Leveraging Cost of Quality in Project Management to Drive Performance

Quality is a critical factor in project management. As a project manager, while you must deliver results on time and within budget, they also need to be of the required quality.

However, like anything good, quality does not come for free. There are costs associated with achieving the quality you desire in your projects collectively known as the cost of quality.

In this article, we cover the concept of cost of quality in project management, including the different types of quality costs, how to calculate the cost of quality, as well as examples for further clarity.

What is Cost of Quality in Project Management?

Cost of quality (COQ) are quantitative costs that encompass the expenses associated with preventing, detecting, and correcting defective work as part of project management processes.

It includes the cost of conformance (measures taken to ensure quality like training, testing inspections, audits, etc.) and the cost of nonconformance from defects like rework, returns, and warranty claims.

Understanding COQ helps you optimize project quality costs over its lifecycle and provides data to guide investments in improving quality proactively versus fixing issues reactively.

With COQ analysis, you can gain visibility into the financial return on quality investments which drives smarter project management through data-based decisions.

Importance of Cost of Quality in Project Management

Importance of Cost of Quality in Project Management

Managing the cost of quality in project management is essential to delivering high-quality results on time and within budget.

Here are some reasons why the cost of quality in project management is vital:

1. Aligns Quality Objectives with Business Goals

Meeting project objectives requires you to optimize quality costs as prevention costs and appraisal costs enhance quality.

However, excessive costs can impact project viability. Analyzing the cost of quality helps you align quality with business goals.

2. Enables Trade-off Decisions

The cost of quality model helps you determine the right investment in prevention and appraisal activities as projects have finite resources.

You can make informed trade-off decisions on quality costs versus risks to ensure the optimal allocation of resources.

3. Reduces Failure Costs

Failure costs due to reworks, delays, and customer dissatisfaction can cripple a project.

Focusing on prevention and appraisal reduces failure frequency, which helps lower warranty claims, legal costs, and lost revenues.

4. Drives Continuous Improvement

Analyzing quality costs identifies areas for improvement, and actions to reduce prevention and appraisal costs enhance productivity.

By making efforts to minimize failures, there is improved customer satisfaction which fosters a culture of continuous learning.

5. Supports Earned Value Analysis

The cost of quality model aligns with earned value management.

You can quantify the cost impact of quality conformance vs non-conformance to strengthen project performance monitoring and control.

Cost of Good Quality

Cost of Good Quality in Project Management (Cost of Conformance)

The cost of good quality (COGQ) represents the costs incurred to ensure conformance to quality requirements including prevention and appraisal costs.

COGQ reflects spending to build quality into project deliverables upfront and verify quality through inspections and testing to minimize failures.

For project managers, COGQ illustrates the allocated budget for driving and confirming quality execution. Optimizing COGQ alleviates the need for higher-cost rework later.

Analysis and tracking of COGQ identifies opportunities to improve quality processes proactively, quantifies the return on investing in prevention and appraisal, conveys quality spending, and helps balance project objectives.

Cost of Good Quality Formula

The cost of good quality (COGQ) calculation sums the investments in prevention and appraisal costs:

COGQ = Prevention Costs + Appraisal Costs

Quantifying COGQ provides data to optimize quality spending over a project lifecycle, and the optimal ratio depends on risk tolerance and the cost of failures.

Cost of Good Quality Examples

COGQ examples include:

  • Training program development costs
  • Documentation and requirements gathering expenses
  • Inspection, testing, and audit costs
  • Quality management system implementation
  • Development of quality assurance procedures
  • Statistical process control tracking
  • Compliance and certification costs
  • Validation and verification activities
  • Quality engineering and planning costs
  • Performance audits and reviews
  • Testing and inspection equipment costs

Tracking tangible COGQ metrics provides data to guide quality initiatives, while intangible COGQ aspects like team morale and customer satisfaction also provide qualitative indicators.

Cost of Poor Quality

Cost of Poor Quality in Project Management (Cost of Non-Conformance)

The cost of poor quality (COPQ) represents the costs incurred from failing to meet quality requirements. It consists of internal and external failure costs caused by defects.

It results from reactive quality spending on nonconformance issues versus proactive prevention. It includes rework, waste, warranty claims, customer returns, and loss of reputation.

