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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Project Quality: Whose job is it to guarantee it?

In a series of training that I was recently providing to project managers, software testers, and business analysts, I found discussions that focused on who were responsible for software quality in projects. The project managers thought it was QA department role.  QA passed it back to requirements form business analysts who then delegated to directions from the project managers.  With so much literature on total quality management, Six Sigma, capability maturity model, and organizational project management maturity model, it dawned on me that it is this inherent lack of ownership for quality is the reason why quality is suffering in many projects.

Basic requirements of quality is often described that quality is the adherence to requirements and fitness for use.  When you look at the key deliverable of this statement, “requirements” stem from the project requirements. In traditional projects, this requirement may come from the client, business analyst, project manager, or the product owner at a minimum. In agile projects, this could be coming from the product owner or client, scrum master or coach, and the team at a minimum. The “fitness for use” stem from timely release of the futures to ensure that the client can benefit from the release.

But, does this definition unambiguously tell whose responsibility is quality? The Chartered Quality Institute comes to rescue as it defines quality management as an company’s approach to “…understanding precisely what customers need and consistently delivering accurate solutions within budget, on time, and with minimum loss to society.” (“What is Quality”, n.d., para 1)  This definition emphasizes quality within the project constraints budget and time limiting the focus to the scope of the project’s requirements but also to the needs of the society relating to the fitness for use. A project manager is not developing the code or involving in the execution of tests. But, quality is the fourth constraint that is compromised as the other project constraints are modified. Therefore, project manager is accountable for the quality.  

It reminds me of the famous parable on the virtue of citizenship from the “Adventures from the Book of Virtues.” Many subjects in the kingdom complained about many things in the kingdom and not taking true ownership for improvement. The king hid a pot of gold beneath a big boulder and waited to see who took leadership for removing the rock enhancing safety and quality experience for the others that passed by.  Quality is the same thing as the citizenship requirement. It is everyone’s job. The more structured approaches the organization uses in testing accuracy through automation, test case development, and test execution, the more the project manager becomes attuned to following through on quality, the more the team members will become focused on providing quality by design rather than expecting it to be accidentally evolving.


What is Quality? (n.d.) The Chartered Quality Institute.  Retrieved March 28, 2013, from

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