Buying a new software system can be daunting. For business-critical systems, in particular, the outcome of your software selection process has serious implications. Not only does the new system constitute a major financial investment, – it can also consume a good deal of staff time and energy. Professional reputations may rise or fall based on the outcome of a software implementation, so it’s no surprise that most companies approach the buying process carefully, with a great deal of deliberation.
If your organization is considering making the investment in the quality management system (QMS), here are some questions you should consider as part of your vetting process:
#1: How well does this vendor really understand QMS?
A good QMS software vendor will understand the nuances of various quality standards. They’ll be staffed by people with deep experience in quality management. They will have referenceable customers in your industry, – or at the very least, in an adjacent industry with similar business processes, regulations, and functional requirements.
Avoid software vendors who lack that kind of deep expertise in quality management. It’s not uncommon, for example, for developers of manufacturing software to offer QMS extensions that are integrated with their existing manufacturing ERP products. Although there is certainly value in that kind of integration, – a vendor’s primary focus on manufacturing should prompt you to question just how much they know about quality management. Is QMS central to its core competencies? Or is it a side gig; something they decided to add to their product as an afterthought?
Dig deep and ask probing questions. Find out how well your software vendor truly understands quality. If they’re unable to “walk the talk” of QMS, then you probably want to look elsewhere.
#2: How quickly can it deliver value?
Unfortunately, big, monolithic software projects have the reputation of going over deadline and/or over budget. How long will it take to start using your new QMS system?
Look at the total time required to implement a new system, – that is, to meet the set of requirements your company set out to address when the project began. Does your perspective QMS system take months to implement? Or can it be rolled out in a matter of days or weeks?
There is a second question with respect to implementation time, – which focuses on the system’s initial time to value. How quickly can the system demonstrate proven value early on in the overall implementation process?
We frequently find that quality leaders prefer to implement their new QMS system in phases. First, it delivers real value to the organization right away, but automating and streamlining processes. Second, it gives them a head-start in collecting data for future analytics. Third, and perhaps most importantly, early successes build confidence throughout the organization the project is on track to succeed.
#3: Is it cloud-friendly, mobile-friendly, and user-friendly?
Is your prospective new QMS system a cloud-based product? Does it lend itself easily to the use of mobile devices? Is it easy to learn? Although we’re combining three different questions here, – but in fact, they’re closely related.
The adoption of cloud-based software is on the increase, – and for good reason. Cloud systems are professionally managed, monitored, and secured 24×7. They offer virtually unlimited scalability, and they are available anytime, just about anywhere you can connect to the Internet.
Mobile-enabled applications help you extend the reach of your QMS even further, by giving users tools to collect and record data using a tablet device or mobile phone. This eliminates paper-based systems and all of the problems that typically come with them, such as misplaced data collection forms, illegible handwriting, and data entry errors.
Mobile devices make it vastly easier to collect detailed information, for example including photographs to document nonconformances. When users can carry their QMS software around the shop floor, their jobs are simply easier.
This brings us to our last point, which is that QMS software should be easy to use. It should be possible to streamline data entry screens, provide helpful tips for the user, change the names of fields, and otherwise fit the software to the way you do business.
#4: How easily can I tailor it to fit my business?
That brings us to our next point, – that QMS software should be highly adaptable to the way your company chooses to do business. Too many software systems tend to be rigid and unforgiving, – they make assumptions about how your business works, or how it should work. Look for QMS software that is flexible and can be configured to fit your needs.
It’s important to dig a bit deeper into this question, though. Most software vendors will tell you that their products can be modified, but in many cases that will amount to custom programming. Custom programming is expensive, and it must be maintained over the long term.
Configurability is a fundamentally different approach. It puts you in the driver’s seat, allowing you to modify screens, design workflows, and make other changes to suit your business, – without specialized training or expertise.
#5: Will it help Us achieve a paperless audit?
Years ago, we heard a multitude of promises about the “paperless office” being just over the horizon. It took a while for that change to actually happen, but the benefits have been very real. By eliminating paper-based systems and moving to automated digital workflows, – a good QMS system can help you do away with the most tedious elements of quality management.
When you’re subject to an audit, a top-notch QMS system will ensure that your data and documents are available at your fingertips. Workflows ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Information is complete, thorough, and easily available.
#6: Will it help us with analytics?
As business analytics have become more and more powerful, smart leaders are leaning toward an increasingly data-driven approach to management. That means having a centralized repository for quality management information. It means being able to define the metrics that matter most to your organization, – then making sure that everyone on your team has visibility to those KPIs.
While this data-centric approach to management often comes toward the end of the implementation lifecycle, it can be one of the most meaningful, because it provides clear benchmarks and real-time feedback to show how the company is doing with respect to its most important quality objectives.
#7: Do their existing customers rave about it?
We saved this one for last, although in many respects it’s the most important question of all. As you consider working with a particular QMS software vendor, it’s critically important to find out what their customers are saying about them.
It’s common practice, of course, to ask for references and make a few phone calls before issuing the final purchase order. Earlier in the vetting process, most buyers will seek out information online, including user reviews. Those can be helpful, especially in the aggregate; but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story.
We recommend taking your research a step or two further. Talk to some existing customers. Find out what they really think. Are they raving fans of the software? Do they see their current QMS system as an incremental improvement on their old one, – or has it made their lives vastly better than before?
At Intellect, we are proud to say that our customers are delighted with our product (and with the people who implement and support it). We routinely hear how our QMS systems are eliminating tedious effort, increasing accuracy, speeding up their audits, and giving them greater visibility to the things that matter most. We hear that our people know their stuff and that they provide top-notch service. And we’re very proud of that.
If you’re shopping for QMS software, the team at Intellect would love to speak with you. Contact us to talk about your project, and to arrange a free, no-obligation demo.