Stepping Through the PRINCE2® Quality Planning Activities

What are the quality planning activities that project managers should use on their projects?  When targeting project success, PRINCE2 focuses on controlling the six key variables found on any project: costs, timescales, quality, scope, risk and benefits.    It’s one thing to list these six variables in a simple list.  It is quite another thing for project managers to plan for measuring, managing and controlling these six aspects across the project lifecycle.  

Here are the five recommended steps for planning quality into your project using PRINCE2:

1.       Understanding, defining and documenting the customer’s quality expectations and the project’s acceptance criteria for the final product in the Project Product Description

The customer’s quality expectations contain the key quality requirements for the final product, any standards or processes used to achieve those requirements and the measurements assessing if the product meets those requirements.  They are typically written in general terms and then refined as detailed and measurable criteria when their corresponding acceptance criteria are built.  These expectations should be reviewed at the end of each management stage to make sure external factors have not changed them in some way.

Acceptance criteria define a prioritized list of measurable definitions of attributes required for products to be acceptable to key project stakeholders.   They are prioritized in order to support trade-off decision making during the project life cycle.  When a PRINCE2 project demonstrates that all acceptance criteria are met, it is considered complete.

The Project Product Description containing both the customer’s quality expectations and the acceptance criteria for the final product is created and approved during the Starting Up a Project (SU) process.  This management product is then placed under change control and used throughout the life of the product.   

2.       Documenting quality responsibilities as part of the project management team job descriptions during Starting Up a Project (SU), in particular the Project Assurance roles.

Project assurance roles provide assurance to project stakeholders that the project is being done properly.  Project assurance is the responsibility of the Project Board and is a role that is internal to the project.  This is in contrast with quality assurance activities, which are performed by people who are external to the project.  Project assurance is done independent of the Project Manager, Project Support, Team Manager and team member roles.   

3.       Building the Quality Management Strategy for the project, outlining how quality activities will be handled during the project.

The Quality Management Strategy takes into account the project approach, the customer’s quality expectations and both the customer and supplier Quality Management Systems (QMS).   The strategy defines how the QMSs of participating organizations will be applied to the project.  It states the quality standards, procedures, techniques and tools to be used and assigns all quality-related responsibilities.  It is created during the Initiating a Project (IP) process and approved by the Project Board.  This document is placed under change control and maintained throughout the life of the project.

4.       Writing Product Descriptions for each significant product, defining its quality criteria, tolerances, methods and responsibilities for each product.

Product Descriptions are used to describe the product and states the quality criteria by which that product will be assessed when it is complete.  The quality methods used to design, develop and accept the product are documented along with the responsible parties.  Product Descriptions are developed during detailed planning for a management stage of a project.  The PRINCE2 Product Based Planning technique is applied during these detailed planning activities.

Quality criteria describe the quality specifications that a product must meet and the associated measurements that will be used to determine the finished product’s compliance with these quality specifications.  

Quality tolerances set the acceptable range of values for each of the product’s quality criterion. 

Quality methods specify the quality activities that will be done during product development in order to verify, review and approve completed products.

Quality criteria, tolerance and methods are documented in the Product Description of the product they apply to or in the Project Product Description when being defined at the project level. 

5.       Creating the Quality Register for the project.

The Quality Register is created during the Initiating a Project (IP) process.  It is used to log and track the status of quality activities throughout the project.  Typical activities include workshops, reviews, inspection, testing, pilots, acceptance and audits.  The register is intended to reflect the current baseline and quality status of all products being produced across the project life cycle.

Remember, a copy of the PRINCE2 method is required reference material in any project manager’s bookshelf!  The method is documented in the OGC publication Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2” which is officially published by TSO.  Serious project managers seeking to enhance their knowledge, skills and professional credibility target should consider PRINCE2 certification.  Learning Tree offers two excellent certification courses for folks interested in becoming a Certified Practitioner of PRINCE2 or simply starting with the Foundation Certification.    

Susan Weese

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