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Align project and quality requirements to meet customer needs
by Neetu Choudhary
Projects are temporary endeavors undertaken to create a unique product, service or result according to customer specifications. Meeting customer specifications and expectations is a critical requirement for any project. To meet these requirements, projects go through many phases, such as feasibility studies, requirement gathering, design, development testing and deployment.
Quality objectives are a specific subset of the overall project objective and focus on the stated and unstated quality expectations of the project. Quality objectives are the measurable, well-defined critical quality expectations of the end product or application.
Often, customers don’t know their quality expectations until they see the product during user acceptance testing or in a live environment. This is when the quality analyst plays a vital role in understanding how customers’ quality expectations align with their requirements.
Projects with misaligned quality objectives may deliver the product or application, but miss the critical quality objectives. Online Figure 1, for example, outlines the difference between project objectives and quality objectives for automating gate access. If the gate access is automated but its response time is longer than what the customer can tolerate, the project objective has been met, but the quality objective has not.
While providing requirements, customers may not even think about quality objectives or quality expectations, thus business and quality analysts must proactively identify quality expectations in detail. This can be done by creating different scenarios, what-if analyses, performance requirements, constraint analyses and risk assessments, for example.
Meeting quality objectives
There are five steps to establishing a quality objective requirement document, as outlined in Online Figure 2:
- Business requirement specifications. Quality objectives must be measurable and quantitative (see Online Figure 3). A quality objective such as good performance can’t be measured and quantified because “good” is subjective and may be interpreted differently. Quality objectives must be defined explicitly in the requirement document and agreed on by the customer before initiating the project.
- Project management plan. After the quality objectives are identified and noted, focus on how to achieve them and the critical things required to achieve them.
- Design. This is the most critical phase and must facilitate achieving the quality objectives. The quality analyst can support the process through regular work product reviews and checks on critical quality requirements.
- Development. Quality requirements also must be addressed during the development phase. This can be achieved only if the developer is aware of them, understands them and can incorporate them. Design is an important support document for the developer, which makes addressing quality objectives in the design phase one of the critical success factors of meeting customer expectations.
- Testing. Testing is vital and adds value only when quality objectives are addressed. The test strategy, test scenarios and approach may change based on the quality objectives.
The project manager and quality assurance analyst monitor quality objectives through well-defined metrics in line with the project objectives.
In the gate access automation example, performance is a quality requirement and the quality objective is, “The response time to identify the vehicle using radio-frequency identification must be less than five seconds.” By defining metrics related to that, this critical information is monitored. (See Online Figure 4 for sample metrics.)
Every project has different quality objectives depending on what is critical to the customer. This is the parameter the project manager can use to ensure a successful project. Identify the project’s quality objectives early in the project life cycle and ensure they’re incorporated at various phases of the project to achieve success.
Neetu Choudhary is a continuous improvement leader with a master’s degree in computer applications. She is an ASQ member, an ASQ-certified Six Sigma Black Belt, ISACA certified in the governance of enterprise IT, European Foundation for Quality Management-certified assessor, business excellence awards assessor and jury member for various awards.