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Quality is something that project methods talk a lot about and it sounds great, but in reality, this is something that some Project Managers don’t understand. Some companies have a Quality Management System in place that describes how Quality should be done in that organization. Most often, this can be for specific departments in the company and may be only suited to specific types of products. Therefore, other projects cannot make use of this Quality Management System.

Quality can be difficult to define (if you don’t know how) and many people do not know how to explain it in a simple way. For example, let’s suppose the Sales Manager was asking for a new Sales system and you asked him to define the requirements. You will normally receive a list of requirements, but then if you ask them “What about quality?” or “What are your Quality Requirements?” you would leave them speechless, which may not be a normal state for a sales manager. So it is up to us as Project Managers to ask better questions.

Another point, if you don’t consider Quality at the start of your project, it is very difficult to end up with quality (a usable product). So, Quality must be addressed at the very start of the project

The good news is that the Quality Theme in PRINCE2 provides a simple solution for this. It describes how Quality can be defined, measured and controlled during the project.

The Quality Knowledge provided by PRINCE2

The purpose of the knowledge in the Quality Theme is to define and implement a system that will create and verify that products are fit for use and meet requirements. Hence, the Quality Theme defines the PRINCE2 approach to ensure that products created during the project meet the expectations, and that the end product can be used as intended.

If the quality of the products is not as expected, then the expected benefits that should be realized will not be achieved.

You might remember that product focus is one of the principles of PRINCE2, which means that a project’s products should be clearly defined at the start of the project or in a Stage Boundary process, so products are signed off (baselined) before development begins. The Project Plan and the Stage Plan will also include the quality control activities.

Product Description must include the Quality criteria information so that all project stakeholders have a common understanding of the products that will be created.

For example, if you are creating a new can opener, some of the quality criteria might be:

As you can see, the Quality criteria gives a lot more detail about the product.

So, the Quality Theme provides a method to help specify the Quality, to carry out Quality control, to explain how to get approved, and to facilitate the management of Quality during the project.

Quality Definitions

Quality has its own terms and these terms can mean different things to different people. The terminology used by PRINCE2 comes mainly from ISO 9000 standard. Just read these definitions for now; they will be explained further in this chapter.


Quality is generally defined as the total amount of features or characteristics of a product, such that it meets expectations and satisfies the stated needs. This might seem a little strange, but think about it for a moment. It is the same as saying that all features of the product have to work as expected for a given amount of time.

Let me use the example of the can opener project. Think of the total amount of features or characteristics of the can opener, what a user might expect from the product, and how long they would expect it to last.


Scope is related to the scope of the plan, which is the sum of its products. It is defined using the product breakdown structure and the Product Descriptions. It can be clearly seen that Scope (of the project’s main product) and Quality are tied together.

Quality Management

Quality Management is defined as the activities to direct and control an organization with regard to quality. Some of these activities are: defining quality, quality control, quality assurance, and quality improvement.

Quality Management Systems

A Quality Management System is the complete set of quality standards, procedures and responsibilities for a site or organization. The majority of bigger companies have a Quality Management System in place, so a good first question to ask is “Do you have a QMS that can be used on this project?”

Quality Planning

For the project to meet the customer’s quality expectations and the acceptance criteria, the Project Manager must have a strategy in place. This involves identifying the necessary products and the quality criteria for each, planning quality methods (i.e. the necessary tasks for quality control and product acceptance), and designating quality responsibilities.

Quality Control

Quality Control focuses on the techniques and activities to inspect and test products. This would also include looking for ways to constantly improve Quality and remove less-satisfactory performance.

Quality Assurance

This is like Project Assurance but the focus is on Quality in the organization and not just quality related to the project. It is to make sure that the planned Quality activities are done.

PRINCE2 Approach to Quality

The PRINCE2 approach to Quality has two parts: Quality Planning and Quality Control

Quality starts with identifying all the products that the project wants to control. Remember that PRINCE2 is focused on the products from the start of the project – or as soon as they can be described and agreed, and before development starts.

The next step is to write a Product Description for each product, which includes Quality criteria, how the products will be assessed, Quality methods to be used to design, develop and accept the products, and the responsibilities of the people involved.

Quality Control implements and tracks the Quality methods used during the project.

Part 1: Quality Planning

Imagine a project that deals with building an apartment block. The customer is a mid-size property developer. As the Project Manager, you would need to be in agreement with the people who represent the customer, the supplier and other stakeholders (e.g., architects) and have an idea of the quality of the finished apartment block, as well as how Quality will be controlled during the project.


The purpose of Quality Planning is to:

As you can imagine, if these topics are not discussed up front, it can make for a very exciting project with everybody having their own idea on the finished product.

The following questions should be asked in Quality Planning:

Quality Audit Trail

The first Quality Planning steps as shown in the diagram below are:

Quality Planning Steps

The Customer’s Quality Expectations

It is normally not an easy task to extract the Quality Expectations of a product from a client, and the answers you get can be very vague, but this must be done and must be done as early as possible in the project so that they can be listed in detail in the Project Product Description . In some projects the Project Product Description may be updated during the project in the Stage Boundary process. This is fine, as long as each change goes via the Change Control process.

