Building a Bulletproof Quality Management System in the Cloud

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Sound business strategy, outstanding leadership, and groundbreaking products or services are still 3 cornerstones of success. In order to compete, however, modern businesses have found it is crucial to use technology effectively. Jim Collins, industry leading author of “Good to Great,” says:

“The question is not ‘What is the role of technology in building great companies?’ Rather, the real question is ‘How do those who build great organizations think differently about technology?”

This guide will help your business start thinking differently about technology. A bulletproof quality management system (QMS) is one of the most impactful tools smart businesses use to gain a competitive advantage. As you build your own organization, your QMS will quickly become one of your most valued assets.

Section 1: Understanding and Selecting Your Cloud-Based QMS Software

Section 2: Implementation and Bulletproofing

Section 3: Reaching Your Full Potential with a Bulletproof QMS

 

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Section 1: Understanding and Selecting Your Cloud-Based QMS Software

Chapter 1: What is cloud computing?

In simple terms, cloud storage refers to the practice of keeping your files on Internet-connected servers for remote access. Generally, but not always, this is a service provided by a third party.

Benefits of cloud computing:

Though there’s some debate about whether the benefits outweigh the risks involved with cloud storage, businesses and individuals continue to adopt the technology because:

  • It’s convenient.
  • It’s flexible.
  • It’s efficient.
  • It has a low setup cost.
  • It doesn’t require a long-term commitment.
  • The technology is constantly improving.

Potential risks and downsides:

Cloud computing has some very vocal critics, like those mentioned in this article from PC Magazine. Business owners and other professionals should weigh these risks before deciding on using cloud computing to support their business:

  • There could be outages.
  • Your Internet access limits you.
  • Subscription fees are ongoing.
  • New technologies often face problems.
  • Possibly the most controversial point: your data may face security risks and intellectual property concerns.

Of course, you may choose to go with a local storage option, such as direct-attached storage (files kept directly on the computer hard drive) or network attached storage (NAS) that may be accessed through the Internet. However, businesses that are looking for maneuverability, connectivity, and responsiveness should seriously consider cloud computing.

Chapter 2: What is a “bulletproof ” QMS and why do you need one?

Your QMS is your window into everyday business operations. By building a fast, reliable, and secure system – a bulletproof QMS – key decision makers in your organization will be able to tell exactly how well your company is meeting customer demand and expectations, and you’ll be able to respond to those needs in real time.

Imagine what your business could accomplish if you had the power of a massive corporation with the agility and responsiveness of an entrepreneurial startup. That’s possible with the right application of QMS and cloud technologies.

Why should you set up a bulletproof cloud QMS?

  • Transparency: You know exactly how well your business is doing, and any hidden problems are evident with that clear view. This streamlines and simplifies most routine business functions, making it simple for leadership to respond quickly. Ultimately, it gives you an edge over competitors who can’t maneuver as fast.
  • Cost savings: Not only will you notice less waste as your company uses its resources more efficiently, but you’ll also find that training and management are quicker, simpler, and more effective. As leaders are better equipped, and feedback from all levels has a chance to be heard, morale improves, and turnover rapidly decreases.
  • Profits: More work gets done with less effort. Customers notice that you’re listening and responding, so repeat business pads your bottom line. As your company grows, your QMS keeps you on the right track and accelerates that progress, setting you up for continued expansion and success.

Chapter 3: What to look for when shopping for quality management software

Quality management software will be a key component in your growth strategy, so fully research your options before deciding. These eight questions will narrow down possible brands and providers:

  1. Is this software a good fit for my current needs, but also flexible enough to continue to serve my growing business in the future?
  2. Can I rely on this software to function reliably, quickly, and correctly?
  3. Is this software secure enough to use with the kind of information I want to track? What, if any, risks are involved?
  4. Is the cost appropriate now, and will it continue to be cost-effective as business needs change?
  5. Is the system simple, intuitive, and accessible, even for employees who are not particularly experienced with technology?
  6. Can I make minor changes without needing to call a third party for technical support?
  7. In case I do need additional help, is there a competent, dedicated support team who can solve issues quickly?
  8. What training programs and resources are included with my software to help me and my team learn to use this system effectively?

Once you’re settled on a software provider, you’re ready to start bulletproofing.

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Section 2: Implementation and Bulletproofing

Chapter 4: How to reduce security risks

Internet-accessible data is crucial for most companies. However, any time your information can be found on the web, there’s a small risk involved. Assuming that you are, like most businesses, using a third party cloud provider, taking the following three steps will drastically reduce the chances of a security breach.

First: Do your homework. Research potential providers in depth. Discuss what security measures you expect, and make sure that everything is stated clearly in the contract. You’re looking for a company that continually monitors security and performance.

Second: Bulletproof the data. Take responsibility for your own intellectual property. Encrypt any sensitive data and have all of your most critical files backed up in case of outages, blackouts, or other unforeseen data losses.

