Quality Audit vs Inspection

Quality Audit vs. Inspection PMP

Quality audits and inspections are often used similarly in everyday conversations. However, these terms are not interchangeable when it comes to project management. You must understand the difference between a quality audit vs. inspection for the PMP exam.

Read through the following guide to quality audits and inspections and see if you can answer the sample test questions at the end. If you have any questions along the way, your Project Management Academy experts are here to help.

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Quality audit PMP definition

According to the PMBOK® Guide, a quality audit is “a structured, independent process to determine if project activities comply with organizational and project policies, processes, and procedures.”

Audits help assess how well a process complies with regulations, internal policies, and other compliance drivers. The Project Manager may perform audits as a self-check, or they may be performed by a third party. There are four types of audits mentioned in the PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition, and each one reviews specific processes.

  1. Quality audits review the entire project’s use of planned processes – a general audit, performed as part of the Manage Quality process, examining all the processes used in a project at a high level.
  2. Risk audits review the use of risk processes to manage risks that might affect the project and its outcomes.
  3. Procurement audits review the procurement processes, or how you will acquire goods or services needed to accomplish your project.
  4. Configuration audits review the project’s configuration processes: how the team defines, manages, and executes the deliverable’s key specifications and assets.

Project management quality audits are meant to help improve processes, which involves finding problems and identifying best practices at a systemic level.

What are inspections in project management?

While audits are higher-level and forward-looking, project management inspections look back at what has already been done. This may include finished deliverables or assets, goods, and services procured during the project. Inspections are used in three processes:

  1. Control Quality: inspecting or testing the deliverable to verify it meets the quality requirements.
  2. Control Procurements: the project manager or team verifies the vendor’s work product meets requirements and acceptance criteria.
  3. Validate Scope: the project’s customer or sponsor validates the project’s deliverables meet requirements and acceptance criteria.

The PMBOK® Guide states inspections include “activities such as measuring, examining, and validating to determine whether work and deliverables meet requirements and product acceptance criteria.” During an inspection, project managers must review the completeness of a project or its components and verify that requirements and product acceptance criteria have been met.

Difference between audit and inspection PMP explanation

As used in the PMBOK® Guide, an audit reviews processes, whereas inspection is used to review a work product. Let’s look at some other differences between audits and inspections:

  • Quality audits have a different purpose from inspections.
    • Audits are used to improve processes or products. As a PMP credential holder, you can use audits to find best practices, or what works well, in addition to finding problems.
    • Inspections are used to identify failures in assets, services, or deliverables.
  • Quality audits use a different perspective from inspections.
    • Audits are higher-level reviews of systems or processes that produce project deliverables.
    • Inspections look closely at deliverables to assess compliance. Think of inspections as reviewing deliverables with a checklist.
  • Quality audits deal with different time frames than inspections.
    • Audits evaluate how well a process will prevent quality problems in the future and identify ways to improve this.
    • Inspections verify quality in something that has been produced or accomplished to ensure all requirements and criteria were met.

Quality audits and inspections both deal with finding problems and validating quality, but they are not interchangeable. You must understand the distinction between quality audits vs. inspections for the PMP exam.

What do you need to know about quality audit vs. inspection for the PMP exam

Besides understanding the difference between audit and inspection for the PMP exam, you should also understand how they fit into the project lifecycle as a whole.

You may have heard quality audits and inspections used in the context of the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle, or the PDCA Cycle. This model speaks to a continuous improvement approach most often integrated into the Quality Management process.

The “Check” phase of the PDCA Cycle is another way to describe the various audit and inspection processes that occur during a project. This phase helps ensure processes and deliverables align with the customer’s needs. PMP credential holders can perform inspections and audits, but it may be necessary to establish an internal or third-party inspection or audit team in some cases.

Inspections and audits are crucial components of successful project management and are usually required by one or more project stakeholders. They have many uses in analyzing risk, controlling procurement, verifying compliance, and much more. These essential tools help project managers and PMP credential holders improve high-level systems while continuing to produce high-quality deliverables.

Quality audit vs. inspection PMP example test questions

Take a look at these PMP exam sample test questions to test your understanding of quality audits and inspections. Answers are at the bottom of the page.

You are a Project Manager newly assigned to a project team using the predictive methodology. You are conducting an inspection to determine if the work satisfies the requirements and product acceptance criteria. What is the objective of this process?Obtaining formal acceptance of the project’s deliverablesEnsuring correctness of work resultsObtaining approval to proceed with project executionAll of the above
The project team is in the process of analyzing quality activities and performing quality audits to determine which processes should be utilized to meet the project quality requirements. Which process is the team performing?Plan Quality ManagementControl QualityManage QualityValidate Scope

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  1. A. The question is describing the Validate Scope process. Inspections are a tool and technique that can be used to secure formal acceptance of the project’s deliverables. B describes Control Quality and C describes the Project Charter.
  2. C. The Plan Quality Management process is concerned with targeting quality standards that are relevant to the project and devising a plan to meet those standards. Control Quality is specifically concerned with monitoring work results to determine compliance with established standards. The Validate Scope process is used to formally accept completed deliverables. The Manage Quality process describes what is being asked in the question.

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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO
Director of Product Development at
Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO