Quality: Measuring the Measurer

The project cost manager has a difficult product to market: once he has found ways of giving visibility to an abstract service, he still needs to prove from one project to another what his service is worth.

The very word project implies a once-off situation: whatever benefits were demonstrated on Project A can not axiomatically be supposed to be repeatable on Project B. Ironically, a cost manager who does his job well, sees the problems before it arise and dissolves it before the event, thus leaving a smooth, undisturbed trail which does not at all divulge the necessity for specialist cost management.

How can the client then distinguish between quality and non-quality service? How does one measure the difference in value between two or three offers for services, which in theory appear to be all of equal nature and scope?

The quantity surveying fraternity attempts to offer a solution through a system of registration and to bind members of the governing bodies and associations to a promulgated code of conduct. This however achieves little more than to set the bare minimum baseline and to some extent drag the image of excellence in service down as if equal with the baseline, since both service providers – basic and excellent – are registered.

Clients are fortunately increasingly sophisticated nowadays, and usually capable of seeing the wheat from the chaff. There is less and less emphasise on the little memberships denotations behind the professional person’s name and rather an awareness of who can deliver the goods.

Government bodies are however less fortunate in their discretionary powers to subjectively select consultants, and are highly reliant on the bottom line standard.

Project cost management quality can be judged by studying ratios and variances in cost patterns of ongoing or completed projects. Indications such as the following could be used:

  • Accuracy – estimate, tender, final account relations, cash flow management
  • Expedience – regular reporting, final account judged correctly ahead of completion
  • Stability – variances from one report to another for cash flow and end cost predictions
  • Traceability – information management which enables formal quality assurance
  • Transparency – effective reporting at all levels through appropriate information and documentation skills

Quality standard certification (e g ISO) could confirm that systems are in place, but does not guarantee that the systems are used, since project cost management is an intellectual service which is closely related to the individuals involved.

The client’s best option is therefore to obtain reliable opinions, against the proposed norms from previous receivers of the service. Where confidentiality limitations could be overcome, the proposing cost manager should be capable of demonstrating trends and patterns on previous projects, to prove the influence and value of his services.

A client should also consider suitability of services: bigger is not always better when it concerns a service largely dependant on intellectual skills. Scope and complexity, as well as specialist domain knowledge requirements, play a significant role in obtaining quality service, if quality is defined as the result most appropriate to the desired solution.

There is no infallible method of predicting quality of an abstract project service. It is possible though to carefully consider the five main elements (stated above) that points to quality project cost management.

Leonard van der Dussen

About Us

VDDB provides project structuring, execution and control services that makes projects predictable and controllable. Some clients prefer the full project office function, including procedures, procurement, contract administration, policies and general project execution and co-ordination, and use selected services.


The concept of analytical quantity surveying is one of numerous enhanced services where traditional skills are merged with information management tooling to provide strongly enhanced project services in a fast world which is keen for optimisation.

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