I met a guy few years before while attending a training course; he was working as a QA/QC (Quality Assurance/Quality Control) Engineer in a construction company. We had little chat together during which I asked him what he does as a QA/QC Engineer in his company. He replied that just walks around and checks whether everything is going on as planned or not. If he observes any deviation from the plan or something wrong, he will make a note and process it for further investigation or action. I said fine, that takes care of QC part of your job but what is your role as a QA? I again got the same reply.
The point is, a lot of times many experienced professionals who work as a Quality Assurance or a Quality Control Engineers do not know the difference between the roles and responsibilities QC vis-à-vis QA.
For some people, it is very difficult to differentiate the difference between Quality Assurance and Quality Control processes; although, the difference between them is pretty clear.
This topic is also very important from a PMP Certification examination point of view. You can expect to see more than two or three questions from this topic in the PMP Certification Exam.
Verify Scope is another process which many people confuse with Quality Control Process.
Therefore, I am posting two blogs covering all of it. This is part one, and here I will discuss about Quality Assurance and Quality Control, and the next blog post will deal with Quality Control and Verify Scope.
The definition of Quality is “fitness to use” and “conform to requirements”. Quality Assurance is a method which makes sure that any process developed to generate a product is such that the product that comes out from the process must be fit, and conforms to all stated requirements. To develop the process, the Quality Assurance process takes input from the Quality Control process.
Quality Assurance is a proactive process, and starts at the very beginning of the project to understand the stated & non-stated requirements, and expectations, and creates a plan to meet those requirements and expectations.
Quality Audit is an example of Quality Assurance. Other examples are training, process definition, selection of tools, etc.
The primary purpose of Quality Assurance is to prevent defects in deliverables at the planning process stage itself to avoid rework.
If the Quality Assurance is a process based approach then the Quality Control is a product based approach. Quality Control is concerned with the operational activities and techniques that are used to fulfill the requirements of quality.
The Quality Control functions start once the projects work has begun. It is a reactive approach and helps to find defects in deliverables. Site inspection and testing are few examples of the Quality Control Process.
The main purpose of the Quality Control Process is to see if the deliverables are defect free, and acceptable as per quality requirements and standards set in the Quality Assurance process. If deliverables are not as per the requirements, suitable corrective action will be taken.
Quality Assurance and Quality Control processes are dependent on each other. The Quality Control receives the input from the Quality Assurance, and in turns gives feedback to the Quality Assurance so that Quality Assurance could validate the process.
For example, if the project team finds any defects while executing the project, it will correct the error by work around, and this feedback is sent to Quality Assurance for further investigation to take corrective actions in the process so that this error should never happen again in future.
In the same way the Quality Control people will follow the process defined by Quality Assurance so that these defects do not recur.
- In Quality Assurance, processes are planned to avoid the defects and assure quality.
- Quality Control deals with finding the defects and correcting them while making the product.
- Quality Assurance is a Proactive approach.
- Quality Control is a reactive approach.
- Quality Assurance is a process based approach.
- Quality Control is a product based approach.
I hope that the differences between Quality Assurance and Quality Control are clear to you. Since these processes are very tightly linked, sometimes it is difficult to identify the subtle differences between the two. And to add to the confusion, in some small and medium-sized organisations both these two processes are performed by the same department which causes a lot of chaos and conflicts in responsibilities.