Quality is generally defined as the totality of features and inherent or assigned characteristics of a product, person, process, service and/or system that bear on its ability to show that it meets expectations or satisfies stated needs, requirements or specification. In PRINCE2®, a product can also be a person, process, service and/or system, so the focus of quality is on a product’s ability to meet its requirements. The ’product focus’ principle is central to PRINCE2®’s approach to quality. It provides an explicit common understanding of what the project will create (the scope) and the criteria against which the project’s products will be assessed (the quality). Without this understanding, the project would be exposed to major risks (such as acceptance disputes, rework, uncontrolled change, user dissatisfaction) that could weaken or invalidate the Business Case.
Only after establishing the quality criteria for the products and the quality management activities that have to be included in the project’s plans can the full project costs and timescales be estimated. Underestimating or omitting quality management activities is likely to lead to slippages, overspends and/or poor quality results. The Quality theme addresses the quality methods and responsibilities not only for the specification, development and approval of the project’s products, but also for the management of the project. The Quality theme also covers the implementation of continuous improvement during the project – for example, looking for ways to introduce more efficiency or effectiveness into the management of the project and the project’s products. Capturing and acting on lessons contributes to the PRINCE2® quality approach, as it is a means of achieving continuous improvement.
To control anything, including quality, there must be a plan. Quality planning is about defining the products required of the project, with their respective quality criteria, quality methods (including effort required for quality control and product acceptance) and the quality responsibilities of those involved.
Quality control focuses on the operational techniques and activities used by those involved in the project to:
- Fulfill the requirements for quality (for example, by quality inspections or testing)
- Identify ways of eliminating causes of unsatisfactory performance (for example, by introducing process improvements as a result of lessons learned).
It is good practice to arrange for quality assurance independent of the project management team. Quality assurance provides a check that the project’s direction and management are adequate for the nature of the project and that it complies with relevant corporate or programme management standards and policies. Quality assurance activities are outside the scope of PRINCE2® as it is the responsibility of the corporate or programme organization. Quality assurance is about independently checking that the organization and processes are in place for quality planning and control (i.e. not actually performing the quality planning or control, which will be undertaken by the project management team). It provides the project’s stakeholders with confidence that the quality requirements can be fulfilled. The term ’quality assurance’ is used in two senses:
- As the function within an organization (or site or programme) that establishes and maintains the quality management system
- As the activity of reviewing a project’s organization, processes and/or products to assess independently whether quality requirements will be met.
The Quality Management Strategy
The Quality Management Strategy is prepared during the Initiating a Project process and approved subsequently by the Project Board. It augments the project approach and can be regarded as the project management team’s proposals in response to the customer’s quality expectations and acceptance criteria. The Quality Management Strategy describes how the quality management systems of the participating organizations will be applied to the project and confirms any quality standards, procedures, techniques and tools that will be used. Where models and standards are to be tailored, the tailoring should also be outlined in the Quality Management Strategy for approval. The Quality Management Strategy also provides a means by which the levels of formality to be applied in the quality plans and controls can be scaled and agreed according to the particular needs of the project. It should outline the arrangements for quality assurance, including independent audits where these are required by the policies of the participating organizations. Key responsibilities for quality should be defined (both within and outside the project management team), including a summary of the approach to Project Assurance. Where there is already an established quality management system for projects, for example in a programme, only the measures specific to this project may need to be documented. The Quality Management Strategy is maintained, subject to change control, throughout the life of the project.