This is the final part in our series on successful program management in an era of sequestration. Read ‘Project Management and Your Talent Management StrategyProject Cost, Program Management and Your Talent Strategy, and Project Scope and Program Management in an Era of Limited Budgets.

When it comes to project management, the term quality can feel a little ambiguous. Like beauty, quality often feels like it is in the eyes of the beholder. Sometimes, expectations exceed the project budget. Requirements that were once important can change with client turnover. Because project quality can feel like a vague goal, it is important to separate client happiness and project quality. The two are often related but a happy client doesn’t always mean a quality product, and vice versa. A quality product or service means that requirements were fully met without flaws or bugs.

Despite Sequestration, Quality Is A Given

Sequestration has hurt the contractor community, despite the earnings reports. Competition for new work and follow-on work is high. Agency budgets fluctuate, which makes it challenging to plan products and services for contracts that have project ceilings without promised funding. Client turnover can also impact requirements. Anytime requirements change, it can cost money. Regardless of the impact of sequestration, project quality is still assumed and should never be compromised. In this sequestered environment, agencies demand companies that can manage cost, schedule, and scope while still delivering a quality product.

Plan For Quality

Quality management should be in the DNA of your project or you will quickly find yourself with less and less work. From the project onset, develop your quality management plan and follow it throughout the project lifecycle. A simple search will yield free templates if you’re unsure where to begin. Be sure to engage your client throughout the process and schedule sign-offs on interim deliverables. If a client wants “minor changes” late in the project lifecycle, it can result in a major redesign. Re-work is costly and impacts the schedule, but it also creates a lot of potential variables that impact the quality of the deliverable. Sequestration may impact the schedule and cost, but don’t skimp on internal project reviews. A deliverable that contains grammatical errors will make the customer wonder about the quality levels of a contractor.

LPTA Contracts and Quality

Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) contracts do not have to equal poor quality. A deliverable can pass all the checkpoints in the quality management plan and be technically acceptable. LPTA contracts are not about cutting corners on quality. Rather, the LPTA contract should be about funding scaled back solutions that can still meet the needs without all the extra bells and whistles. While the government is looking to LPTA contracts as a means of cutting costs, low quality will not lead to more contracts.

Expectation Management

With any type of contract, never over-promise. Be a realist when it comes to requirement costs. It is super fun to have an engaged and excited client. It is really easy and understandable to want to be the hero that delivers everything the client wants. But if you have to skimp on quality in order to fulfill all the extra promises you made, your client’s happiness is going to take a hit anyway. Better to check back with your team before committing to additional features.

Quality and Talent Management

When it comes to quality and talent management, promote or hire program managers that are able to balance the art of careful project planning and execution while keeping the client happy. A detail-oriented individual could be a PM that ensures a project is continually meeting all of its quality checkpoints. However, in a sequestration-contracting environment, don’t overlook a candidate who is also a great communicator, as that is a key strength that can contribute to keeping the project team and the client happy. Watch out for a PM candidate that is out to build a personal resume that boasts of super innovative solutions, as this could actually be a company liability. Innovation is great if that is what the client needs. And speaking of resumes, don’t forget that errors on a candidate’s resume or online profile could be a signal of someone who is careless about quality.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.