Here is where the value of a quality management plan comes into play:
You’ve probably considered quality as an aspect of each of your projects pretty often. However, chances are your actions to achieve that level of quality have not been as intentional as you would like.
A quality management plan can help you define what quality means for your project and outline a framework for you to ensure quality is carried on throughout.
Pursuing a quality management plan requires intentionality and time. So, throughout this article, I’ll get you started with:
- An explanation of the core aspects of the quality management plan
- Benefits of quality management that show you why it’s important
- Steps to create a quality management plan
You can apply the principles in this article to any type of project, but I’ve specifically focused on making a software quality management plan because I know that it’s both common and complicated to do on your own if you haven’t done it before.
I illustrate the steps by using a quality management plan template and a quality management plan example in spreadsheet format.
The quality management template and sample have multiple sheets:
Templates and samples of these 3 sheets are available for download in DPM Membership—you can learn how to become a member and get the templates (plus 50+ more) here.
What is Quality Management?
Quality management all comes down to how you make sure everything you create in a project is of value and maintained well. It may be seen throughout all phases and roles of a project if implemented well.
To understand quality management, we also need to understand what “quality” refers to. There are two key aspects of quality management:
This is your actual, tangible product. It could be the app you have built, the design prototypes your designer team built, or even the code documentation your developers wrote.
As project managers, we are responsible for creating and maintaining processes. However, in the context of quality management, we must also consider the quality and impact our processes have on our team’s ability to deliver results. Quality here might be measured by metrics such as velocity.
Why Is Quality Management Important?
There are many benefits of performing and supporting quality management in a typical project.
Some of these benefits include:
1. Deliver a Quality Product
When you are practicing quality management, the actual results of what your team has created will be significantly better and more stable. Your end-users will be happier and more satisfied with what you were able to ship.
2. Decrease Overhead
By integrating quality management throughout your work, quality is present at every step. This means that there is less room for error because the process, plan, and alignment is stable and may have built-in contingencies. There are fewer unknowns, which opens up more space for your team to create great results.
3. Increase the Delivery Pace of your Team
Results are met on a healthier cadence, which creates trust with your users and stakeholders. Your team becomes known for quality, consistent output, and can be trusted to continue to do so.
4. Increase Collaboration and Review
Because quality is part of every phase and everyone’s role, all team members help ensure the project is of the highest quality. Developers may engage in test-driven-development. Stakeholders may speak into defining acceptance criteria and what acceptable quality means. Test engineer roles focus on exploratory testing and finding edge cases.
Who Should Be Involved In Creating a Quality Management Plan?
The short answer: Everyone.
Quality management is central to the project lifecycle—it starts at the beginning, with everyone owning quality.
But there are a few key players who should be involved, regardless of how your team is structured:
Teams may have a specific test engineer role, which should also be involved at the beginning. This role is incredibly valuable to have in any quality management plan, notably for detailed requirements management. If you do not have this role on your team, you should lobby to have one.
Test engineers are going to see things that other roles on the team may naturally not see. This role is naturally detailed, while also keeping the bigger picture of the full end-user journey in mind. At this beginning stage of a project, test engineers can help define acceptance criteria for when a feature may be “complete.”
The value of quality management does not stop with the test engineers. During initial requirements gathering and definition, it is important that everyone on a project team, including stakeholders, participates in requirements gathering and definition.
This thread of collaboration is carried through development, integration of test cases, stakeholder acceptance, and even user feedback collection and prioritization.
Example Quality Management Plan
This quality management plan example applies best to software development projects with small teams.
In a software quality management plan, here are a few sections you could include:
- Project quality measurements: the things you’re measuring and how you define their quality
- Key responsibilities: a list of people and who’s doing what
- Implementation checklist: tasks to make sure you’re implementing your quality plan
- Requirements quality check: a log where you record specific requirements and check off various quality management and testing activities
- Target device list: a record of all your target devices where your software quality criteria should be met
You might list these all on a word document or in separate tabs in a spreadsheet, or in your own work management system. In my sample, I have them as separate tabs in a spreadsheet (sample is available for download in DPM Membership)
How To Create a Quality Management Plan For Software Projects
Setting up a quality management plan is a worthwhile investment at the start of any project.
It is recommended to start filling it out at the beginning of a project. If you have a test engineer on your team, they might be a typical role to own this. When complete and agreed upon with your full team, it is best to keep this as a shared document accessible by everyone.
Here are eight steps for creating a quality management plan in your next software project:
1. Create a shared understanding of what quality means for this project.
Facilitate discussions with your team and stakeholders on what an acceptable level of quality is. Try to sum it up as concretely as specifically as possible, like in this example with bug reporting:
Some questions you may ask to get this information from your team and stakeholders include:
- How important is performance (e.g., load times) of the product?
