At the heart of everything that quality managers do daily is a simple focus—continuous improvement. Searching for inefficiencies in processes, reducing waste, tracking quality standards, and keeping employees training and regulatory compliant all aim to improve their organization through practice improvements. Countless quality systems have been developed that set forth frameworks and principles for quality management practices. As digital transformation has taken root in all areas of business, quality management practitioners are also adopting a suite of software tools to bolster their own processes and change the way organizations operate.
What is Quality Management System Software (QMS)?
An effective quality management system (QMS Software) aims to help coordinate and align an organization’s activities to uphold the customer and regulatory requirements while focusing on improving effectiveness and efficiency on a continuous basis.
In a technical sense, Gartner defines quality management software as “the business management system that houses internal quality policies and standard operating procedures (SOPs). This may include, but is not limited to, customer requirements, quality documents, ISO requirements, manufacturing capabilities, robust design, auditing procedures, nonconformance/risk management activities, testing criteria, and any industry-specific regulations.”
Quality management software systems support the goal of quality managers in facilitating improvement in formalized processes around quality policies and ensure all standards and regulations are met as defined by any stakeholder (customer, organization, regulatory body, etc.). QMS software provides a link between multiple groups, often with disparate needs, that are directly affected by an organization’s production. Ultimately, QMS programs serve the greater purpose of your quality management system and minimize inefficiencies in existing processes.
QMS software run on platforms, like Quickbase, that are built to facilitate continuous improvement. Workflow management and data dashboarding are critical processes that fall within the scope of QMS software. Integrated quality software programs vary significantly between all-inclusive systems and point solutions. The emergence of low-code platforms has also allowed professionals to easily build out applications that address their own unique quality issues and encompass their defined range of processes.
Principles of Quality Management
There are 7 principles defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) related to quality management in the ISO 9001. The principles are customer focus, leadership, engagement of people, process approach, continuous improvement, data-driven decision making, and relationship management. Each principle directly relates to a fundamental belief of quality management and has explicit benefits to quality practices.
- Customer focus means to not merely meet but strive to exceed customers’ expectations. Customer focus leads to sustained organizational success by increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty which results in improved organizational reputation, expanded customer base, and strengthened revenue.
- Leadership in this context means cultivating a unified purpose and a condition for people to succeed within your organization. Leadership leads to increased coordination, communication, and efficiency within an organization. A focus on leadership drives the development of a group’s ability to achieve defined results.
- Engagement of people is a focus on empowering and engaging people at all levels of your organization. Increased creativity, efficiency, initiative, trust, collaboration, and personal development all come from a focus on engagement of people.
- Process approach is deliberate understanding of the interrelated processes in a system and the results they are intended to achieve. The process approach is especially crucial to a quality management system. Continuous improvement cannot happen without the defining of objectives and establishment of processes as described by process approach.
- Improvement is an ongoing commitment to maintain standard levels of performance and seek opportunities to enhance operations. Improvement is defined by investigation and determination that informs prevention and corrective action. Both incremental and overarching breakthrough improvements are present in high-performing organizations.
- Evidence-based decision making is the reliance on data evaluation and analysis to inform organizational decisions. While evidence-based decision making does not eliminate uncertainty, the dependence on evidence and data leads to greater objectivity and confidence in decisions and minimized unintended consequences.
- Relationship management is the maintenance of positive relationships with parties outside of an organization, such as suppliers. Outside parties affect the success of a business, so focusing on clear communication, commonality of goals, and shared values improves the outlook for all parties. Relationship management helps guarantee a reliable flow of quality goods and services into and out of your organization.
Regardless of the QMS that you determine is best for your organization, the 5 basic steps to implementing a QMS software are the same. The 5 steps are design, deploy, control, measure, review & improve.
- Design is the foundation for implementing a QMS program. In this step, you need to determine the methodology you will follow, identify stakeholders in your process, and outline the process including timing. A mapped-out strategy and templates should be the result of your design step.
- Deployment is the next step to take once process and goals are set and aligned. This is the step in which your QMS software becomes a key focus. In this step, you begin granting access to your QMS and train users on how the system functions.
- Control is the first step in testing your QMS implementation. Control involves a deliberate roll out of functions in your QMS. At this step, a group of users should be tasked with performing outlined tasks within the QMS framework and taking note of pain points or areas of improvement.
- Measurement is a critical quality control step in the QMS implementation process. Measurement involves the aggregation of data from the deployment and control steps followed by analysis of performance indicators and any noted trends. The measurement step may also uncover unexpected problems or additional data points to be tracked.
- Review & improve is the final step in the implementation process and arrives at the continuous improvement action. In this step, the takeaways from the measurement step are analyzed and discussed. Opportunities for improvement are made actionable and changes are made to your QMS program.
The implementation steps are all predicated on the establishment of a quality manual. The quality manual is an overarching document that describes an organization’s quality management system and is useful for internal and external use. The contents of a quality manual should provide a reader with a holistic and thorough understanding of an organization’s quality processes.
Benefits of QMS
Quality control management practices revolve around principles and practices, however, enabling and executing on these processes require significant effort. To address process improvement, a multitude of quality management software programs exist to help achieve quality management improvement goals. Technology enhances quality control management in two major ways: visibility and automation.
Analyzing data is at the heart of any process improvement. Most organizations have a tremendous amount of data related to their process housed in multiple systems. Developing a holistic view of all quality data in one place is a strength of quality management technology. Enhanced visibility and surfacing information from legacy systems make identifying processes ripe for improvement simpler and more efficient.
Process inefficiencies and waste are inevitable when organizations rely on manual processes. Platforms facilitating process automation are being adopted by quality managers in order to boost the quality processes. Low-code platforms, like Quickbase, are especially effective at allowing organizations to build out custom solutions to automate their quality processes. Automation reduces the requisite effort and opportunity for errors in quality processes. This leads to streamlined operations and overall organizational benefit.
What is QMS program?
A QMS program is a software solution adopted by an organization with the purpose of operating, integrating, and/or improving an organization’s quality management system. There are four main components of quality management systems: quality planning, quality improvement, quality control, and quality assurance. Optimal QMS programs serve as a connector between these crucial components and lead to more efficient operations and enhanced quality processes.
How much does a QMS program cost?
The cost of QMS programs ranges widely between a few hundred dollars a month to upwards of $80,000 a year. The pricing of these programs depends on several factors including number of organizational users, scope of quality operations, provider services required, and more.