The Process and Product Quality Assurance process area involves the following:
- Objectively evaluating performed processes, work products, and services against the applicable process descriptions, standards, and procedures
- Identifying and documenting noncompliance issues
- Providing feedback to project staff and managers on the results of quality assurance activities
- Ensuring that noncompliance issues are addressed
The Process and Product Quality Assurance process area supports the delivery of high-quality products and services by providing the project staff and managers at all levels with appropriate visibility into, and feedback on, processes and associated work products throughout the life of the project.
The practices in the Process and Product Quality Assurance process area ensure that planned processes are implemented, while the practices in the Verification process area ensure that the specified requirements are satisfied. These two process areas may on occasion address the same work product but from different perspectives. Projects should take advantage of the overlap in order to minimize duplication of effort while taking care to maintain the separate perspectives.
Objectivity in process and product quality assurance evaluations is critical to the success of the project. (See the definition of objectively evaluate in the glossary). Objectivity is achieved by both independence and the use of criteria. A combination of methods providing evaluations against criteria by those not producing the work product is often used. Less formal methods can be used to provide broad day-to-day coverage. More formal methods can be used periodically to assure objectivity.
Examples of ways to perform objective evaluations include the following:
- Formal audits by organizationally separate quality assurance organizations
- Peer reviews which may be performed at various levels of formality
- In-depth review of work at the place it is performed (i.e., desk audits)
- Distributed review and comment of work products
- Traditionally, a quality assurance group that is independent of the project provides this objectivity. It may be appropriate in some organizations, however, to implement the process and product quality assurance role without that kind of independence. For example, in an organization with an open, quality-oriented culture, the process and product quality assurance role may be performed, partially or completely, by peers; and the quality assurance function may be embedded in the process. For small organizations, this might be the most feasible approach.
If quality assurance is embedded in the process, several issues must be addressed to ensure objectivity. Everyone performing quality assurance activities should be trained in quality assurance. Those performing quality assurance activities for a work product should be separate from those directly involved in developing or maintaining the work product. An independent reporting channel to the appropriate level of organizational management must be available so that noncompliance issues can be escalated as necessary.
For example, in implementing peer reviews as an objective evaluation method:
- Members are trained and roles are assigned for people attending the peer reviews.
- A member of the peer review who did not produce this work product is assigned to perform the role of QA.
- Checklists are available to support the QA activity.
- Defects are recorded as part of the peer review report and are tracked and escalated outside the project when necessary.
- Quality assurance should begin in the early phases of a project to establish plans, processes, standards, and procedures that will add value to the project and satisfy the requirements of the project and the organizational policies. Those performing quality assurance participate in establishing the plans, processes, standards, and procedures to ensure that they fit the project needs and that they will be useable for performing quality assurance evaluations. In addition, the specific processes and associated work products that will be evaluated during the project are designated. This designation may be based on sampling or on objective criteria that are consistent with organizational policies and project requirements and needs.
When noncompliance issues are identified, they are first addressed within the project and resolved there if possible. Any noncompliance issues that cannot be resolved within the project are escalated to an appropriate level of management for resolution.
This process area applies primarily to evaluations of the activities and work products of a project, but it also applies to evaluations of non-project activities and work products such as training activities. For these activities and work products, the term projects should be appropriately interpreted.