BUSINESS CASE: ACTIONABLE BENCHMARKING FOR SERVICE DELIVERY QUALITY
ISO 9001:2008 conformance is well established within our Minacs Finance and Accounting (F&A) outsourcing practice and we are now in the fourth triennial certification cycle. At this stage we felt the need to bring in a “next practice” method
to drive higher degrees of excellence from the organizational efforts in audit, certification and compliance and lay the foundation for true breakthrough improvements, when Six Sigma and Lean are implemented.
Our F&A Centre of Excellence (COE) began building an objective, measurable, audit-driven, transparent rating mechanism. We called it the Q-Score, an innovative tool for benchmarking the maturity of an ISO 9001-based QMS (quality management system). We believe it is probably the only extensive rating and reporting mechanism developed internally in a certified organization. This is significant considering the fact that the ISO 9001:2008 standard is among the most popular of the 1000+ global standards released by the International Organization for Standardization.
Q-SCORE: HOW IT WORKS
Q-Score audits are driven by 76 detail-level attributes, falling under 10 quality management parameters:
- Each attribute is also designed to be a part of one of the following sequential sections: Compliance (part and full); Effectiveness (part and full) and Continual Improvement (part and full).
||Q-Score: Overview of the Minacs Quality Management Innovation
- Weights are assigned to each parameter, based on operational strategy and current program pain points.
- The audit rating is done in a simple Y/N/NA format against each attribute. They are then converted into section scores in a sequential manner, because a program needs to be “compliant”, if it has to be rated as “effective”.
- These attribute scores are linked to an automated mechanism, which calculates the final Q-Score. This score is a simple percentage of the number of attributes complied with under a parameter to the total number of attributes that comprise that parameter. Similarly, a section score is the number of sections (part & full) complied with, from the applicable number of sections. The final Q-Score rating is a weighted average of sections ratings.
- Q-Score helps to add a new dimension to the traditional ISO audit. A Q-Score auditor focuses on exception reporting and looks for opportunities to suggest best practices while auditing the compliance section. However, as he moves up to the Continual Improvement section, the focus shifts to capturing best practices observed, and reporting and sharing them.
The Q-Score was designed with the following considerations:
- Create a quality management model that works independent of core client processes
- Cater to varying team sizes which differ from 1 to 60+ FTEs
- Ensure that the model can be applied to finance and accounting outsourcing, data processing, system implementation, as well as other enabling functions
- Focus on organizational pain points
- Ensure that scoring high doesn’t become the focus (e.g., working on Level 3 (Continual Improvement) improvements though Level 1 (Compliance) requirements have not been met).
Our COE team brought out elaborate guidelines to assist in understanding and disseminating the Q-Score requirements to the auditees. Every Q-Score audit is followed by an Internal Quality Report (IQR), which analyses and benchmarks findings from programs, verticals and at the company level.
A traditional ISO audit report to the management is a descriptive document with a list of non-conformities observed. A Q-score audit pack is a comprehensive rating report, giving each program’s gap analysis, ratings against each attribute and final Q-Scores. The audit pack in turn forms the basis of IQR’s contents.
DRIVING IMPROVED QUALITY SYSTEMS
Over the last two years, we have seen a significant positive shift in the way quality audits are perceived by delivery teams, the client requirements that are being met and the benefits accrued to business. Our programs are showing improvements (as compared to before the Q-Score framework implementation) and any drop in standards is immediately noted.
To conclude, we can report the following key benefits from the Q-Score:
- Programs are deriving visible benefits from Q-Score and are becoming advocates of this tool.
- The tool is helping to build a strong quality analyst (QA) function within operations. Today, this function is the second level support for the audit team.
- A big mindset has accompanied Q-Score. It is now considered a foundational tool, which shares training and best practices.
- Its data-based approach and benchmarking capabilities make it an excellent management aid, especially as a goal setting tool to define KPI/KRA.
||QMS Improvements Post-Introduction of the Q-Score (Baseline=March ’10 Audit)
As a quality management innovation, the Q-Score model received significant praise from our external ISO auditor during our last certification audit. Q-Score has established a strong quality foundation and we are now focusing on innovation and breakthrough improvements. Our focus has now shifted to value-adds and best practices that are being shared with our client programs.
Have you tried out your own unique quality innovation to move from basic quality platforms and stabilized service delivery to achieving continued improvement, breakthrough results and transformation in a service process? What are your thoughts on horizontal quality (stabilization) being critical for initiating breakthrough (vertical) improvements through concepts like Lean and Six Sigma? Share your views in the comments.