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PRINCE2 - Quality in a Project Environment

What is quality?

You will need to identify what it is about the project’s products or services that make them fit for their purpose of satisfying a stated need.
Implied needs are of little use and lead to uncertainty.

Without some form of quality management it is almost impossible to meet Customer expectations.
If this is the case the potential business benefits will not materialise.

If a quality management system does not exist the organisation may need to create one.

Quality management

This is the process of making sure that the Customer gets what they are expecting.
This implies the management of the Project Quality Plan.
Quality management consists of particular elements.

Quality system

This is the skeleton of the process that contains an organisational structure, procedures and processes to implement the quality management. Both Customer and suppliers may have quality systems. It may be that the project would have to use one of these or both.

Any project management system forms part of the quality process as would PRINCE2® if adopted by a company at senior level.

Quality assurance

This is the group that create and maintain the system. It is responsible for making sure that the system is operated efficiently so that the product meets Customer and quality requirements. The quality assurance function must be independent from the operational side of project management. Should the quality assurance function not exist the role will be filled by the Project Assurance.

Quality planning

This sets out the objectives and requirements for quality and describes the activities for the application of the system.
The quality methods for the whole project will be identified in the Project Quality Plan as part of the Project Initiation Document.
As referred to above, the Customer’s needs must be documented at this stage as part of the process ‘Starting up a Project’.

Each Stage Plan should identify the necessary quality activities and resources. Additional quality criteria are identified in the Product Description in file ‘stage plan.doc’ as part of the product package. Quality criteria are required alongside the quality method used to check for its existence.

A Product Description should only be modified if there are any changes to the product for any reason.
Such a change must go through change control.

Quality control

This process is there to make sure that products achieve the quality standard that has been set.
Products must be examined to assess if they meet the required criteria.
Quality reviews are used to monitor the success of the quality management process.

Quality path

Quality is not guaranteed purely by quality control of the final product. Its an ongoing process that appears at many points in the overall PRINCE2 process.
These relationships are seen schematically in the file ‘the path to quality process.doc’ and ‘the path to quality work flow.doc’ as part of the product package.

Individual elements

Before anyone can think about quality management we must know what the Acceptance Criteria are and what the Customer’s quality expectations are. This should be completed as part of the process 'Preparing a Project Brief (SU4)'.

It is absolutely essential that all agree the Customer product quality criteria.

The end product must be ‘fit for purpose’. There are strong links for quality with the other two of the eternal triangle of Cost and Time.
In short, it is not possible to maximise all three.

Customer quality expectations

Quality requires a n element of common sense on all sides when trying to achieve it.
The Customer may want ‘high quality’ but does not wish to pay excessively for it.
The definition of quality will depend heavily on the expectations of the product.

The longer the expected lifetime of a product the higher the grade and cost of materials used.
Product life time will influence costs. A quality reference book will undergo many drafts and checks for spelling and grammar and factual accuracy.
A monthly magazine will spend a lot less time on these features.

If a product costs a certain amount to produce to say a tolerance of 99.5% it may cost excessively more to raise the tolerance level to 99.9%.

There has to be a sensible balance between quality, cost and speed of production.

Finalised quality criteria will be recorded in the Acceptance Criteria document.

Acceptance Criteria

A product will be used by the Customer (or User) and as such will need criteria that define it.
These criteria must be measurable. Vague Customer requirements like, ‘it must be a pleasing shape’ and ‘it must be easy to grasp’ will not do. The Acceptance Criteria define the characteristics of the product.

Other influence will guide and shape the criteria that the Customer will find acceptable. These may be legal requirements or safety issues.
There will be compromise at the end of the day and these criteria will be finalised as part of the process Planning Quality (IP1).


Quality management is one standard amongst many that are issued.
There is a specific quality standard that covers the quality management systems (QMS) on the design / development, production, installation and servicing of a product. It is a standard used by many organisations and PRINCE2 will support this.

The ISO standard can be used to:

  • Setting up a quality management function
  • Examining the quality assurance system of a supplier

The ISO standard can have a major influence concerning the project management.

  • The Customer or Supplier may already be using this standard in their own quality management system
  • The supplier’s development methods may be accredited under the standard.
  • The Customer may insist on the use of a supplier using the ISO standard or wish to compare them against the ISO standard.
  • It may be used as the basis for corporate quality policy of the supplier.

Quality policy

A quality policy may exist with the Customer or supplier which outlines their attitude to quality.
Any policy should not be limited to the development and production but should also cover how, for example, the supplier will deal with customer complaints.

If a quality policy exists with the Customer and supplier you should check that there are not any major differences.
Eventually, there must be an agreement on the quality policy that should favour the Customer.

If the project is part of a programme this should provide appropriate guidance.

Quality management system

The quality organisational structure and the quality management system (QMS) support the quality policy.
The former sets out who is responsible for producing the quality policy, who sets the standards to meet the policy, any external body imposing quality constraints, who monitors the use of standards and the quality training group.
A lot of this is often carried out by a quality assurance function.

It contains standards that cover the techniques, tools, required expertise and steps used in the creation of a specific product type.
Documents will be covered here by its format or appearance.

