In development projects, quality is ultimately defined by the beneficiary, and represents how close the project and deliverables come to meeting the beneficiaries’ requirements and expectations. The project manager’s goal is to understand the requirements and expectations of the beneficiaries, and then ensure the project will meet those expectations.
There is a predisposition to think that quality means the most expensive material or equipment. However, in most cases, the beneficiary does not expect an expensive solution, especially if it does not meet their expectations. What they need is a solution that will solve the problem the project aimed to work out.
The purpose of quality management is to first understand the expectations of the beneficiaries in terms of quality, and then put a quality plan to meet those expectations. Because quality is defined by the beneficiary, there may be some subjectivity in its definition. But there are methods to make quality more objective. One of these methods requires listing the specific characteristics of quality that are important to the beneficiaries. Then determine the metrics that the project can collect to measure the quality characteristic. In addition to understanding the beneficiaries’ definition of quality, it is important to recognize other stakeholder's interests as well. Depending on the roles of the stakeholders, they may have other quality requirements that need to be satisfied. For instance:
- The organization - The project supports the development strategic goals.
- Donors - The project meets the contract or grant agreements
- Partners - The solution helps them do their job better, faster, easier.
One of the objectives of quality management is to find mistakes or errors as early in the project as possible. A good quality management process usually requires more effort and time, but the benefits in many cases outweigh the costs. The project manager needs to set up a system that collects metrics to make the quality management process work. If the project is not capturing metrics, it will be hard to improve processes through a quality management. The worst case is to have the beneficiary, or the donor, find the problem after the project has been completed.
Remember that quality means "the totality of characteristics of an entity that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs" (PMBOK).