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Quality Management

Applying Statistical Process Control to Health Monitoring

Statistical Process Control (SPC) is the widely recognised method for analysing and monitoring process capability. It is entrenched in the continuous improvement methodology of Six Sigma and other Quality Management philosophies, and provides a pratical, visual approach for evaluating both input and output CTQ (Critical to Quality) indicators.

Whilst Six Sigma employs a number of statistical methods (such as Control Charts and Pareto analysis) to improve production efficiencies and achieve process stability, SPC can employ any number of analytical and graphical techniques to achieve quality objectives.

Quality Systems and Continuous Improvement

Choosing the best approach for introducing  a more formal Continuous Improvement plan in IT Service Management quickly generates dozens of views and suggestions.  Most opinions usually  have some merit, but don't always offer the best practical solution for all businesses and situations.

I'm not about to preach the virtues of one system over another.  However, it is useful to have an understanding of different quality systems, relevant tools and practical methods for diving into effective Continuous Improvement.

Customer Service - Three Focus Areas

Customer Service is a topic with no end of available books and free online training, with various viewpoints and management approaches.  So why read one more article on the subject?  After all, we are all experts by now - fully focused on our customer needs and helping our company achieve yet another "Delivery Excellence" award.

The problem is two-fold:  A.  Information overload, and  B.  Too many areas to focus attention simultaneously.

Continual Improvement or Continuous Improvement?

Is your organisation involved in Continual Improvement or Continuous Improvement?   In the context of IT Service Management, many professionals interchange these quality management terms. However, there is a significant difference between the two terms when it comes to improving our management practices, and providing excellent customer service.

Continual Improvement is more about planning and implementing strategic programmes to change the company's products, services, people and processes for the better.  Whilst Continuous Improvement is related to the constant, daily work practices and staff activities that are relentlously devoted to removing wasted effort and ellimitating defective products, services and processes.

Customer, Client or Consumer

We all have a reasonable grasp of the meaning and use of the words "customer", "client" and "consumer", and we often interchange them in our conversations and documents.

However, from a Service Management perspective, there is a difference that IT service management professionals should be clear about. Why is this important?

Quality Management Ghostbusters

Do you want to get rid of the demons in your quality management system?    Who you gonna call? 

Scenario:  You've just seen the monthly customer feedback reports, and they are not pretty. Furthermore, two more clients have flagged their intentions to drop your services.

In times of need these days, most organisations would keep the phone number of their corporate Six Sigma Black Belt guru handy (magnetic tag on the staff room fridge maybe). But wait a minute, do you really need another analytical deep dive into your problem tickets, financial data or other performance metrics.

Maybe the real demons are with your quality management system.

You Can't Improve A Process You Don't Have

Process Improvement hinges on end to end analysis and value mapping of existing support  and delivery processes.  An improvement project would wisely commence with the most critical and the high impacting, "broken" or defective processes.  A  Pareto Analysis  could help with that.

Sadly, the challenges of improving your company's core processes are daunting if they are not defined.  ISO 9000 gives us the terminology and management guidance to define, document and clearly articulate exactly what our processes are.

To put it bluntly - If your core processes are not clearly documented, accurate, relevant, current, and available to all your support staff,  then you don't have any processes  to improve.

Problem Solving Model

I suspect many of you are familiar with several, if not many tools available for solving product defects and process problems (from Lean, Six Sigma and TQM).  Statisical Process Analysis, 5 Why's, Fisbone charts and RCA come readily to mind. The ISO 9000 component  on Preventative and Corrective Action offers another, complimentary tool for problem solving.

The value of having a wide range of tools and methods to tackle defects and solve problems becomes clearer when we realise that in the real, customer driven and competive markets of today, the nature of problems and defects are moving targets.  Don't fall for the common trap of setting your company's problem management processes in concrete.

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