop better understanding. For example, customer A may be more important than customer B, less important than customer C or equal to customer D. You could rank customers in terms on a scale of 0 to 10 (10 being crucial).
Establish Requirements

Identify requirements of all relevant customers.
Prioritize requirements from each customer’s point of view.
Prepare customer-weighted prioritization.
Define explicit, measurable specifications for each requirement. For example, how will you know if a specific requirement has been satisfied?

2.Work Projects (Specifically IT Projects)

2.1 Overview  
Work projects are the actual projects (also known as “target projects”) that are building products or delivering services. These projects are the focus of quality management, i.e., quality management attempts to improve the processes and the products of selected work projects.

Information System Development Phases

Our focus is on IT projects of two types: a) software development/maintenance projects and b) IT services projects that attempt to improve certain IT services.  

2.2 Detailed Steps in IT Projects  

Break the Projects into Phases/Stages (Macro Analysis)
  • For Software Development Projects: Breakdown the overall development process into phases (e.g., life cycle phases such as requirements, design, etc.). A typical software life cycle is shown above.
  • For IT Service Projects: Breakdown the service into stages (e.g., initiation stage, problem definition stage, solution development stage, solution delivery stage, post-delivery stage, etc)
  • Make sure that the work between the stages flows smoothly without any delays and wastage of resources. For example, the transition between design and development/implementation should wait for 2 months for a programmer to be assigned.  
  • Make sure that the results produced by each stage/phase are of high quality (e.g. no defects, no reworks, etc.). This means that the results produced by ALL phases/stages are of high quality and not just the final code that is delivered to the user.
  • Use project management tools and diagramming techniques such as PERT/CPM and others to properly manage the project.
  • Make sure that each stage/phase considers processes, technologies and people issues.
Develop Detailed Work Steps from the Phases/Stages of work (Micro Analysis)  

This activity refines the phases/stages identified previously by using the following steps: 
Breakdown each stage/phase into very detailed “work-steps” (5 or more steps per phase). Work steps usually include a list of supplies (e.g., technologies) for a particular job, plus detailed guidance on how to do the work (e.g., best practices in software development). Make sure that the work steps and instructions include mundane, day-to-day jobs that must be done correctly, in a certain order, and without mistakes. Make sure that the work steps conform to the company policies and procedures.
Use your written work steps to train software developers, supervisors and managers.
Use the work steps also for testing and for internal audits.
The main idea is to use your work steps for breaking down jobs and making improvements.   In short, use your work instructions to make sure the work that must be done, gets done right.

Refine Macro/Micro Analysis based on Frameworks

Refine the work steps (the process) by using Lean approach (i.e., no waste no-where) . Thus Lean can be used for process improvement.
Define the results produced (no defects, no rework, do it once and do it right) by using the Six Sigma approach. Thus Sigma can be used for end-product/service improvement. Use the CMMI approach to start at the right level and then go to higher levels gradually. It is a good idea to start with CMMI Level 2 and then go higher. Basically, CMMI levels can be used for “continuous improvement”. Make sure that a right balance of processes, people and technologies exists throughout (too much technology and no attention to processes and people is not good) Familiarize yourself with the available frameworks. Exhibit 1 shows some key resources to get started.

3. Quality Assurance

3.1 Overview
Quality assurance (QA), according to the PMBOK is “the application of planned, systematic quality activities to ensure  that the project will employ all processes needed to meet requirements”.QA activities are performed by a QA group or by the members of the project team.
An important outcome of QA is continuous process improvement (CPI), i.e., iteratively improve the quality by introducing new QA activities and formalizing the existing ones. As stated previously, CMMI levels (0 through 5) can be used for CPI.

The following diagram shows the main inputs received, outputs produced, and the tools and techniques used in quality assurance. The following discussion gives additional details.


3.2 Detailed Steps for QA  

Identify QA Activities

  • Define activities that will ensure project performance conforms to requirements. These activities are the main responsibilities of the QA group. The activities may be actually performed as part of the Work Project activities (e.g., project/service phases/stages, work steps, etc.) but are still the responsibility of the QA group.   
  • Develop metrics for each activity, i.e. number of defects, number of calls handled in an hour, etc.   

Assemble a QA Plan

  • Assemble quality assurance activities into a quality assurance plan.
  • Include what, when, and who.
  • Include processes, technologies and people in the activities

Example of a QA activity: 

  • Requirement: “answer 99% of hotline calls within one ring”
  • Assurance activity: Determine percentage of calls answered on one ring during a 48 hour period
  • Metric: percentage of calls answered in one ring

Sample quality assurance plan:

A QA plan documents all QA activities so that they can be managed and improved continuously.  The following table could be used for a QA plan.

Activity no



Assurance Activity


Responsible Entity


Calls answered promptly

99% within one ring 

Calls answered per 48 hours

Done several times a week

Joe Mason

4. Quality Control   

4.1 Overview
Quality control (QC), according to the PMBOK “involves monitoring specific project results to determine if they comply with relevant quality standards …”.
QC activities are performed by a QC group or by the members of the project team.
An important outcome of QC is determining what is not working, understanding why not, and then devising mechanisms to fix the problems. Thus QC works very closely with QA for continuous process improvement (CPI). In fact, many people lump QA and QC together for the purpose of CPI.
The following diagram shows the main inputs received, outputs produced, and the tools and techniques used in quality control. The following discussion gives additional details. 


4.2 Detailed Steps of Quality Controls  

  1. Monitor and measure project performance.
  2. Compare results to specifications.
  3. Take action based on results.
  4. Adopt a continuous quality improvement model, i.e., institutionalize the lessons learned and use them over and over again.   

The following (plan, do, check and act) circle represents continuous quality improvement.



Concluding Remarks

The outline information presented in this starter kit is intended to get you started. This information does not advocate any specific framework but suggests where some of the frameworks could fit.
The main idea is to use this starter kit, customize it for your situation and keep improving and customizing it  by iteratively going through the process of quality planning, quality assurance and quality control for many work projects as suggested in the following diagram. In each iteration, reuse what you have learned and make further quality improvements.