As with the policy, if a QMS exists with the Customer and supplier there will need to be agreement as to which to use or which combination of standards will be appropriate.

Project Approach

The approach taken to the finished product will affect how quality is managed.

These may be:

  • Built from scratch either by the Customer’s staff or by an external supplier
  • Built from scratch with input from multiple external organisations
  • Modification of an existing product
  • Purchase of an off the shelf product
  • These are difficult to test and you may need to consult an existing customer.

The quality control methods and responsibilities will depend on the approach.

The Project Approach is confirmed as part of ‘Starting up a Project (SU)’.
It is thus available for use in the initiation sub process of ‘Planning Quality’.

Project Assurance

When a Team Manager draws up a plan for work it is important to identify those aspects that will be of interest to the Quality Assurance (QA) team for checking. The QA function can then approve any plans on the basis of suitable procedures that can check the quality of the plans products.

This would cover the intervals of inspection, the people involved and the method of inspection.

Requirements to check the world of external contractors should be written into the contract and the QA function should have the option of appointing suitable people for the inspection.

Project Quality Plan

This document gives an initial idea of how the project will meet the customer’s expectations and forms part of the Project Initiation Document (PID) and is created in the process of ‘Initiating a Project (IP)’.

It will identify the standards used which should just require reference to the Quality Management System (QMS) manual if it already exists.
It should identify those standards that are not relevant in the QMS and additionally any extra standards that are not present.

It will indicate how any external QA function will integrate with you own QA department.

It defines the quality responsibilities for the Project Manager and the Configuration Librarian and the way that the Project Board will undertake their responsibilities.

Stage or team quality plan

These should both contain a quality plan that indicates how the quality of the products will be managed in terms of methods and resources. These documents will indicate the timing and length of any quality review, usually in Gantt chart form. The chairperson and any others involved will be indicated.

Where external work is being carried out externally it is important to maintain quality checks throughout the process and not to wait for the completed product. At this point any failures or weaknesses can be costly to correct.

The stage and team quality plan is an integral part of the Team Plans.
Remember that external checking should be covered in the contract so that there regular checking with appointed personnel will not be an issue.

Product Descriptions and quality criteria

For each product in a stage there should be a Product Description. This will show the quality criteria that apply and the method of checking.
This should be done as part of a Stage Plan.

As this will relate to the expectations of the Customer it is advisable that they are involved in drafting these documents.
Any product should meet all the elements in the Product Description including the ‘composition’ and should satisfy the ‘defined Purpose’ for the product.

A complete list of product descriptions are provided elsewhere [see PRINCE2 folder ‘product descriptions’ in the product package].
The actual product descriptions exist as Word documents in the product package.

Quality review

This is the ‘Quality Review Technique’ used within PRINCE2 for quality control.
It is a structured and documented review in a planned manner of a document (but the process could equally apply to other forms of product).
The Stage Plan should have identified the people involved.

There are close links with the process of configuration management.
This would provide a document control service in the sense of circulation of draft documents for review, archiving the baseline copy, and updating and issuing revisions etc.

Quality Log

It is a record of all the quality checking carried out to date.
It is created as part of the process of Initiating a Project (IP).

The details of the checking is entered into the log as it is planned in either Stage or Team Plans.
The log forms an audit trail of the quality checking process and will contain the results and dates of any checking.

Project issues

Project issues do not necessarily have a quality implication.
Most quality problems arise from quality control inspections.
The quality problem may not reside in the product being inspected but may show up in another.

Any problems found during normal project management activities will be raised as a Project Issue.
If product quality is affected and cannot be corrected without large cost or loss of time it may be accepted by the Customer as a lower specification. In this case it would be recorded as an Off-Specification.

It may be that Product Descriptions may require updating.

Making project quality work

Quality management should cover:

  • How will each product will be tested against the quality criteria?

This is actioned in Planning Quality (IP1) during the process of ‘Initiating a Project’.

  • When will it be tested?

This is actioned in the relevant Stage Plan, created in the process ‘Planning a Stage’.

  • Who will carry out the testing?

This is actioned in the relevant Stage Plan, created in the process ‘Planning a Stage’.

  • How will acceptance be notified?

The process of producing products is controlled by ‘Authorising Work Package (CS1) and Assessing Progress (CS2).
Quality criteria are described in the Product Descriptions as in the process ‘Product-based planning’.

Checking techniques fall into 2 groups.

  • Objective methods

This leads typically to a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Methods used here might be gauges, meters, testing and checklists.

  • Subjective methods

Here the criteria involve judgement and opinion. These might be ‘user friendly’, conforms to market acceptability or ‘modern design’. The ‘Quality Review Technique’ can be used here.

It is usually possible to create criteria that are measurable. However, on occasion the extra expense or time may make it not worth while.

The Project Manager or Team Manager may use the Daily Log to make a note of any required action with regard to quality.

This product contains EVERYTHING in the publications:

Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 - 2005 edition
Managing successful Projects with PRINCE2 – 2009 edition
Directing Projects with PRINCE2.
The Complete Project Management package.

And much more besides - at a fantastic price.