Quality management is the process for ensuring that all project activities necessary to design, plan and implement a project are effective and efficient with respect to the purpose of the objective and its performance.
Project quality management (QM) is not a separate, independent process that occurs at the end of an activity to measure the level of quality of the output. It is not purchasing the most expensive material or services available on the market. Quality and grade are not the same, grade are characteristics of a material or service such as additional features. A product may be of good quality (no defects) and be of low grade (few or no extra features).
Quality management is a continuous process that starts and ends with the project. It is more about preventing and avoiding than measuring and fixing poor quality outputs. It is part of every project management processes from the moment the project initiates to the final steps in the project closure phase.
QM focuses on improving stakeholder’s satisfaction through continuous and incremental improvements to processes, including removing unnecessary activities; it achieves that by the continuous improvement of the quality of material and services provided to the beneficiaries. It is not about finding and fixing errors after the fact, quality management is the continuous monitoring and application of quality processes in all aspects of the project.
Quality has been defined as "the totality of characteristics of an entity that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs." The stated and implied quality needs are the inputs used in defining project requirements from the donor and the beneficiaries. It means that the product or services must meet the intended objectives of the project and have a value to the donor and beneficiaries and that the beneficiaries can use the material or service as it was originally intended. The central focus of quality management is meeting or exceeding stakeholder’s expectations and conforming to the project design and specifications.
The ultimate judge for quality is the beneficiary, and represents how close the project outputs and deliverables come to meeting the beneficiaries’ requirements and expectations. How a beneficiary defines quality may be completely subjective, but there are many ways to make quality objective; by defining the individual characteristics and determine one or more metrics that can be collected to mirror the characteristic.
The main principle of project quality management is to ensure the project will meet or exceed stakeholder’s needs and expectations. The project team must develop a good relationship with key stakeholders, specially the donor and the beneficiaries of the project, to understand what quality means to them. One of the causes for poor project evaluations is the project focuses only in meeting the written requirements for the main outputs and ignores other stakeholder needs and expectations for the project.
Quality must be viewed on an equal level with scope, schedule and budget. If a project donor is not satisfied with the quality of how the project is delivering the outcomes, the project team will need to make adjustments to scope, schedule and budget to satisfy the donor’s needs and expectations. To deliver the project scope on time and on budget is not enough, to achieve stakeholder satisfaction the project must develop a good working relationship with all stakeholders and understand their stated or implied needs.