When a person has been in industry for a while, they tend to see the same patterns repeat themselves. How businesses deploy Enterprise Quality Management Software (EQMS) is one example; companies tend to experience a common pathway, and take a similar approach. Often, it takes a lot of time and effort to get the budget for an EQMS deployment, and the budget award is greeted with excitement! All too often this initial euphoria is replaced by disillusionment or disappointment over the course of the project.
As the late, great Yogi Berra said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
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Look over the included chart. For several years LNS has reported the challenges that the market encounters achieving quality objectives. When analyzed over time (not shown) these numbers have changed very little. The lack of progress on quality challenges and poor EQMS deployments are connected. Poor EQMS deployments don’t solve enough of quality’s challenges.
Although it’s tempting to blame this on the technology, most often the technology isn’t the root cause. To quote Yogi again… “I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat, and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?”
So, what goes wrong? Here’s a short (partial) list:
1. Just Like Our Paper Processes
This is the most common with first time EQMS users. Companies that are looking to migrate fresh-off paper into an enterprise system often force the system to do unnatural or suboptimal things to duplicate the existing paper process. The result: complicated processes that take far too long to deploy and result in poor adoption. When you hear “this system isn’t any better than our paper system! ” it’s because it isn’t. Generally, if new technology doesn’t improve both people and processes, consider it a failed deployment.
2. A Nice Quality System
Quality wants that culture of quality, but who’s in the room when it comes to EQMS selection and deployment? Maybe Quality and IT are around. Where’s engineering, manufacturing planning, and operations, service, etc.? Where’s the ERP and PLM team? Conspicuously absent. Deploying an EQMS is one of the best opportunities possible to foster a culture of quality, but quality needs to open the door and invite the rest of the organization in.
When quality teams finally get funding, it is very tempting to build a never-ending wish list. “This system should be able to do everything I ever wanted, and immediately upon release!” This is a dangerous approach, because it results in a highly customized, complicated, and often ugly solution, like a grab-bag of the team's ideas jammed into one monstrous tool. Of course, highly customized or even highly configured deployments take longer to deploy – possibly years longer – but that’s only the start of it. What about software updates? Make sure to consider the lifetime of the software when deploying, as this can be 10 years or more.
4. Aiming Too Low
It’s easy to focus on the issue at hand and build a solution just for that one issue. For instance, deploying just a document management system and then a separate corrective action system and audit system, then repeating that across multiple business units or sites. Quality has a real problem with disparate systems and generating metrics. Don’t propagate the problem with the new system. If and where possible, consolidate. Then make EQMS a vehicle to nurture executives and other functions by reporting on this consolidated data and serving up quality metrics in clear, real-time dashboards to allow them to include quality in decisions. Is Quality a siloed department? Not when they are transparent, real-time, and easy to manage.
5. Wrong Technology
There are definitely cases where the selected technology was not right for the company. Technology isn’t inherently wrong, but like any tool, it must be aligned to the company’s requirements. A global, complex manufacturer may fall in love with a solution that scales globally and efficiently handles its complex organizational structure. Conversely, a regional company may find that same solution has a lot of unneeded complexity and requires too much overhead to maintain. While this comes down to the solution selection process, it also requires the right team skills. Quality teams are great at quality, but may not have the IT understanding necessary to select software, where IT professionals have the opposite problem. Success in this area often requires personnel that are knowledgeable on both sides, and understand current EQMS capabilities. These people are hard to come by.
Getting EQMS Right
EQMS is a critical ingredient for competitive quality programs, and adoption continues to accelerate. You must adjust your plans to succeed.