- How do we want to measure success? Is the result of a user story more important or are the details (acceptance criteria)?
- What are some of the most critical areas of the product that need to be quality no matter what (e.g., data-sensitive features)?
- What project controls do we want to maintain?
2. Divide up responsibilities for quality management.
Decide who will be accountable for each key responsibility of the plan. This includes defining who will:
- Maintain a target device list.
- Write acceptance criteria for user stories.
- Approve a release to go out.
Here’s an example of how I list these activities in my quality management plan:
3. Determine your target devices.
Your target device list is valuable, as it helps your development team focus on very specific aspects of quality. It is best to make this list as specific as you can and tie to any existing user personas.
This list should be visible somewhere (e.g., a shared wiki) for all project stakeholders, developers, and more to access.
The target device list may be based on criteria of your choosing, such as target:
- Hardware and age of hardware
- Operating systems and versions
- Web browsers and versions
- Screen resolutions
- Internet connection requirements
- The expected amount of concurrent users on any servers being used
4. Write acceptance criteria.
Acceptance criteria are generally a feature-specific list of what your testing role will be doing when reviewing a feature. Good acceptance criteria are specific, but also broad enough to optimize for developer interpretation.
5. Integrate unit tests into your code.
Unit tests are coded tests, generally written by your development team.
They are incredibly valuable in any quality management plan, as they can check to ensure the code is functioning as expected. As your project grows and releases become more frequent, this is an incredible time-saver.
The project manager is not responsible for integrating the tests, but if you’re managing the quality plan, you’re responsible for logging the activity and tracking it.
6. Set up a deployment pipeline with optional quality checks.
This step is optional, however, if you can afford the time for your development team to set up an optimized development pipeline, it is worth it.
A deployment pipeline can allow you to set up additional automated quality checks, such as running unit tests and integration tests, through each deployment to multiple environments.
7. Set up a regression test process for gating releases.
A regression test is a detailed test plan that often defines a few different “happy paths” your users may take. It is often used as a final test before a release to ensure there were not any “regressions” in expected functionality for existing users.
Generally, a regression test is run on each target device to help ensure optimal quality. This can become time-consuming as a project grows, at which point exploring automated regression testing may be valuable to your team.
This test is generally maintained and owned by a test engineer.
8. Configure a process in your tool of choice to tie this together.
It is important to make sure everything in this process runs smoothly for both your project and the team. With your project management tool-of-choice, it is recommended to set up and configure any processes and automation possible to help your team focus on quality management.
Automation is valuable here. A few examples:
- If you are using Jira, you can configure defined workflows to prompt quality checks when needed.
- If you are using Asana, the tool offers similar functionality for when a task is moved to a new column.
- If you leverage Zapier, you can automate reporting from task movement in your tool of choice.
- Monday.com supports numerous integrations, including the ability to automate capturing Zendesk tickets into your development backlog.
- Slack’s new Workflow Builder can help tie together multiple data points into a single, seamless communications workflow.
I’ve given some examples to help illustrate the steps here. To put this into practice quickly, you can find a quality management template and quality management plan example in the DPM Membership template library.
Useful Quality Management Tools
While creating a quality management plan requires a time investment, there are a significant number of worthwhile tools out there for creating, maintaining and tracking your work. Some examples include:
- Google Sheets: Great for regression test management.
- Asana/Jira/Similar Tools: For facilitating your quality management process.
- Intercom: Great for connecting directly with your users to obtain manual feedback.
- BugHerd: Helpful tool for collecting stakeholder feedback.
- Heap: Valuable analytics to determine if the quality of your user experience and product flows are resonating with users.
- Marker.io: Great for reporting website bugs and issues, directly in your team's issue tracker like Jira, Trello and Asana.
These are just a sampling of tools available for helping your quality management plan. There are far more alternatives and niche tools than just these that can help you in ensuring quality throughout your project.
What Do You Think?
In conclusion, quality management is a robust framework that touches all aspects of your project from start to finish. It requires the involvement of all project team roles and stakeholders; however, with the template in this article, you can quickly get started on a robust plan of your own. Once implemented, you will be able to instill a deep quality focus throughout your team’s work that will be represented by those who will see the results of your project.
Have you implemented a quality management plan before? What went well? Was there anything you learned from the experience? If not, might creating one for your next project be helpful? Share your thoughts on how we might improve quality management for all project management. And if QA is your jam, be sure to check out our sister site, The QA Lead, for the latest and greatest on all things related to quality assurance.