QA/QC: Quality Assurance in Surveying & Mapping, Part 3

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Project Delivery Planning
Quality assurance begins with Project Delivery Planning. Technical standards and specifications, defining of deliverable items, and milestone schedules will be identified at the project planning stage. A written quality assurance plan is an element of all work plans. These plans vary widely by service and tasks being performed. The following guidelines can be used as a general checklist for the main elements of any project delivery plan. Unless a specific plan is required by the contract, at minimum the following should be considered as appropriate quality assurance measures:
• Detailed Statement of Work & Scope of Required Services 
• Schedules, Budgets & Milestone Points 
• Precise Definition of Required Deliverables, Contract Standards, Client Imposed Standards and/or Industry Standards 
• Advanced Technology 
• Tasks & Responsibilities 
• Forms and Reporting Documents 
• Deliverable Requirements 
• Statements of Safety Procedures 
• Quality Control & Quality Assurance

Detailed Statement of Work & Scope of Required Services
Every project delivery plan should begin with a detailed description of the work involved in the project. This is extremely important for projects of longer duration. Over time, phenomena called "Scope Creep" tends to infiltrate many projects. This occurs when those involved in the project begin to make small changes to the statement of work, either through their lack of knowledge of the original statement of work, or through client requests. At times a client may request a minor change or some additional work, and project staff members in their willingness to provide client service will make these changes to the original work statement. I am not advocating that no changes be made at the behest of the client. What I do encourage, however, is that all project staff should be familiar with the original scope of work so that they can notify the client that his request may represent a change to the contracted work and an extra charge may or may not be required. This decision must be taken by the project manager or the principal in charge and a subsequent communication sent to the client. In this manner there will be no questions as to the quality of the deliverable.

Another major reason for the detailed statement of work is that of personnel change. In our mobile and changing society, people leave firms, both consultant and client. When new people are added to the project team, especially the project manager, this detailed and current statement of work will be of great value to the new members of the project team. This also applies to the client. Many times in my career I have had changes on the client side of long duration projects. The detailed work plan has been invaluable in bringing the new client project manager up to speed and addresses his concerns and expectations for the consultants’ work.

Schedules, Budgets & Milestone Points
Every Project Delivery Plan should include a work schedule and a budget broken down by milestone points. It is essential to set the project budget to milestone points for two reasons. First, milestones are critical to track the progress of the project, and second, budget milestones are necessary to determine the Cost to Complete for a project.

When a new project begins everyone is excited and eager to start work. Project surveyors begin their research and field survey teams are dispatched to the project site. The project manager has to know if things are going according to plan. This is one of the functions of the milestones. Was the research completed on time? Was the fieldwork completed on the milestone date? These questions will give the project manager the information to report to the client and make any adjustments early in the project cycle.

Budget milestones tell the manager if the project is financially on track. Let’s say for example that the budget set for the completion of the fieldwork is fifty percent of the total project. When this milestone point is reached and the actual cost of the work exceeds the budget amount, the manager should be able to run a Cost to Complete to see where he can possibly save some dollars or go back to the client and request additional funds. This is very difficult when the project is completed and the manger gets a project financial report from his accounting department. Remember that a Cost to Complete does not equal budget minus costs expended to date. You must look at it in terms of an earned value report where the actual cost expended is measured against the estimated Cost to Complete. The estimated Cost to Complete is determined by reviewing all pending project tasks with your staff and setting a realistic budget for those tasks. This will give the manager a better understanding of the true cost at completion.

Microsoft Project is a very useful tool for determining the earned value of a project. The total project can be budgeted in MS Project and milestones set. The manager can then use this tool to track costs and revise budgets for pending tasks. I have been using MS project for many years and have found it to be a very valuable tool for project management and client reporting.

Precise Definition of Required Deliverables, Contract Standards, Client Imposed Standards and/or Industry Standards
This is a critical quality assurance and client service element of the Project Delivery Plan. Everyone working on the project and the client should clearly understand what the deliverable items at the completion of the project will be, and to what standards the work will be carried out. Do not assume that if you say the survey work will be carried out to Second Order standards that everyone is on the same page. Make sure that you define the source of your technical standards and there are no possible ambiguities in the interpretation of these standards. Every member of the project team and the client should be in agreement so there are no surprises at the end of the project. I strongly recommend that the technical standards and methods to achieve those standards be incorporated into both the plan and your contract with the client. Furthermore, the Project Delivery Plan should be reviewed with the client prior to the commencement of any work on the project.

Advanced Technology
Advanced technology is great if everyone on the project teams understands the technology and knows how to use it. If the project manager is planning to use some advanced technology such as GPS or digital photogrammetry for the project this should be stated in the Project Deliver Plan so that all members of the project team will understand what is expected of them and the client will know how the results of the survey were obtained. When using advanced technology, the advantages derived from this technology and its value to the project should be spelled out in some detail in the plan.

