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Timothy Lozier

Innovation

The Market View on Quality: Three Key Takeaways

Survey reveals differing priorities between quality managers and executives

Published: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 15:24

Current management regulations and standards stress the importance of making quality management a higher priority throughout all areas of operation. At Verse Solutions, we wanted to find out how quality managers are adjusting to that new mindset, and how they are using quality-based technology to achieve it. We surveyed more than 150 quality professionals to figure out just what they are—or aren’t—doing to better manage quality. Some of the results were surprising.

Although quality is a growing investment and priority as a general trend, implementing quality management software is lagging behind. By looking closely at the data, we can uncover the reasons why, and help quality managers overcome the obstacles that prevent them from taking advantage of the tools available to them.

Here are three of the key takeaways we learned from our survey and the insights they bring into the challenges—and opportunities—surrounding quality management.

1. Quality is a growing investment

Our survey showed that people are taking quality management seriously as a business need. Whether it is because of the push from new standards such as ISO 9001:2015 or an internal motivation, many organizations are working quality management into their operations. The majority of the respondents had a dedicated quality role within the organization (see figure 1). Dedicating roles specifically to quality shows an understanding of the importance of quality management to the function of the entire organization.

Not only were those roles dedicated to quality, they also were leadership positions. Almost 75 percent of the people who were employed in a dedicated quality role were working with a larger team. Having entire teams that dedicate their time—at least partially—to quality shows a companywide commitment to maintaining standards and improving quality. Even if those teams are small, just allocating the resources necessary for a quality team shows that it is an important aspect of operations.


Figure 1: Common structure of quality management teams. Click here for larger image.

There could be a number of reasons for further developing a quality team and prioritizing quality management. Understanding those motivations can help better understand the challenges and opportunities presented by quality issues. About 80 percent of our respondents have adopted a quality management system approach to keep them registered or compliant with their industries’ regulations. This helps them eliminate potential quality issues while increasing job safety and product compliance.

As the number of quality teams is growing, so is the investment in quality management. Well over half our respondents agreed that they are beginning to invest time and money on quality management, while another large group agreed that they are increasing their current investments in quality. In other words, almost all of the respondents are making quality management a bigger investment in their organizations. Again, this supports that quality is a growing priority among quality leaders.

But with the increased investment in quality management strategies comes a new set of challenges (see figure 2). The following areas were cited as major quality management challenges:
Meeting and maintaining quality standards and regulatory requirements
Managing and responding quickly to any quality-related issues
Extending quality to the supply chain and other operational areas
Increasing operational efficiencies and continual improvement initiatives


Figure 2: Business challenges with quality management. Click here for larger image.

Of those, maintaining standards and fostering quick response time are seen as the biggest challenges. These are complicated processes that can’t really be carried out efficiently with outdated and manual processes. Those challenges—and more—can be solved by implementing technology like automated quality management system software. This opens up a lot of opportunities for quality leaders to explore the technology available for managing quality and compliance.

2. Opportunities exist for adopting quality technology

Given the nature of quality challenges and the increased investment in quality management, you would think that more quality leaders would be investing in automated solutions to alleviate the complications and improve their processes. However, half of our respondents do not use automated solutions for quality and compliance. Those that do not use automated solutions are using either paper-based, manual systems, or a combination of emails and spreadsheets. This is an interesting statistic, given the rate at which companies are investing in quality management. You would think that investment in quality technology would increase as interest in quality management systems does.

Those that do have automated solutions are not adopting out-of-the-box software programs. Rather, they are using internally built systems or piecing together different business solutions to form a quality management system solution. This is not the most efficient approach to take since it makes it difficult to efficiently and automatically run processes that meet all of your quality needs.

So what are people exactly looking for in quality management system software? Our respondents agreed that some of the most critical processes within a quality management system are document control and training, corrective and preventive action (CAPA), and change management (see figure 3). These are the aspects that most people want automated; otherwise, they take up a lot of time and effort and leave a lot of room for error or inconsistency.

