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Quality management

Quality management

Quality management systems

As the principal of a firm, you want to be assured that your firm’s work is of good quality. How you decide to do this depends on the size and nature of your firm: a sole practitioner will approach this very differently to a firm with hundreds of employees. However, the importance of some type of quality assurance, to both the firm and clients, will be the same.

Producing good-quality work involves two elements:

  1. checking that important processes have been followed, to reduce risk and ensure consistency and
  2. checking that the work delivered is competent and based on proper information and analysis.

A quality management system is a set of interrelated policies, processes and procedures in the core areas that can impact a firm’s ability to meet a client’s requirements. These should tackle the components that your business has to have in place to achieve a better chance of consistently providing a product or service that meets what the client asked for.

For more detailed information on quality management systems, see Appendix B and Appendix C. However, most firms would benefit from having the following written procedures (some of which are required under RICS standards):

  • a process for checking for conflicts of interest
  • a customer due diligence process
  • a key task checklist for files
  • data handling and security processes
  • a process to check and feed back on the quality of work, especially for new or junior members of staff
  • a billing process and
  • a complaints-handling procedure, including feeding back on lessons learned.

It is important to keep these procedures somewhere central that is accessible to all staff who will need to use them. The procedures should also be kept up to date with any changes that are agreed as processes evolve.

Template documents can also help to ensure consistency and compliance with technical standards. RICS provides some example templates for registered valuers, which may be a useful starting point.

File management

Managing your files well will help you if a claim or dispute arises. There is no one ‘correct’ way to structure files (whether physical or digital) but you should ensure that you follow a logical progression. A good test is whether a colleague or locum could pick the matter up in your absence and understand what is happening with it.

If your files are structured well, you will also save yourself time and effort if you need to respond to a future enquiry, either from the client or if a matter is referred for alternative dispute resolution or to RICS Regulation as you will have all relevant documentation to hand.

The specifics of what a file needs will vary according to the area of surveying practice, but files will typically include:

    • notes of checks into previous involvement, conflicts of interest and their resolution
    • terms of engagement and evidence they have been agreed by the client
    • copies of all documents, plans, emails, photographs, site notes, and notes of enquiries, inspections (and limitations to these), calculations and measurements, investigations and conversations
    • records of the key decisions you have made in the course of a matter
    • any key chronological events in the process
    • evidence of the research and analysis you have undertaken to support your view
    • notes of all reasoning and calculation
    • a copy of the deliverables as provided to the client
    • any correspondence you have had with your client or any third party
    • any relevant internal correspondence
    • evidence of peer review (if relevant) and
    • full notes of any after-delivery work.

All the information relating to the file should be kept in the same place (either physically or digitally) and indexed or tabbed. Try not to keep irrelevant or excessive information in the file. It can be helpful to have a key tasks checklist as part of your file.

It can also be helpful to have a checklist of the information a file should contain. Someone should check the file against this list as part of the closure process. It is much easier to find a missing document or email at this point than if a claim arises several years later. If you can find documents easily and they are clearly identifiable, this will instil confidence if the matter is escalated.