COPQ indicates inefficiencies in executing quality standards. Minimizing COPQ through prevention and appraisal is a priority as it drives urgency in enhancing quality processes.

Cost of Poor Quality Formula

The cost of poor quality (COPQ) calculation sums the costs of internal and external failures:

COPQ = Internal Failure Costs + External Failure Costs

Analyzing COPQ identifies critical improvement opportunities to prevent costly defects. The goal is to minimize COPQ through quality planning, assurance, and control.

Cost of Poor Quality Examples

COPQ examples include:

  • Rework labor, material, and overhead
  • Costs of scrap, waste, and defects
  • Root cause analysis of failures
  • Customer refunds and returns
  • Warranty claims, repairs, and replacements
  • Liability costs and legal expenses
  • Lost sales, profits, and customers
  • Reputational damage and PR crises
  • Costs of customer complaints
  • Field service, recalls, and fixes
  • Downtime, outages, and restoration

Tracking COPQ puts a dollar figure on the impact of nonconformance which informs continuous improvement initiatives focused on prevention.

Types of Cost of Quality in Project Management

Types of Cost of Quality in Project Management

There are four main types of cost of quality in project management:

  1. Appraisal costs
  2. Prevention costs
  3. Internal failure costs
  4. External failure costs

Analyzing these costs indicates how much you are investing in driving quality before or after issues emerge. The optimal ratio depends on your project but minimizing failure costs is always a priority.

Understanding the four types of quality costs allows for smarter optimization of investments and processes to improve project conformance overall.

Appraisal Costs in Project Management

Appraisal costs are quality costs incurred through activities that evaluate project deliverables to ensure requirements are met. They aim to prevent defects from advancing to customers.

Appraisal costs are a type of conformance cost as they verify quality. Although appraisals do not directly improve quality, they evaluate if standards are met.

They indicate the investment in confirming deliverables are defect-free. Minimizing these costs may increase downstream costs from undetected defects. However excessive appraisals waste resources that could improve quality elsewhere.

Optimizing appraisal spending based on project risk provides assurance while maximizing value. Appraisals give you data to guide quality initiatives and process enhancements.

Appraisal Cost Examples

Examples of appraisal costs include:

  • Testing and inspection of deliverables
  • Destructive testing of samples
  • Benchmarking performance
  • Audits and reviews
  • Validation of requirements
  • Quality control and assurance
  • Maintaining test equipment
  • Supervision of inspectors
  • Meetings on quality

Prevention Costs in Project Management

Prevention costs are upfront quality costs that seek to stop defects from ever occurring. They drive conformance proactively.

As a project manager, evaluating prevention costs provides insight into investments in driving quality from the start. Higher prevention costs aim to reduce failure costs later on.

However, overspending on prevention can inflate project budgets without a sufficient return. The optimal investment depends on the project risk profile and the potential cost of defects.

Tracking prevention metrics identifies opportunities to improve processes for systemic defect reduction. Focusing on prevention establishes a culture of quality and continuous improvement.

Spending should align with the probability and impact of nonconformance. Strategic prevention investment maximizes project quality and conformance.

Prevention Cost Examples

Examples of prevention costs include:

  • Training programs
  • Process improvements
  • Quality planning activities
  • New product review processes
  • Supplier evaluations
  • Compliance audits
  • Quality management systems
  • Defining quality standards
  • Project quality assurance

Internal Failure Costs in Project Management

Internal failure costs arise from defects identified before delivery to the customer. They occur when errors in deliverables are caught internally.

These costs are driven by quality issues that escaped prevention efforts. While cheaper than external failures, they still reflect inefficiencies and wasted resources.

As a project manager, tracking internal failure metrics helps identify systemic risks and areas for quality improvements. Failures found internally highlight vulnerabilities in processes before they impact customers.

Learning from these failures to enhance prevention and appraisal investments is key. Internal failures signal emerging risks to conformance and addressing them before delivery contains costs and risks.

