Do you know the difference between Quality Assurance and Quality Control? This is a very common question and one that often causes confusion. Let’s start by looking at the official definition from the Project Management Institute PMBoK®, Section 8.2,” Perform Quality Assurance”.
Perform Quality Assurance is the process of auditing the quality requirements and the results from quality control measurements to ensure that appropriate quality standards and operational definitions are used. The key benefit of this process is that it facilitates the improvement of quality processes.
So, Quality Assurance creates the systems (and standards) to measure and control quality so that quality products are produced; whereas Quality Control measures the quality level of the products produced and either accepts them or rejects them based on the criteria developed by quality assurance. If outputs or end products are being measured, it is Quality Control. However, if the process is being measured, it is Quality Assurance. Here’s a simple example:
A water installation project is started with the aim of installing water to several villages in Africa. The procurement officer is tasked with supplying the pipes, which will carry the water. He is given the correct gauge of pipe and told to supply them quickly as the project needs to progress.
The Procurement officer orders and delivers the pipes as per the specification. When the pipes are installed to the first village it is clear that the pipes are not fit for the purpose as they spring leeks. The Procurement officer has done his job correctly but the quality of the pipes was not discussed.
Therefore, although he came in under budget, the pipes could not withstand the water pressure required to supply the village. Production stops and a quality audit is undertaken. Production measurements and machinery were checked and corrected. Production was restarted, quality pipes were installed and water supplies were produced.
Quality Management Encompasses Both Quality Assurance and Quality Control
Both Quality Assurance and Quality Control come under the umbrella of Quality Management. This can be seen as a four step process beginning with Quality Assurance and ending with Continuous Improvement.
1. Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance (QA) begins at the implementation of a project and provides evidence that will create confidence to all stakeholders and beneficiaries of the project. QA includes the evaluation of the overall performance of the project on a regular basis to provide assurance that the project will satisfy the quality standards, defined by the project. QA ensures that the project meets any legal or regulatory standards. QA is applied to the products and services delivered by a project and it is also applied to the way a project uses the tools, techniques and methodologies which mange schedule, scope, budget and quality. QA is a proactive process.
Quality Assurance will ask questions like:
- How will quality be measured?
- Who will measure it?
- What will be measured- e.g. how many units, which processes, which types?
- When will it be measured?
- What are the applicable quality standards?
- What are the criteria for rejection?
2. Quality Audits
Quality Audits are carried out periodically during the project to ensure that Quality Assurance standards remain intact. Quality Audits review how a project is proceeding and looks specifically at the products and services being produced. A quality audit goal is to find ways to internally improve the tools, techniques and processes used to create the product or service. Included in a quality audit is a review of the project staff to ensure that everyone is “on the same page” and understand the quality parameters. During the audit, skills and knowledge are checked to ensure that project staff are knowledgeable and have the expertise to produce the products or services.
If any problems are detected they will need to be corrected immediately, so that quality of products and services are reaffirmed.
3. Quality Control
Quality Control (QC) activities start at the beginning of the project and helps to find defects in the deliverables which are unacceptable in quality as specified by the QA. QC looks at the operational techniques and activities used to ensure that the quality requirements are met. This is a reactive process.
Both QA and QC are dependent on one another, the QC receives information from the QA process and the QC offers feedback to QA if quality is affected so that the QA can take corrective measures. The QC will then follow the new updated process provided by QA so that quality isn’t compromised.
4. Continuous Improvement
Continuous Improvement looks to improve quality and performance with the goal of exceeding stakeholders’ expectations. Continuous Improvement is a process which ensures that improvements are constantly on the mind of the project management team. Employees who use their tools daily are encouraged to inform line managers of minor improvements as they encounter them. These improvements are passed to the QA team who are likely to stop production to encompass these improvements.
QA and QC both have the same goal; to produce a quality product or service which satisfies the stakeholders and beneficiaries of the project. Although QA and QC have the same goal their roles are different. QA is a process based role, designing a process and setting the quality standards so that a quality product is produced. QC is a product based role which checks the quality of the product and ensures that quality is upheld. Both QA and QC are dependent on each other. QA sets the process and governance standards, reviewing these through quality audits. QC reports back to QA with any defects in product quality. Both make use of continuous improvement as an aid for improving the process and product quality.
Readers that liked this article also liked:
PMBoK is registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.