Some companies may be in a rush to get the product out, or they may have budgetary issues so they think they can save on Quality. I have even seen projects where the funds were scarce at the start of the project, but once the product was out and customers were having issues, then lots of funds were available to start fixing. This approach is always a lot more expensive and bad for users.

Some good questions to ask to get the customer focused on Quality:

What percentage of features should work when product is launched, and what is the budget for critical issues (e.g., fixes, recalls etc.)? Tip: Notice their reaction when you ask. What will be the cost to the company if the product cannot be used as expected at the end of the project (e.g., fines, keeping old product in service, etc.)? Prioritizing Quality Expectations: Use MoSCoW. They should be prioritized, starting with what the client finds most important.

Prioritize technique: MoSCoW: This will be discussed later. It stands for 1) Must have, 2) Should have, 3) Could have, 4) Won’t have for now. You could also use: High, Medium, Low or Not Required but MoSCoW is better

Example of the Customer Quality Expectations for an apartment block project

List Acceptance Criteria

The Acceptance Criteria is a prioritized list of attributes that the Project Product should have when complete. This is agreed between the Customer and Supplier in the very first process – the Starting Up a Project process, and is therefore linked to the Project Product Description.

See the following table; this is a good example:

Once the Acceptance Criteria list is complete, it will become part of the Project Brief. The Acceptance Criteria should also be prioritized using the MoSCoW technique.

Here is an Acceptance Criteria example for a website project:

The Project Product Description

Don’t confuse the Project Product Description with the normal Product Descriptions. The Project Product Description is a description of the main product that will be produced by the project. The Project Product Description is created in the Starting Up a Project process and becomes part of the Project Brief. The Product Descriptions are created in the Initiation stage as part of the planning activity.

The Closing a Project process to help verify that the project has delivered what was expected and that the acceptance criteria have been met uses the Project Product Description. A good example of a Project Product Description that I like to use is the information that is provided for a laptop computer on a computer website. There will be an overview description, features, specifications and guarantee information. See the websites of Dell, HP or Asus for an example. As you can see, it does not have to be 100 pages but more like 2 to 4 pages.

Acceptance Method

The Quality Management Approach

A Quality Management Approach is a document and a plan of action that defines the Quality requirements and the Quality Control method for all the products in the project. This document also confirms how the Quality systems and standards from the customer and supplier are going to be applied in the project. In other words, the Quality Management Approach document defines how Quality will be done in the project.

This document is created at the Initiation Stage with the other strategy documents and becomes part of the Project Initiation Documentation.

The Quality Management Approach answers the following questions:

Product Descriptions

The Product Descriptions should be created for all the products as part of the planning activities and before the Project Plan can be completed. This is not always possible in each project; therefore Product Descriptions may be created or updated in the Stage Boundary process and the Product Descriptions will be agreed and baselined before development starts.

The typical content of a Product Description is similar to the Project Product Description. The contents are as follows (again, notice how much Quality information):

The Quality Register

The Quality Register is a diary of the Quality events that take place during the project, such as workshops, reviews, testing and acceptance. At first, the Quality Register will be empty and the Project Manager will get most data from the plans and Product Descriptions. Many Project Managers will use a spreadsheet for a Quality Register.

The Quality Register makes it easier for the Project Manager to follow up on Quality during the project, as they can check whether the Actual Target Review date and Actual Approve date columns are filled in or not. This allows the Project Manager to control Quality.

Full Quality Audit Trail (Quality History): As the Quality Register contains all the Quality activities and is continually updated during the project, it provides a full audit trail for Quality.

Part 2: Quality Control Introduction

What is Quality Control? Quality Control is carrying out the activities to control Quality as defined in the Quality Management Approach. There are three parts to Quality Control, and I will explain each of them:

Quality Planning and Quality Control

The following diagram shows the relationship between Quality Planning and Quality Control The Quality Register is used to:

  1. Plan Quality,
  2. Control Quality
  3. Provide a history of quality activities in a PRINCE2 project.

Quality Planning and Control

The PRINCE2 Quality Review Technique

The PRINCE2 Quality Review technique is a Quality Inspection technique. It has defined roles and a specific structure to follow. The purpose is to inspect products to see that they meet the customer’s Quality standards and meet the Quality criteria listed in the Product Description.

The Quality Review technique has four specific roles. The roles are:

Here is an overview of how a Quality Review meeting might be run:

The next step after the product is completed is to request approval for the product. This is usually a signature from the person listed as approver in the Quality Register.

Objectives of the Quality Review Technique

The main output is a decision to quality-approve the products or not. These are:

To summarize, the purpose of the Quality Review technique is to inspect that the product is complete, and that it respects the customer’s quality standards and meets the quality criteria listed in the Product Description, and to identify any actions that are still required and promote quality.

Roles and Responsibilities

Here are some of the responsibilities relevant to the Quality Theme.

discussion icon PRINCE2 wiki is open-source and published for free under a Creative Commons license.

discussion icon Written by Frank Turley (his LinkedIn profile)