The It Project Quality Plan

All project stakeholders want quality; unfortunately, there is no commonly accepted approach for PQM so many project managers approach it differently (Lewis 2000). Therefore, a basic framework will be introduced here to guide and integrate the knowledge areas of quality planning, quality assurance, quality control, and quality improvement. This framework provides a basic foundation for developing an IT project quality plan to support the project's quality objectives. This plan may be formal or informal, depending on the size of the project; however, the underlying philosophies, standards, and methods for defining and achieving quality should be well-understood and communicated to all project stakeholders. Moreover, the project quality plan should support the project organization, regardless of whether it is attempting to meet ISO or CMM requirements or self-imposed quality initiatives and objectives.

PQM also becomes a strategy for risk management. The objectives of PQM are achieved through a quality plan that outlines the goals, methods, standards, reviews, and documentation to ensure that all steps have been taken to ensure customer satisfaction by assuring them that a quality approach has been taken (Lewis 2000). Figure 10.8 provides a representation of the IT project quality plan discussed in this section.

Quality Philosophies and Principles

Before setting out to develop an IT project quality plan, the project and project organization should define the direction and overall purpose for developing the project quality plan. This purpose should be grounded upon the quality philosophies, teachings, and principles that have evolved over the years. Although several different quality gurus and their teachings were introduced in this chapter, several common themes can provide the backbone for any organization's plan for ensuring quality of the project's processes and product. These ideas include: a focus on customer satisfaction, prevention of mistakes, improving the process to improve the product, making quality everyone's responsibility, and fact-based management.

Focus on Customer Satisfaction Customer satisfaction is the foundation of quality philosophies and concepts. Customers have expectations and are the best judge of quality. Meeting or exceeding those expectations can lead to improved customer satisfaction. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that customers may be either internal or external. The external customer is the ultimate customer—that is, the project sponsor or client. However, internal customers are just as important and may be thought of as an individual or group who are the receivers of some project deliverable or an output of a process.

For example, project team members may be assigned the task of defining the detailed user requirements for an application system. These requirements may be handed off to one or several systems analysts who will develop the design models and then hand these models off to the programmers. The quality of the requirements specifications, in terms of accuracy, completeness, and understandability, for example, will have a direct bearing on the quality of the models developed by the systems analysts. In turn, the quality of the models will impact the quality of the programs developed. Therefore, we can view the series of project and software development processes as a customer chain made up of both internal and external customers,

As you might expect, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and any quality problems that occur can impact the quality of the project's product downstream. The primary focus of the project team should be to meet or exceed the expectations and needs of their customer because the customer is the ultimate judge of quality (Ginac 1998).

Prevention not Inspection One of Deming's most salient ideas is that quality cannot be inspected into a product. Quality is either built into the product or it is not. Therefore, the total cost of quality is equal to the sum of four components—prevention, inspection, internal failure, and external failure. The cost associated with prevention consists of all the actions a project team may take to prevent defects, mistakes, bugs, and so forth from occurring in the first place. The cost of inspection entails the costs associated with measuring, evaluating, and auditing the project processes and deliverables to ensure conformance to standards or requirement specifications. Costs of internal failure can be attributed to rework or fixing a defective product before it is delivered to the customer. These types of problems are, hopefully, found before the product is released. External failure costs entail the costs to fix problems or defects discovered after the product has been released. External failure costs can create the most damage for an organization because the customer's views and attitudes toward the organization may keep the customer from doing repeat business with the organization

in the future. Thus, prevention is the least expensive cost and can reduce the likelihood of a defect or bug reaching the customer undetected. In turn, this will reduce the cost of developing the system and improve the overall quality of the product (Lewis 2000).

Improve the Process to Improve the Product Processes are needed to create all of the project's deliverables and the final product—the information system. Subsequently, improving the process will improve the quality of the product. Project processes must be activities that add value to the overall customer chain. In addition, processes can be broken down into subprocesses and must be repeatable and measurable so that they can be controlled and improved. Improving any process, however, takes time because process improvement is often incremental.

Quality Is Everyone's Responsibility Quality improvement requires time and resources. As many of the quality gurus point out, quality has to be more than just a slogan. It requires a commitment from management and the people who will do the work. Management must not only provide resources, but also remove organizational barriers and provide leadership. On the other hand, those individuals who perform the work usually know their job better than their managers. These people are often the ones who have direct contact with the end customer. Therefore, they should be responsible and empowered for ensuring quality and encouraged to take pride in their work. Quality improvement may not be all that easy to achieve because it may require an organization to change its culture and focus on long-term gains at the expense and pressure to deliver short-term results.

Fact-Based Management It is also important that a quality program and project quality plan be based on hard evidence. As Kloopenborg and Petrick (2002) point out, managing by facts requires that the organization (1) capture data and analyze trends that determine what is actually true about its process performance, (2) structure itself in such a way that it is more responsive to all stakeholders, and (3) collect and analyze data and trends that will provide a key foundation for evaluating and improving processes.

Quality Standards and Metrics

Standards provide the foundation for any quality plan; however, standards must be meaningful and clearly defined in order to be relevant and useful. As illustrated in Figure 10.9, the project's goal, defined in terms of the measurable organizational value or MOV, provides the basis for defining the project's standards. The MOV defines the project's ultimate goal in terms of the explicit value the project will bring to the organization. In turn, the MOV provides a basis for defining and managing the project's scope, which defines the high-level deliverables of the project as well as the general features and functionality to be provided by the IT solution. However, the scope of the project, in terms of the features and functionality of the information system, are often defined in greater detail as part of the requirements definition.

As Figure 10.9 illustrates, the project's standards can be defined in terms of the project's deliverables and, most importantly, by the IT solution to be delivered. Once the features, functionality, or requirements are defined, the next step is to identify specific quality attributes or dimensions associated with each project deliverable. A customer-driven quality assurance plan first identifies each customer's requirements, represents them as quality attributes or dimensions, and then translates those dimensions into metrics (Ginac 1998). For example, Kan (1995) suggests several dimensions that can serve as quality standards for the software product. These include the application's features, reliability, usability, performance,

Project's MOV

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