December 27, 2020

By  Dave Litten

Customers Quality Expectations and Acceptance Criteria

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 they can be listed in detail in the Project Product Description.

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 there funds were scarce at the start of the project, but once the product is out and customers are having issues, then lots of funds are available to start fixing. This approach is always a lot more expensive.

Let us look at some good questions to ask to get the customer focused on Quality:

  • What % of features should work when product is launched, and what is the budget for critical issues, fixes, recalls etc.?
  • 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.)?

As you can imagine, this should help the customer to see the importance of Quality.

Some good questions to ask to uncover the Quality Expectations are:

  • What are the key requirements for the Project Product (Project Product refers to the main product that will be produced)?
  • What standards need to be applied to achieve the Quality requirements? (Note: For the building, there could be building code standards.)
  • What are the measurements that can be used to assess whether the products meet the Quality requirements? For example, with the apartment block a building surveyor can check the structure, and another specialist can be used to check heat-loss and insulation.

As you can expect, the higher Quality requirements will have an effect on the time and cost of the project.

For example, the client may want a high-standard and low-energy apartment block. This will require triple-glazed windows, thicker insulation, and all fittings with a guarantee of 20 years.

Important things to remember on Customer’s Quality Expectations:

  • They must be listed in detail and with tolerance levels
  • They should be prioritized, starting with what the client finds most important
  • It is good Project Management to review the customer’s Quality Expectations to make sure the project can meet them.
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Prioritize technique: MoSCoW

It stands for

  • Must have,
  • Should have,
  • Could have,
  • Won’t have for now

You can also use: High, Medium, Low or Not Required but MoSCoW is better

Acceptance Criteria

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

Once the Acceptance Criteria list is complete, it will become part of the Project Brief.

The Project Product Description is written around the same time as the Acceptance Criteria and both can be updated during the Initiating a Project process.

This Acceptance Criteria will be baselined with the rest of the Project Initiation Documentation and can only be changed with approval from the Project Board.

As mentioned, the Acceptance Criteria should also be prioritized and the MoSCoW technique can be used to do this by separating requirements into

  1. Must have,
  2. Should have,
  3. Could have &
  4. Won’t have for now.

Toward the end of the project, the customer will check that all the Acceptance Criteria have been met before the project can be closed. It is therefore a good idea to have agreed in advance on the acceptance methods that will be used.

For example, with a Web Site project:

  • A person from the marketing department can check the design & style & sign off
  • Ease of use can be done by monitoring 10 actions for a user
  • Security person will check both secure area and forget-password process

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Dave Litten

David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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