Aside from automating critical processes, there are other key features that our respondents want in quality management system software:
Simplicity. The value of automating quality management is in reducing the time and effort of compliance and quality processes. Therefore, it’s important that these software solutions are simple to use, otherwise there’s no benefit to automating. Having a system that is simple to configure to your specific needs and that can give you exactly what you want is important to many quality professionals.
Affordability. As much as quality leaders want to invest in quality management system software, organizations have many other mandatory expenses to take care of first. They need to be able to adopt a software solution without having to sacrifice other investments. The benefits of the quality management system software must outweigh the costs in order for quality professionals to want to implement it.
Low maintenance. About half of our respondents reported that they don’t want to spend more than one or two hours a week administrating the software. Again, this makes sense because spending a lot of time configuring a software solution would defeat the purpose of automating in the first place.


Figure 3: Preferred quality management system software functionality. Click here for larger image.

There are many different software solutions that fit all of the aforementioned criteria. Solutions geared toward small and medium-sized businesses provide affordable, simple, and easily configured quality management tools. Based on our survey results, it seems that automated quality management system software would be a good fit for meeting the needs of many quality professionals.

3. Technology must be simple, yet meet everyone’s needs

If there are technology solutions that meet the needs of quality professionals, why is the rate of technology implementation not increasing proportionately to the investment in quality management? If a majority of those in the quality field are increasing their investment in quality management, more than half should be using technology and software solutions to meet their needs, and yet they aren’t. We wanted to find out the underlying reason for this misalignment in an effort to create a solution to bridge the gap.

The disparity between the statistics reveals a disconnect between quality management and technology implementation. We dove a little deeper into some of the responses and made an interesting discovery: Technology is not implemented largely due to the difference in mindset of quality managers vs. higher-level executives (see figures 4 and 5).


Figure 4: Management expectations for quality management system software. Click here for larger image.

 


Figure 5: Executive expectations for quality management system software. Click here for larger image.

For example, a group of administrators, engineers, and managers most strongly agreed that they need a software solution that lets them build basic forms, make simple configurations, and allow them to adapt the software to changing business needs. However, among directors, vice presidents, and other executives, far fewer agreed. This group, as a majority, agreed that software solutions should require little to no configuration. They view the flexibility and customization needs of quality management differently than those from the first group.

Furthermore, among the group that contained administrators, engineers, and managers, the majority agreed that they expected or preferred to spend one to two hours a week adapting quality management software to changing business needs. The executive group, however, largely agreed that they wanted to use software out of the box and not spend any time making changes. This is another significant difference in the quality mindset between executives and quality managers.

A closer look reveals that quality managers have a different understanding of the time and effort needed to implement a quality management software system, favoring customization and configuration more than any other group. Those who have the authority to approve a major change like software implementation have a different viewpoint, so it is sometimes difficult to move forward with the implementation.

Overcoming the disconnect

So how can organizations overcome this disconnect? It’s important to develop a solution that keeps both parties happy while meeting all of the organization’s quality management needs. A solution that is simple, doesn’t require a lot of time or money to implement, and is easily maintained can help meet your quality needs while appealing to those who will be approving the investment.

This task is easier said than done. There are difficult challenges that must be overcome. There must be many conversations between those directly involved in quality and those who oversee and approve the processes. Stressing the importance of investing in technology, building an automated system, and growing the technology to match the growth of your business will help align everyone’s priorities.

Also, it’s important that all upper-level management understand the importance of using technology to meet the requirements of the latest set of standards, such as the standards from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Executive management obviously understands the importance of the standards and why the organization should comply, but they might not have the opportunity to see how technology bridges the gap between the standards and your operations.

Overall, there needs to be something to get quality managers and higher executives on the same page about quality management software. Those directly involved with quality management should work toward making executive-level professionals understand the importance of having an automated, customizable, and affordable software solution. Everybody is on board with making quality management a companywide priority, but they all need to also understand the importance of using technology to achieve quality goals.

To learn more, join Tim Lozier, director of product strategy at Verse Solutions, and Dirk Dusharme, editor in chief of Quality Digest, for the webinar, “The Market View on Quality Management: What your peers are doing (or not doing).” The webinar will be held Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, at 11 a.m. Pacific/2 p.m. Eastern. Click here to register.

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About The Author

Timothy Lozier’s picture

Timothy Lozier

Timothy Lozier is the director of product strategy for Verse Solutions, a quality and compliance management software provider that incorporates key quality processes, such as document control, corrective action, audits, and training in a dedicated cloud environment. Lozier has been involved in the quality and compliance industry for more than a decade and has an extensive background in quality and compliance management systems. At Verse Solutions he is responsible for driving the innovation and strategy of leading cloud-based compliance and quality management software solutions.