Joshua Centner, Industry Solutions Group Manager, Pilgrim Quality Solutions
Selecting an enterprise-wide Quality Management System (QMS) provider that will allow you to meet all of your quality management goals might seem overwhelming. To help allay the intimidation factor, last week, I wrote a piece titled Don’t Be Shortsighted When Evaluating eQMS Solutions that examined what constitutes a successful QMS vendor evaluation process, one that establishes a lasting partnership between a client and a vendor. The discussion asserted that the determining factor is whether a company enters into the evaluation process with a long-term vision for organizational quality, versus simply conducting a point solution selection.
Now you may be ready to ask, So what happens next? When you are ready to shift your evaluation to the outside and choose your provider, where do you start? What are the common elements that you can expect to see among QMS vendors, and more importantly, what are their unique capabilities?
Prepare to Take the Plunge
Before you even begin drawing up your list of options, be sure your organization has taken a look in the mirror. You should already have begun the evaluation process by mapping your own business requirements so you then can map them against industry best practices as well as what a given provider offers. And keep in mind, just because a vendor performs one process very well, it doesn’t mean they can meet your broader organizational needs for the long term.
Seeking: Long-term Relationship
The next step is to dive into the world of provider options. When you are ready to “go shopping” for a QMS vendor, consider a high-level virtual audit of their capabilities to determine whether they can meet your needs. Ask the following:
- How long has the solution provider been in business?
This lets you know if they will be in it for the long-term partnership or if you may end up with a solution that will not be supported for the long term.
- Does the solution provider have deep domain expertise AND have a focus in your industry?
This shows that your organization’s specific industry regulations and best practices are in sync with their R&D, and whether the solution provider will continually innovate to maximize your investment.
- Do they deliver templates or “in-the-box” best practice workflows that have been completely pre-validated?
Leveraging built-in best practice workflows, forms, reports, and dashboards allow for quicker and more cost-effective implementation, delivering a lower total cost of ownership.
- Is the software built on a robust quality platform and a configurable no-code architecture that allows you to easily tailor the solution, if desired?
When a QMS is built upon a quality platform, it means that the solutions leverage a common set of master data, provide inherent integration so they can speak with each other, and are extensible as your quality system requirements and business grow.
- Does the solution provider offer end-to-end QMS capabilities, or are there other vendor solutions and partnerships involved?
Some companies partner for major portions of their solution set – including Document Management which is core to a Quality and Compliance content management solution. This could create many problems in the future and could require additional validation efforts. How well integrated are those solutions sets? Are the release and upgrade cycles synchronized? Is the total system validated as a whole? What happens if the partnership dissolves?
Seeking: Skilled and Experienced Partner
Once you narrow down your field of potential QMS providers, carefully evaluate your short list with these critical, next-level considerations in mind:
- Evaluate each vendor’s managed services capabilities — the time and tenure they have in “the Cloud,” even if you are interested in deploying and self-managing the solutions on-premise initially. Is the vendor’s solution on-premise the exact same solution offered in the Cloud, or a subset or stripped-down solution targeted for smaller companies and users? What experience and customer references do they have in successfully having conducted a “lift-and-shift” of their solution from on-premise deployments to the Cloud?
- Assess their experience in directly implementing and managing their Cloud solutions and customers so you know that even if you initially implement on-premise, going forward, should you choose to “lift and shift” to the Cloud, they can and will seamlessly support you in the Cloud with the same solutions and data structures. The move should have no business impact other than the benefit of reducing the IT burden on your organization going forward.
- Avoid any vendor that attempts a “bait and switch” among different solutions for on-premise versus their Cloud solution options.
- Avoid providers that require you to secure a separate partner for hosting and managing solutions in the Cloud. These multi-party arrangements can lead to finger pointing and impact on Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
- Evaluate a prospective solution provider’s ability to provide the managed services people and the technology to take on the operation of a given function or area if, or when, you decide to outsource it. This will allow your own people to focus on the business areas that truly differentiate you and give you a market advantage. This also will allow you to leverage your solution provider’s domain expertise and technology as an operational partner.
- Ensure your vendor offers the deep domain expertise and direct consulting expertise to provide process improvement consulting.
- Recognize that implementing a new solution to simply automate existing business processes is not necessarily going to offer you all the advantages of a QMS partner. Seek a provider whose solution already contains in-the-box best practices that don’t require modification, and support process improvement procedures and SOP development if and where needed.
- The vendor itself should be able to provide key remediation consulting, too, should you ever need it to support your true end-to-end needs up front or over your enterprise’s life with the partner and partner solutions you select.
Make the Partnership Work for You
Bill Gates, reflecting on the giant that is Microsoft, once said, “Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning.” The words are simple and straightforward, but that’s a weighty testimonial coming from one the most successful companies in history.
If you think about what strong partnerships did for Microsoft, imagine what a solid QMS total solution provider can do for you.
Building the Business Case for EQMS
In this white paper, LNS Research examines the need to clearly communicate the value of both quality management and more.