Tasks & Responsibilities
Every Project Delivery Plan should contain a narrative of the tasks and responsibilities for each member of the project team. This is a very important quality assurance measure. While the project team members will be an integral part of the project schedule and budget showing their participation in tasks and the hours allocated to them, it is still necessary to provide a narrative of what is expected of each member of the team and when it is due. Again, this is invaluable when project personnel changes. It also prevents duplication of effort and the old saw of "I thought Joe or Mary was doing that." Deming’s "14 Points"
[see Part 1 of this series, May 2006] is clear on this issue. At this point I would like to recall three of those points that I believe apply here: 
• Cease dependence on mass inspection to achieve quality. Instead, improve the process and build quality into the product in the first place. 
• Improve constantly, and forever, the system of production, service, planning, of any activity. This will improve quality and productivity and thus constantly decrease costs.
• Drive out fear and build trust so that everyone can work more effectively. A clear understanding of tasks and responsibilities by all members of the project team is essential to the adoption of these points.

Forms and Reporting Documents
What forms and reporting methods will you use throughout the project? Will you use the firm’s standard project forms? Will you use client-mandated forms or will you need to create new forms? How will you report to the client? Will you report daily, weekly or monthly? Will you report via e-mail, fax or in person? These questions should be addressed in the Project Delivery Plan. All project team members should understand these requirements and they should be reviewed with the client prior to starting any work.

Project reporting is a critical element of client service and quality. Clients like to know how the project is progressing and if there are any issues, especially issues affecting the budget or delivery date. Suppose you have a week of rain and the field crews are not able to work. This will no doubt delay the project delivery date. Clients want to know this. One of the formats for client reporting that I prefer is: 
• Work accomplished this period 
• Issues or problems encountered this period
• Solutions applied
• Work to be accomplished next period
• Potential issues or problems
• Assistance needed from the client
• Total project performance to date
• Anticipated date of completion

This format will inform the client of your progress on the project and let him/her know of any problems or issues you have encountered and the solutions you have applied to mitigate of solve them. It is also an opportunity to request client assistance if required. The report can be prepared in a word processing program, converted to a PDF file delivered via e-mail, fax or in person at the clients request.
Deliverable Requirements
Your Project Delivery Plan must include a detailed list of deliverable items. This list should include a description of all final and interim deliverable items. You should define the formats, including the type of hardcopy deliverables you will deliver and what drafting or CAD standard will be used to create them. Drawing size, scale and number of copies should be included. If you will be delivering softcopy deliverables, state the deliverable format (i.e., DC-ROM, DVD) files to be included and applications used to create the files. Everyone should understand what deliverable items are required by the contract so there are no misunderstandings at the end of the project.

Statements of Safety Procedures
If fieldwork is required, your Project delivery Plan should include a section on safety. This is not only important for the safety of the survey crew, but is also a statement of your firm’s concern for their safety. Along with a general statement your firm’s field safety policies special project issues such as the possibilities of encountering hazardous materials on the project site or potential sewer gases should be covered. When working adjacent to railways your crews will need special training from the railway company. Other issues that should be covered in this section of the plan would include potential surveying near archeological and endangered sites. In some areas of the United States the field crews could be working in areas where there are endangered flora, fauna and soil. Certificates of training will be needed prior to the survey crews entering upon these sites. Time and cost for these activities will need to be included in your project schedule and budget.

Quality Control & Quality Assurance
Every Project Delivery Plan should address the issues of the quality control measures that will be used for the project. The plan should include time and budget allowances for reviews and checking (Quality Control) that are a part of the quality assurance program. A few examples of your quality control plan might include the following: 
• Survey or Mapping Criteria 
• Definition of Standards and/or Agency or Client Manuals 
• Survey or Mapping Criteria Review and Checking Forms 
• Drafting and CAD Standards 
• Computer Calculation Review Forms 
• Field Survey Forms
• Internal Review Forms and Checklists

I am partial to checklists for both office and field staff. These checklists should cover all technical and managerial aspects of the project and should include a space to the project team member to initial and date the item that was checked. Copies of the checklists to be used should be included with the final Plan. These lists are great tools for insuring the quality of your work and client service.

Fred Henstridge has more than 50 years of professional experience in geomatics engineering, surveying, mapping, transportation engineering, municipal engineering, and GIS management. After 10 years with Caltrans, he started his own geomatics and civil engineering firm, which was acquired by Psomas and Associates in 1982. Since that time, he has been a Principal of Psomas, and Corporate Director of Geospatial Services and GIS. He is currently Director of Psomas’ Federal Programs Development.

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