Supplier responsibility for product quality makes cheating silly

supplier responsibility for product quality


This key PRINCE2® concept asserts supplier responsibility for the quality of project products.

A PRINCE2 project aims to produce an output – the project product. The actual production takes place in the managing product delivery process. The project manager authorises a sequence of work packages that team managers execute. And most team managers come from the project´s supplier side.

Say, you run a company that wants to put up an office building and lease space in it. It´s a technically complicated venture that requires specialist expertise. After all, you are challenging the nature. I mean, things like force of gravity and materials´ resistance. Messing with them can cause you grievous harm. No wonder then, that the construction industry includes a large number of specialised sectors that cater to the intrinsic complexity of building. So, to realise your project you´ll need to contract a number of suppliers.

And mind you, the executive and suppliers as key project stakeholders have very different interests.

The project’s business case has a focus on delivering the project product in accordance with the mandate and within tolerances set by the corporate level of management.

The supplier, on the other hand, will have a separate business case. It’ll focus on the obtaining of desired profit from delivering the work packages authorised by the project manager.

The very existence of such separate business cases sets the scene for conflict. Suppliers can conceivably become tempted to cheat by inflating their costs. Or secretly saving on quality to covertly reduce the actual outlays.

But with PRINCE2, the project is safe.

The PRINCE2 method incorporates a number of procedures that effectively enforce supplier responsibility for product quality.

Take quality management. A configuration item must fully meet the quality criteria defined in the product description. PRINCE2 vests the responsibility for ensuring it in the team manager (supplier). This simple provision creates a powerful safeguard against any kind of supplier manipulations.

For a start, a work package includes a cost tolerance that the team manager cannot exceed without an approval from the project manager. Moreover, as part of quality review external reviewers will check every deliverable against the quality criteria set in the product description. If the product is not fit for purpose, there is no way how it can go undetected.

As a consequence, the team manager will have to redo the product to correct the discovered deviations from the quality criteria. That can blow a gaping hole in the supplier´s business case. So, a combination of the inevitability of discovery and the severity of inescapable punishment makes any kind of messing with the quality criteria irrational.

Requests for change (RFC) can create another potential loophole for shirking supplier responsibility for product quality.

A team manager can ask to change a product´s quality criteria before accepting the work package with its corresponding product description. The supplier can conceivably request such adjustments with an eye on realising cost savings. But before the change authority approves an RFC, external reviewers will check it. The change authority is likely to have a change budget at its disposal to cover the costs of such reviews. Once again, any attempt at getting an unfair advantage will inevitably be detected.

And because the discovery is as good as certain, it makes no business sense for the supplier to attempt it. Rather, the supplier will aim an RFC at reconciling the supplier business case with the project one by ensuring that the project product is reliably achieved in accordance with its acceptance criteria.

Placing the onus of accountability for the quality of project products on the supplier goes all the way up to the project board.

At the directing level of management, the senior supplier is accountable for ensuring that the project product meets the acceptance criteria. A situation when the senior user refuses to accept the project product and sends it back will result in a disaster for the supplier business case. It is thus in senior supplier´s own best interests to ensure that all configuration items that go into the project product fully meet their respective quality criteria and are fit fur purpose.

As a method, PRINCE2® is very much geared towards promoting communication and cooperation among the principal project interests.

The emphasis of this post is on checks-and-balances that protect the project business case from supplier double-dealing. But PRINCE2® equally guards supplier interests. The team manager may find that the supplier business case stands to lose from the intransigence of the project manager in the definition of the quality criteria and quality skills for a particular product description. In such case, the project assurance will get involved.

As a first step, the team manager will alert the supplier assurance. This latter will then discuss the bother with the business assurance. That failing to resolve the issue, the supplier assurance will escalate it to the attention of the senior supplier. Who will then take it up with the executive. The executive’s prevailing attitude, the default setting, so to speak, is likely to pitch towards supporting the supplier side. After all, it´s they who are accountable for product quality.

All things considered, asserting supplier responsibility for product quality is not about arm-twisting. It is rather about finding common ground to make the project a success for stakeholders in general and the three principal project interests in particular.


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