Third: Have an exit strategy. You probably won’t need it, but in case your service provider somehow fails to meet your needs, have a backup plan in place. On the day you sign the contract, you should already know what to do if something doesn’t work out.

Note: If you own your servers, the procedure is very similar, except you’re completely responsible for your own security and equipment integrity. Make sure your backup server is not in the same physical location as your primary server and keep a good IT team on hand during business hours.

Chapter 5: How to introduce QMS technology to your team

Introducing a new policy or procedure to employees can be intimidating, but your strong leadership and smart preparations will ease tensions. Plus, having a great QMS in place makes any similar big decisions in the future much easier to handle.

Of course, your management team is likely already equipped to lead the company through small challenges like this, but these few tips might help:

  • Be understanding. If there’s discomfort or resistance, find out why employees are pushing back. Remember that your new QMS is there to help you see what’s going on in your organization, so start now by genuinely listening to concerns and considering feedback from all levels. It will strengthen your leadership position and help everyone through any initial confusion.
  • Be positive. Whenever you discuss your new system, focus on the immediate benefits to whomever you’re addressing. Doing so will help your team members feel safe and will lead towards positive change by building excitement.
  • Offer training. Real training, with a human offering guidance, can never be replaced by a worksheet. Some people may be comfortable transitioning based on emailed instructions, but most will need, and appreciate a real training program.

Patience is key. Be prepared for a few challenges and get excited! You’re on your way to a much easier future.

Note: In addition to helping employees embrace your new technology, you might find that your Internet demands increase with the adoption of cloud computing. Make sure to discuss the increased bandwidth requirements with your Internet service provider ahead of time to avoid slow downs during the initial introductory period.

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Section 3: Reaching Your Full Potential with a Bulletproof QMS

Chapter 6: What you can (and should) achieve with your new QMS

Implementing a bulletproof QMS isn’t going to revolutionize your company, but it will differentiate mediocrity from superiority if used to its fullest potential.

You and your team will need time to acclimate and grow accustomed to gathering and interpreting quality data. Once you’ve reached a comfortable competency, you should aim to accomplish at least these three goals:

Create tangible gains in productivity: Your QMS will show you where time and resources are not being used efficiently. Use this information to shore up weaknesses, revise outdated processes, and produce higher quality results faster than your competitors. Even small businesses using a QMS compete better when productivity is a priority.

Reduce costs and increase profit: Because your system enables you to observe the health of the company as a whole, whereas most businesses only track a few specific quality measurements, you’re better equipped to make smart decisions that cut costs without losing quality. In case studies, it has been proven that this approach leads to massive increases in revenue, like the $370 million increase in profits for AtlantiCare after they set up their QMS – more than double the revenue before implementation.

Open your organization to useful feedback: Your front line employees have a reliable communication method in the QMS and their voices are a powerful tool to recapture that entrepreneurial growth characteristic. Your customers, too, are more loyal if you’re listening and responding to their needs – especially if you can do it faster and better than your competitors. Some companies pay thousands of dollars for this kind of information. You’ll have it built into your infrastructure.

Chapter 7: How to avoid most common mistakes

In the words of BizFilings, “quality management can deliver big rewards with little expense,” but only when used appropriately. Try to avoid these five common pitfalls:

  1. Tracking limited information. The strength of this system is that wide view of everyday operations in real time. Be sure to consider all data that’s available for you to track, or else you’re wasting time and money.
  2. Not getting leadership on board. Middle management might feel threatened. They’re being asked to learn something new, and some may feel that their ‘underlings’ are being given a way to bypass authority through the QMS feedback channels. Leaders at all levels should understand how the QMS is going to make their job easier, creating excitement and optimism.
  3. Ignoring feedback from your front line. Lots of managers say they value the opinions of those who are actually interacting with customers, but few actually act on it. Now that you have a way to hear exactly what’s happening on the front lines, don’t waste that vital information.
  4. Not offering enough training. Your system has explosive potential, but it will only operate as well as humans make it. Even if it takes a little bit more upfront time and expense, comprehensive training is essential to enjoy all the benefits of a QMS.
  5. Slacking in document control and data management. Keep your standards high and apply the same rigorous procedures to every item stored in your cloud. If you don’t, laziness will eventually win out, causing a serious problem later when there’s too much data for manual sorting.

 

Where Do You Go From Here?

Deciding to embrace unfamiliar technologies can be intimidating, but the potential is exciting. Salespersons will try to convince you that one computer program is going to revolutionize your business and rake in profits with almost no effort, but you know that’s never the case.

Adopting a new process or technology is a big commitment. Take your time and research your options, carefully weighing not only the monetary costs but also the time, effort, and resources you’ll invest to get results. If it’s worth it – and with a truly bulletproof QMS, it is – go for it wholeheartedly.

The return on that investment will be more than worth it.