Essential Quality Assurance Terms - Definitions and Meaning

written by: Rupen Sharma, PMP • edited by: Ronda Bowen • updated: 5/31/2010

Quality in project management is an inherent part of project success. Before you can implement the quality management processes, you need to first understand the quality assurance terms meaning and definitions. This are key quality assurance terms required for the PMP certification.

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    Introduction to Quality Assurance Terms for Quality in Project Management

    Quality Management comprises of quality planning, quality assurance, and quality control. To understand quality management, first begin with knowing the key quality assurance terms used in the industry. You don't need to know how to implement them, but it is important for you be able understand and comprehend their meanings to ensure you can implement quality in project management.

    Let's begin with a few quality assurance terms.

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    Key Quality Assurance Terms Meaning and Definition

    Many quality assurance terms have their roots in the manufacturing industry. Other industries have simply borrowed and adapted them. Mentioned below are the meaning of quality assurance terms:

    • Total Quality Management (TQM): Is a quality assurance theory that puts heavy emphasis on collective ownership of product quality. This quality assurance term also involves looking at the underlying process when creating a product. Statistical process control is also applied.
    • Continous Improvement / Kaizen: Is a quality assurance philosophy that stresses on constant process improvement by adopting a the right mindset and attitude. Quality in project management by applying continuous improvement can be implemented after you close a project and document the lessons learned, you apply them to new projects. This quality assurance term is essentially involved with improvement by introducing small changes. A related term is Value Engineering.
    • Just-In-Time (JIT): This quality assurance term is a manufacturing method that focuses on reducing inventory and thereby cost. The reduced inventory puts focus on reducing waste to zero as there is no excess inventory.
    • ISO 9000: Is from the International Standards Organization (ISO) and essentially make certified organizations document their processes and follow what they documented.
    • Conformance to Requirements:This is when you have delivered what you promised. For example, you have a project in which you are required deliver an Intranet social application capable of functioning with a load of 20000 users. If you deliver the project meeting the requirement, then your product will be of high quality, else it is not.
    • Statistical Independence:Is a mathematical concept which means the outcome of two processes are not dependent on each other. For example, two projects may not be dependent on each other (statistically independent), however the tasks with in a project may very well be statistically dependent. Delays can come from such tasks and the best way to avoid them is to ensure you have protect the critical path of the project.
    • Standard Deviation: Is a statistical method for representing data. Standard deviation is represented by a Greek symbol, sigma. For the PMP exam, you should know the ranges in standard deviation, which are: 1-sigma is 31%, 2-sigma is 69%, 3-sigma is 93.3%, 4-sigma is 99.38%, 5-sigma is 99.977%, and 6-sigma is 99.99966%. What this essentially means is that a 2-sigma process will have more defects than a 3-sigma process. Similarly, 6-sigma will have the least number of defects.
    • Six-sigma:Carrying on from the standard deviation quality assurance term. Six-sigma means that the process generates a 3.4 errors or defects for every 1,000,000 products produced. In software engineering, this would translate to writing a million lines of code and have only 3.4 errors in the code. If you have ever developed code, then you'd know how difficult or even impossible this is.
    • Sampling: Is the act of selecting produced items and seeing whether they confirm to quality. There is attribute sampling, variable sampling and random sampling.
    • Control Limits: Are limits defined by using standard deviation. For example, you can define a product to have a control limit of 3 standard deviations. Beyond that, the product would classified as a defect.
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    Quality in Project Management Costs Money!

    Quality in project management costs the project. The following quality assurance terms can help in controlling this cost:

    • Prevention: This is act of not allowing defects to seep through. For example, you can prevent a heart attack by not eating foods that have saturated fats. Or, you can ensure quality in project management by providing training to the project team members. Or, you can create a styleguide for coders to follow.
    • Inspection:This is the act of finding defects after the product is created. For example, after writing code, there is a reviewer who inspects it for conformance to the writing style guide or some benchmark.
    • Cost of Quality:Is the cost associated with ensuring a quality product. Read the What is Cost of Quality (CoQ) article.