Quality assurance in project management

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What’s your definition of project success?

Delivering a project on time and on budget, right? 

That answer gets us most of the way there, but it falls about 33% short. For a project to be successful, it needs three qualities, not two. In addition to being on time and on budget, the project also has to reach the level of quality necessary to fulfill the project objectives.

Quality assurance in project management is the process agencies use to evaluate a project’s quality and ensure the project meets set standards (project requirements). Quality assurance can happen during any phase of a project and affect any department or project team that has a hand in creating deliverables.

The importance of quality assurance in project management 

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Quality assurance is the main way we determine whether a project is reaching the standard we’ve set for it, so it’s a vital piece of the project management puzzle. It’s especially important in an agency context, where deliverables are often creative in nature and there isn’t a single defined standard that measures quality. 

A quote by Peter Drucker is especially applicable for QA in agencies: “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.”

Manufacturers have tools that can measure quality in concrete terms (is the metal piece that just came off the line within tolerances or not?). But no such software or tool exists for the creative side of marketing, where we often measure quality based on the end results. 

It’s a much more human-centric process full of judgment calls — and that’s why it’s so important to correctly build QA processes into project workflows in creative contexts.

Quality assurance (QA) vs. quality control (QC)

We often interchange the terms quality assurance and quality control, but they aren’t the same. 

Remember that metal piece coming off the machine line? Checking after the fact to make sure it has the right density, hardness, and dimensions is quality control. 

Quality assurance, on the other hand, is the set of processes and controls the manufacturer put in place before stamping the piece to ensure (or assure) that the output would be of sufficient quality.

In this way, project management benchmarking is more closely related to quality control. You’re looking after the fact at whether a team is reaching benchmarks for many things, including output quality. 

In creative contexts, both QA and QC are possible and beneficial. It pays to measure and verify the quality of final deliverables (QC). But you’ll still want processes in place to ensure output quality throughout the project lifecycle (QA).

Types of QA in project management

Now that we understand the difference between the two, let’s dive a layer deeper into the different quality assurance methods in project management. As you incorporate QA into your project and resource management, it’s important to know when to use the three main types.

Statistical process control

Statistical process control is a way to develop measurable quality standards using statistical analysis. In this approach, the project manager is measuring project progress or iterations (in the case of agile workflows) against existing data.

This approach is common in software development, chemical engineering, and lean manufacturing (Six Sigma).

While agencies might find certain principles within SPC that they can use in isolated cases, the approach is extremely reliant on hard data. In agency contexts, it can tell you whether you’re on time, but it isn’t good at telling you if the stuff your team members are creating is any good.

Quality management

Often called total quality management (TQM), this method focuses on continuous improvement by building and iterating predictable, consistent, repeatable processes. Over time, quantitative measurements of these predictable processes will help detect errors, which teams can then eliminate.

TQM grew out of SPC, expanding it into a set of seven basic elements or principles. The approach found its first widespread use in post-World War II Japan, where W. Edwards Deming championed the concept.

Any output that can follow a consistent, predictable, repeatable process could benefit from TQM. Unfortunately, again, agencies don’t deal with a ton of those kinds of outputs, but some of their more mechanical, less creative products and deliverables could be a fit.

Failure testing

Failure testing is putting a product through its paces, pushing it to the extreme until it fails. Again, looking at manufacturing, where all this stuff originated, this looks like putting a component under wild amounts of heat or pressure — hopefully more than that component would ever encounter under real-world conditions. 

Finding how far you can “push” something before it fails to maintain desired quality is extremely useful. As owners of a certain brand of electric vehicle will tell you, being able to open doors and charge batteries even when it’s cold out is kind of important. Failure testing can reveal flaws like these before they give your brand a black eye in the marketplace.

There are plenty of principles from failure testing that can roughly translate into creative work. Here are two examples:

  • Considering (or even testing) how your message will register with differing demographics and cultures. 

  • If you’re working with a brand where edgy is OK, then it could be helpful to test the limits of that acceptability before hitting the mass market.