Internal Failure Cost Examples

Examples of internal failure costs include:

  • Rework of defective items
  • Scrap costs from discards
  • Costs of re-inspecting and re-testing
  • Analysis of root causes
  • Recurring production issues
  • Downgrading items to alternate uses
  • Troubleshooting and debugging
  • Downtime and maintenance
  • Yield loss and attrition

External Failure Costs in Project Management

External failure costs represent quality issues that surface post-implementation in the field resulting from defects identified after delivery to the customer.

They are the most expensive as they impact customer satisfaction and also fail to provide feedback to improve processes.

Minimizing these costs is imperative through prevention, appraisal, and early internal detection. Tracking external failure key performance indicators helps quantify the business impact of deficient conformance.

While some external failure is expected, reducing outliers is key. These metrics justify investments to systematically improve quality across projects. Preventing failures from reaching customers contains costs and preserves your brand.

External Failure Cost Examples

Examples of external failure costs include:

  • Warranty replacements and repairs
  • Costs of servicing and recalls
  • Refunds and returns
  • Liability arising from defects
  • Outages and restoration
  • Negative publicity and damage to brand reputation
  • Loss of customer trust and future sales
  • Legal costs from settlements
  • Field failure analysis

How to Calculate Cost of Quality in Project Management

How to Calculate Cost of Quality in Project Management

Calculating the cost of quality in project management provides data to guide strategic quality management and tracking it over time illustrates the financial value of quality initiatives.

Calculating the COQ involves quantifying the total cost of conformance and nonconformance using these steps:

1. Identify Quality Cost Components

  • Gather prevention, appraisal, internal failure, and external failure costs from project records.
  • Include tangible costs like materials, labor, and overhead.
  • Estimate intangible costs like reputational impact.

2. Organize Cost Data

  • Categorize costs into prevention, appraisal, internal failure, and external failure buckets.
  • Isolate overhead costs and allocate them to categories.
  • Remove any duplicated costs.

3. Calculate Costs by Type

  • Sum the total costs for prevention, appraisal, internal failure, and external failure.
  • Calculate the cost of good quality (COGQ) as prevention + appraisal.
  • Calculate the cost of poor quality (COPQ) as internal failure + external failure.

4. Determine Total COQ

Add COGQ and COPQ to determine the total cost of quality:

5. Analyze and Interpret Data

  • Identify quality cost reduction opportunities.
  • Set targets for minimizing failure costs.
  • Highlight processes needing improvement investments.

Cost of Quality Examples

Examples of Cost of Quality in Project Management

Some examples of quality costs across different project contexts include:

Software Development

  • Prevention Costs: Requirements reviews, code inspections, testing tools, development process training
  • Appraisal Costs: Code quality audits, integration testing, user acceptance testing
  • Internal Failure Costs: Debugging, rework, patch development
  • External Failure Costs: Support calls, patches, version updates, liability from vulnerabilities


  • Prevention Costs: Project planning, site assessments, safety training, land surveys
  • Appraisal Costs: Inspections, materials testing, 3D model reviews
  • Internal Failure Costs: Rework, scrapped materials, unauthorized work
  • External Failure Costs: Lawsuits, repairs, customer refunds


  • Prevention Costs: Statistical process control, preventive maintenance, worker training
  • Appraisal Costs: Inspections, testing equipment, product audits
  • Internal Failure Costs: Scrap, rework, re-testing, re-inspections
  • External Failure Costs: Returns, servicing, warranty claims, recalls


  • Prevention Costs: Customer service training, process mapping, quality plans
  • Appraisal Costs: Customer surveys, service audits, and observations
  • Internal Failure Costs: Service delays and defects, employee overtime
  • External Failure Costs: Unsatisfied customers, refunds, reputational damage


Cost of quality in project management is a critical concept that provides data to guide quality initiatives through analysis of prevention, appraisal, internal failure, and external failure costs.

Calculating the total cost of quality involves quantifying the expenses of conformance and nonconformance activities over a project lifecycle.

As a project manager, the cost of quality metrics leads to smarter resource allocation and minimized failure costs, while right-sizing investments in appraisal and prevention boost efficiency.

David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)
David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)

David Usifo is a certified project manager professional, professional Scrum Master, and a BCS certified Business Analyst with a background in product development and database management.

He enjoys using his knowledge and skills to share with aspiring and experienced project managers and product developers the core concept of value-creation through adaptive solutions.

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