If you’re been in project roles before, you’ll know that it’s project quality can be difficult to achieve.
Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of things, we send out deliverables to our stakeholders or business users to review - then realize there’s a glaring typo or entire sections missing.
So the key question here is - how to ensure quality in project deliverables? There are actually many ways to do this, and in this article, I want to share with you some tips I’ve picked up over the years.
They consist of methods like routing your project deliverable to a quality assurance (QA) person, to creating QA guideline checklists - read on and find out more.
The first approach we want to discuss is the informal QA process. What this means is that you submit your project deliverables to your peers to review, then send them onwards a supervisor to review.
Ask your peers to review project deliverables
This is something that I do in my current company and it is quite effective.
In large organizations, there are entire quality assurance departments that check for project deliverable quality and indeed, even the risk of undertaking any project.
I think that these departments are useful, but you have to check that they do not degrade into meaningless QA processes that don’t do much to detect errors in documents.
Case Study. Let me give you an example. I once had to submit a proposal to client (180 page proposal) and I did a review of it as a proposal manager. We had to submit this to the quality assurance department as a matter of protocol before it could be released to the potential client. Now, I’d expected the QA people to check for omissions, things which endangered the position of our company, etc. Instead, do you know what happened? The QA person asked me a series of questions totally unrelated to the proposal, and in fact started chatting about how our department is lacking in this and that! That’s what I mean by an inefficient QA process.
Let me give you an example. I once had to submit a proposal to client (180 page proposal) and I did a review of it as a proposal manager.
We had to submit this to the quality assurance department as a matter of protocol before it could be released to the potential client.
Now, I’d expected the QA people to check for omissions, things which endangered the position of our company, etc.
Instead, do you know what happened? The QA person asked me a series of questions totally unrelated to the proposal, and in fact started chatting about how our department is lacking in this and that! That’s what I mean by an inefficient QA process.
I think that to guide quality processes, companies should install QA checklists to guide reviews (see below). Some companies I’ve seen just don’t have these and end up doing very “adhoc” QA exercises which I feel are totally pointless.
The second way we can do QA is to outsource it to an external provider. You know, there are organizations out there which will do proofreading and provide dedicated QA personnel to check your work.
This kind of check is very good for magazine publishers who need a “external set of eyes” to review content. However, you should be aware of copyright and potential infringement issues.
I’ve seen some companies outsource their proofreading to an external organization, only to have it copy (wholesale) the content and publish it somewhere else. In some instances, they sell the article ideas to other publishers!
So, make sure you get the QA company to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) before sharing any work with them. That will give you some recourse if they company does something fishy with your documents.
Specific to projects, you should always build in a feedback phase into your projects.
Let me give you an example. If we’re producing a set of business requirement documents to a client, what I’d do as a project manager is to get a first draft out to my stakeholders quickly.
Even if this is just a draft copy, it allows them to see what the document will look like and what to expect.
Compare this to a situation where your stakeholder only sees the document at the end of the project. Imagine that if he or she is surprised by the content and it is not what he or she wants. You’re looking at a possibility of re-writing the whole document!
So make sure you circulate initial drafts quickly, get feedback throughout the project. This way, you iteratively change and update the document and significantly improve the chances of getting a good document to your users.
An important document that I learnt to create in projects is the “QA Checklist”. This is a simple spreadsheet listing down the criteria that are considered for a good quality document. Here are some examples of the criteria:
There are all sorts of criteria you can specify and I think it pays to brainstorm these and list them down in a document. The criteria need not just be generic (e.g. spell check, table of contents) - they can also be functional in nature.
For example, a functional criteria could be that the full scope of the insurance value chain must be specified in requirement documents, i.e. new business, underwriting, policy owner services, claims, billing and collections and reinsurance.
It helps your internal and even external QA people check your document more easily. The QA checklist obviously cannot be an extremely comprehensive document, but it’s important to have at least something in there. Trust me, it’s very useful.
I hope the above has helped you understand how to ensure quality in project deliverables. Remember, your deliverables are the “face” of your project and they make or break the customer’s impression of you, the project manager and the project team.
So it’s critical that you get your deliverables in top shape. A solid quality assurance process is important for ensuring this.
Well, that’s all I have for now. Until next time, have fun in your projects and check those deliverables for quality!
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