GEOG 871
Geospatial Technology Project Management

Quality Planning, Assurance, and Control

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Quality Planning, Assurance, and Control

The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines quality, in a project context as, "the degree to which project deliverables meet requirements". This general definition places the focus on a need for well-defined requirements for project execution and deliverables. Quality planning should occur as part of the development of project deliverable specifications and work planning. Identification and characterization of quality as a basis for quality management procedures is helped by reference to accepted standards. Consider taking a look at resources of the following organizations to get a better understanding of accepted GIS-related standards:

  • Open GIS Consortium (OGC): An independent standards organization with participation of industry and government organizations and coordination with professional associations and other standards organizations. The OGC has established standards for spatial data format, data classification, geospatial services and applications, and GIS operational practices. The OGC standards have been adopted by many GIS software and database companies and by user organizations.
  • Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC): a U.S. Federal government organization which develops and approves standards for GIS data and metadata quality, format, content, and classification and related GIS data collection and maintenance practices.
  • American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS): Professional association that prepares and approved formal standards for aerial data imagery and LiDAR acquisition and processing and for map and orthoimage positional accuracy. 
  • International Association for Standardization (ISO): An independent international standards organization with participation of industry and government organizations and coordination with professional associations and other standards organizations. The ISO approves and promotes standards for a wide range of quality topics (ISO 9000) and has organized Technical Committee 211 (Geographic Information and Geomatics) which deals with GIS-related software, data, and services.
  • Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA): An international professional and educational association that promotes standards and best practices for the management and use of GIS technology. URISA's GIS Management Institute (GMI) develops tools and best practices useful for GIS planning and management.

Other standards organizations, not specific to GIS or spatial data but which develop and promote standards some of which relate to information technology and quality parameters, include:

  • American National Standards Institute (ANSI): An independent U.S. based standards organization addressing standards of all types (including many IT standards);
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): A U.S. government standards organization which adopts format standards for a wide range of products and services;
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE): An independent standards organization with a focus on computer hardware, networks, and software;
  • Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF): Global organization that sets standards for Internet communications and services; and
  • Software Engineering Institute (SEI): An independent body based at Carnegie Mellon University that develops and promotes standards and best practices for software and application development.

There are two terms that are widely used in quality management, quality control and quality assurance. These terms are used somewhat differently by different practitioners. In GIS projects (particularly for GIS database development), they are often used interchangeably. So, as you encounter these terms in project specifications, contractor service descriptions, and white papers, be aware that there is not a full consensus on their meaning. A practical usage of these terms in GIS projects is as follows:

Quality control (QC) refers to the tools, processes, and range of automated and manual checks that are put in place to meet quality requirements as deliverables are being prepared. The intent is to produce the deliverables that fully meet project specifications and quality requirements. The related term, quality assurance (QA), refers to tools and procedures used to assess adherence to specifications and quality requirements after initial deliverable completion and in a final step to check and approve the deliverables. QA checking should be performed as a separate step from deliverable production/preparation and often by a separate group or people from those involved in deliverable production. Often that separate group is a client organization that has contracted GIS services (database development) to a private firm. QC and QA are related and may use similar tools and procedures but their use in the entire workflow from deliverable preparation to final acceptance is different. In practice, if QA checking reveals problems with deliverables, the deliverable is subjected to additional steps to correct errors and re-submit it--at which point it is usually subjected to another round of QA checking.