Integration of QA into project management processes

QA can happen throughout the project management process. Exactly what that will look like in your context depends on what your agency does, the industries you serve, and more. But let’s look at some ways QA could show up in the five project management stages.

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QA starts at the very beginning. During project initiation, you’ll define what “quality” means for the project. 

Don’t overlook how important this is — you can’t spend Rolls Royce money if you’re building Mitsubishis or Kias.

That’s no insult to budget-minded auto brands (or agencies). It’s just a statement of fact. Customers interested in a sub-$20,000 Mitsubishi Mirage aren’t going to buy a  $354,000 Rolls-Royce Ghost — no matter what any marketer does. 

And if Mitsubishi tries to compete on quality without adjusting price and reinventing its brand, well, it’ll be out of business by approximately next Tuesday.

So, wherever you are on the spectrum in terms of budget, prestige, and client base, be sure you’ve defined “quality” correctly. Here’s how we define the term:

“Quality refers to the degree to which a project meets the defined requirements, expectations, and objectives set by both the agency and the client. It's not just about delivering a completed project; it's about ensuring the end result aligns with the highest standards and satisfies the client's needs.”


With quality defined, you’re ready to dive into project planning. Here, you’ll also define the measurements you’ll use to determine whether you’re achieving that level of quality. 

Questions to answer here include:

  • What tools will you use to do the measuring?

  • What quantitative measurements describe quality for this project deliverable or project?

  • What qualitative measurements will you use?

  • How will your qualitative measurements factor into decision-making on quality?


During execution, your quality assurance processes start running in full force, testing the work as it happens. If you’ve built QA steps into your workflows, here’s where they start hitting.

If your processes and workflows are generating QA red flags early, the tricky part is determining where the problem lies. It could be a quality issue, or it could be a calibration issue (your QA processes are flagging things improperly). Work this out early so it’s not an open question as you move to the next stage.

Monitoring and controlling

As you move into the monitoring and controlling phase, QA may look similar to the previous stage. By now, you should have greater confidence in your QA processes, so it should be a matter of acting on any QA red flags that pop up and making adjustments to improve results.


Project closure is a time for teams to take a look back, evaluate what went well and what didn’t, and make adjustments for next time. 

And yet, you’ve probably been in a project post-mortem that sounded more like an airing of grievances than a productive discussion.

While there isn’t any direct QA activity here, the data and insights you collected throughout using your QA processes are absolutely vital. They help teams focus on what actually did and didn’t go well, according to the data. Focusing on the right things to fix (and to reinforce) makes the closure process cleaner and more valuable. 

Common challenges of quality assurance in project management

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Project management challenges of all types exist in agency work, including within quality assurance. Here are a few examples:

  • Tool limitations: Other industries have software tools that can automate large chunks of QA. Creative marketing work largely lacks these tools, relying on human oversight instead.

  • Tight deadlines: That project schedule never lets up, even when you find a critical issue through QA. Building enough cushion into your project schedule is key, as is using modern, effective project management tools for your broader project management and tracking.

  • Disagreement about quality: With no clear equal to “the piece fits” or “the software works as intended,” agencies can struggle to define and agree on what quality looks like. The solution here is nailing down that definition in the first two stages.

  • Scope creep: Creative projects are notorious for changing scope, and QA can even be a contributor to that if you don’t manage it well. Ensure any changes brought about by QA don’t go unmonitored, changing scope without addressing schedule or budget.

Achieve effective and scalable quality assurance for your agency’s project management with Teamwork.com

QA in agency project management is vital for building a solid reputation and ongoing success. Doing it well — and in a way that’s scalable — has its challenges, but the right tools can make all the difference.

Teamwork.com is operations and project management software built for teams doing client work, which is why 6,000+ client services firms trust Teamwork.com for planning, tracking, and understanding creative deliverables throughout the project lifecycle. 

With robust tools supporting a wide range of methodologies, Teamwork.com helps you produce a high-quality finished product that satisfies customer expectations and keeps your business moving forward. 

See more of what Teamwork.com can do for your business now - get started now for free, view our comprehensive pricing plans, or book a demo today.

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