6 Lessons for Global EQMS Selection and Implementation

Posted by Rob Harrison on Thu, Apr 09, 2015 @ 01:41 PM

globa-quality-management-software-2On March 24, 2015 LNS Research hosted a session of the Global Executive Council where attendees learned about best practices in the selection and implementation of Enterprise Quality Management Software (EQMS) from a global consumer goods organization with over 90 sites in 38 countries and 40,000+ employees. With multiple brands, more than five of which with revenues over $1B each, this was a true representation of a global EQMS deployment.

In this post we will focus on six key points that underpinned the selection of the "best fit" solution and delivered exceptional results upon deployment:

  • Selection & Implementation Team Composition
  • Stakeholder Involvement & Voice of the Customer
  • Objective Evaluation of Vendors & Software
  • Implementation Phases & Pull vs. Push
  • Continuous Improvement of the Solution
  • Communication of Success & Value

Many organizations experience the types of issues described during this session. The "as was" situation included massive system fragmentation with plants using a mix of homegrown paper-based processes, multiple electronic documents, and spreadsheets in an uncoordinated, inconsistent manner. In addition to being incredibly inefficient and lacking in transparency and traceability, there were huge hidden IT costs. The dislocated approach compromised compliance and made reporting almost impossible for facilities and, wherever possible, output remained unreliable and error prone when reporting was rolled up. Huge amounts of time were being hemorrhaged on the manual and labor intensive activities associated with quality management.

Selection & Implementation Team Composition

Embarking on the journey to implement EQMS for a large organization can mean a significant financial investment, some disruption, and the allocation of resources to what could be a long-term, potentially multi-year or ongoing project. However, executives are required to lead their organizations into the future and position themselves to define markets with a focus on the strategic and financial benefits of quality excellence. One core requirement for success with EQMS is a team that is capable, passionate, versatile, and resilient.

This team must be engaged early and consistently throughout the selection, initial implementation, and beyond. The composition of the team should include regional and business unit representatives, and should be cross-discipline and cross-functional with the appropriate subject matter expertise. This must be complimented by technical expertise to ensure non-functional requirements are satisfied and longevity pervades the platform selection criteria. An EQMS will have multiple integration points, many of which we learned can provide huge wins for the deployment when done correctly. The team should include individuals with understanding of current or planned ERP, PLM, and CRM platforms.

An integrated solution, one that includes Environmental, Health & Safety and Sustainability (EHSS) in scope for common elements such as audit management & execution, incidents/NCRs, document control, etc., will increase the team composition further. This scenario reflects the one shared at the GEC session and resulted in a team of more than 40 personnel in the final selection phase. Many of the original team members post selection have responsibility for organizational readiness in initial phases and subsequently evolve into system champions for their specific region, plant or discipline.

Stakeholder Involvement & Voice of the Customer

The early involvement of and consultation of stakeholders from R&D through engineering, manufacturing, finance to sales, field support, and service and, where possible, customers, provides the foundation for clear requirements gathering and a picture of the priority spectrum. Avoiding the temptation to gather requirements too quickly from a limited group and perform a quick pass for validation is important to achieving buy-in when rolling out, but also provides a clear picture of specific current pain points. This involvement will provide better insight when designing scripts for vendors to demonstrate their capabilities in the context of your organization’s EQMS demands. Collaboration from the very early stages lays the foundation for the team. Bonds built and issues aired combine to eradicate the feeling of having a solution forced into use.

Objective Evaluation of Vendors & Software

The best practices required for objective, diligent, and efficient evaluation should be outlined early and adequate time and resource allocated. The original request for proposal and its design has multiple functions. Keys to this document are providing formats for responses to requirements, license structure, implementation, project management, and support that ensure cross-vendor comparisons can be made.

Evaluations of all demonstrations should be captured in a common format and collated. The vendor should be constrained to illustrate strengths in the context of the buyer's identified needs. It is still important to allocate appropriate time for the vendor to differentiate and illustrate specific strengths. Referencing is key and a previous post speaks to the RFP more here. Over and above functional requirements, an over-arching selection gate included three key principles:

  • Speed/Performance of application globally
  • Intuitive UI
  • Flexibility & Stability (add/configure/build modules, configuration over customization, and reliability)

GEC members were educated on the specific final phase of evaluation, whereby 3 from 13 vendors were invited to a final stage, four-day event, attended by all core selection team members (40+). A full day was dedicated to individual vendors with the final closed-day allocated for collation of evaluation scores and selection. In this case, the selection was unanimous.

Implementation Phases & Pull vs. Push

Implementation planning was conducted in parallel with performance testing in the selecting organization’s environment. Upon validation of performance and availability the decision was made to roll-out in a phased approach with two core modules. These were document control and CAPA processes. Training was delivered in a train-the-trainer approach and key personnel on the original team were equipped with the necessary skills to cascade through the organization.

The approach taken across the global, multi-site organization was for individual plants to determine their own timeline for implementation. This pull model meant that readiness could be established and facilities could minimize disruption. This worked so well initially and beyond phase one that the core team struggled at times keeping up with demand. Nearly 30 different modules have now been deployed across as many processes. Some are entirely across the enterprise and some are specific to individual business unit or geographic need.

Continuous Improvement of the Solution

One significant point of learning for this session was the fact that the deployment is and will continue to be (just like the QMS, EMS or SMS) subject to continuous improvement. Configuration changes, reporting, and analytical approaches as well as many other facets will change with underlying processes as will the core solution. Identifying positive changes in the application can often be affected by the organization and, where required, changes submitted to the vendor for inclusion in new releases. The journey is one that will continue for the life of the solution just as the quality management processes it serves and automates.

Communication of Success and Value

The value of articulating the positive outcome of implementing EQMS is often overlooked. Not all stakeholders are exposed to the improvements the solution brings. Over and above a user’s common interactions with the QMS, it is crucial to share wins in terms of business benefits. One excellent example was the benefit seen in the management of product complaints. By interfacing with the CRM solution, the EQMS allowed the management and tracking of complaints seamlessly. Visibility for sales and others in the field increased dramatically and customers were informed of progress with confidence and in a timely fashion. A single source of truth that has rigor and transparency built into a closed-loop resulted in increased satisfaction and brand loyalty manifested in higher repeat sales.

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Tags: Quality Software