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Brenda Percy

Quality Insider

Four Traits to Look for in a QMS

No-frills, affordable options for small to midsized businesses

Published: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 15:53

Organizations today operate at speeds faster than ever before, and small to midsized businesses (SMEs) are no exception. Software solutions for quality management systems (QMS) are all too often overlooked by owners and managers of SMEs due to preconceptions about cost and ROI.

The fact is, scalable and affordable QMS solutions without bells and whistles are available. Simple and effective, these options can provide the benefits of a QMS at considerably lower cost and justify their ROI. The trick is to know what, in particular, makes a QMS the right option for a small to midsized business.

This is the first of a six-part series to help SMEs optimize their QMS selection process. To ensure long-term value for the investment, SMEs should look for a QMS solution that provides the following four traits.

1. Flexibility to fit individual business needs

To be truly effective, the QMS must be built on a dynamic workflow platform, so look for software that provides flexibility. The platform should be able to expand as best-practice applications are implemented, and it should also be able to automate the process of assessing quality-improvement opportunities, including managing corrective actions and providing document control.

This covers the standard workflow for quality management, but you should also be able to adjust these processes to suit your preference. Look for a system that can adapt to your existing processes and change when those processes do. This is a key consideration that can affect future functionality and cost.

For instance, some software systems are built on a generic best-practices approach that can only be changed after additional time and cost. Often a business process you’ve spent years perfecting will have to be discarded, which means you must implement a new process—and train employees on that process. Especially for SMEs, the cost of making these adaptations can eventually match the initial cost of the system.

A flexible QMS will allow you to easily configure keywords, logins, and pages as you’d like. You should be able to make the software your own without the need for IT assistance. For instance, graphical tools like drag and drop allow the users to make changes to the look and feel of the system without the need of programming knowledge. This alone will help make users comfortable with the system.

2. Scalability to grow with your business

The more successful an SME, the more business it brings in. This leads to a need for more employees, more locations—and more software systems to accommodate this growth, unless the QMS offers scalability. This is the software’s ability to grow in proportion to your business without its functionality being affected. For SMEs, where growth usually comes with success, this is an important function for a QMS.

To determine whether a software system is truly scalable, consider the following:
• Long-term goals. Will the software system scale to accommodate additional business users and locations?
• Customer success stories. Can the software vendor provide references demonstrating how other SMEs have successfully scaled the solution beyond a single facility?
• Location-based administration. Does the system enable configurations and filters for location-specific data so individual sites can maintain their specific processes?

Modular systems tend to be quite scalable because each part of the software—whether for corrective action, audits, or employee training—can be expanded as needed to encompass the needs of additional employees and locations.

3. Visibility into all data

So much data flood into the QMS that it can be difficult to ensure proper visibility into all this information. However, visibility is critical to fostering change within any organization, since you can’t change what you don’t see. An effective QMS can remedy this with a good reporting tool.

A QMS should simplify the reporting process by automating it for you. Using reporting tools, you can create report templates and quickly schedule impromptu memos with drill-down capabilities. These capabilities will increase visibility and ensure improvement initiatives aren’t overlooked.

4. A dedicated, cloud-based deployment option

QMS vendors will offer a variety of deployment methods to best fit your needs. Software as a Service (SaaS) is one of them. This is a useful option because the QMS as well as all relevant data are stored on the cloud, a web-based storage solution for processes and documents. For SMEs, SaaS can be a more cost-effective method of deploying a QMS because you won’t have the cost of purchasing and maintaining a server, or the traditional costs for storage, backups, and maintenance that come with onsite solutions.

Security and data integrity are often concerns with cloud-based deployment, so make sure the software will maintain your data is in a secure environment. A dedicated environment ensures that no one has access to your data but your personnel. Many systems are accessed through managed firewalls and use secure socket layers (SSL) and HTTPS protocols to mitigate security concerns. Redundancies and daily backups keep your data protected.

A cloud-based QMS also allows you to scale your system as needed because the bandwidth is unlimited.

Conclusion

The overall benefits of a QMS will simplify day-to-day processes for SMEs. Common processes such as document management, risk assessment, and employee training can be accomplished quickly and effectively. The system’s scalability will accommodate the additional sites as the business grows.

A well-designed QMS can enhance enterprise functionality for SMEs. Flexibility, scalability, visibility and an option for cloud-based deployment are elements that can ensure long-term value from QMS software, with a measurable return on investment.

The upcoming installments of this series will focus on five common QMS processes: corrective action, document control, employee training, audits, and risk management. We’ll consider the best practices of implementing each and the benefits that an automated QMS can provide for your growing business.

Brenda Percy is the product marketing analyst at Verse Solutions, a Quality Digest content partner.

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About The Author

Brenda Percy’s picture

Brenda Percy

Brenda Percy is the product marketing analyst at VERSE Solutions, based in Farmingdale, New York. She is responsible for communicating overall technology trends and compliance initiatives to the market, and has an extensive background in quality and compliance technologies.