Quality, Health Safety, Environmental and so on compliance is a messy business. Its full of spreadsheets, binders, network file shares, and still more spreadsheets all topped off with endless follow ups. I want to share my story to conquer this mess and maze of confusion, and what I consider to be some key requirements if you decide to do like I did and develop your own Cloud based QMS.
I started my career as a first time systems administrator for a small yet growing company. When I started the IT systems were a wreck, but with effort and a minimal budget I was able to build upon the existing systems, clean up and fire up the first domain and start things off right. Within a year I had all the systems in place and there was not a lot left to keep me occupied. So I did what all adventurous young 20 something’s do and I started to learn about everything I could get my hands on about the business. This caught the attention of management.
The owner was preparing to sell the company, and one of the key requirements was a Health and Safety system. I was voluntold to I would run the Health and Safety system. Being the young adventurous young 20 something I was I decided I would run not only an HSE system, but a QHSE system, not knowing what all was involved in this, but ready for the challenge. To be honest for the first year I only focused on the HS portion of the QHSE program.
About a year later I was given the directive in my annual review to prepare for ISO 9002. Knowing nothing of ISO, nor the history of ISO 9001 vs 9002 from a decade earlier I agreed to take on the task. Started building an ISO 9001:2008 system from the ground up with zero dollars in the budget. It wasn’t long before I was tasked with preparing for ISO 9001:2008 and OHSAS 18001:2007 dual certification, and within less than 12 months, we achieved it in just 10. So here I sat with little to nothing for a formal quality program, only a start on a formal health and safety program, and a growing company with more and more IT needs. I started working more and more, going in earlier and staying later, working nights on my laptop from home, and weekends trying to cram a few more hours into the day. My home life started to suffer, I was keeping up at work, but falling down as a husband and father. Something had to give. I knew I had to find a better way when I found myself sleeping in my office for an hour or two at a time just to keep going on Saturday morning, hoping to get home in time for my son’s birthday party.
So I set out to find a better way. I’d been dabbling with SharePoint for a while, but had not really utilized the tool to its full potential. We had no budget, but had the free version of SharePoint. So I diverted attention away from my regular job duties and set to developing, and develop I did. I took my skills as an IT manager with a degree in MIS, a Quality Manager, and a Health-Safety manager and formed my own think tank team of one to design and develop a Web Based QMS. The goals were simple. One, reduce wasted time clicking and searching (goal of 2 clicks or less). Two, centralize all pertinent QMS and OHS data into a single dashboard. Three, see goal one, and keep working at it till you get it right. And this is where my love and fascination with SharePoint really took root. I was able to in a matter of two weeks’ time design and develop from the ground up a fully functional Quality Management System. Now don’t get me wrong, there were tweaks to be made over the next couple of years, but I had developed rev 1 of what would later become the TQA cloud.
So what was different, what was new, why did an electronic QMS change the game for me? I was able to ditch at least 10 different spreadsheets that no one could keep up to date. I took scattered folders in the shared network drive and consolidated them into a single location. In fact, we took over 2,000 documents in the end and moved to the cloud service. In the end we were able to locate a single document out of the 2,000 plus with only 4 clicks. I used to spend upwards of 6 hours a week just following up with folks to get our Corrective Action Reports closed out, by the end of the process this was about a 30 minute process I’d go through each Monday morning since I could now send emails directly from the QMS.
Other benefits of the Cloud based QMS are that the “Gatekeeper” is no longer required for document control, and you can encourage collaboration. Once permissions are set as to who can upload, contribute, edit, delete, etc… it really opens the doors for interaction with the system and with each other sharing thoughts and ideas, and building them inside the system, not on their own kingdom inside their desktop.
Perhaps you’re reading this wondering how much such a system costs, or you’re just wanting to design your own system. So I’m going to outline what I consider the 5 key requirements for a good Cloud based QMS.
- Simple dashboard. Limit how many places folks can click on the home page, don’t clutter it with everything someone might want click. If you need to create a separate dashboard for each department.
- Keep track of document revisions. The last thing you want is to keep track of TQA-GEN1001 REV A and B and C separately and have to ensure that the old versions are read only. You’re just asking for trouble if that’s the case. The versions must stack one atop the other. We heavily leverage the power of SharePoint, and it does an amazing job of revision control, allowing you not only to see previous versions, but allows you to restore previous versions.
- Simple easy to read forms. The OTB forms with any Cloud based content management system are just plain terrible, even our chosen Cloud base content management tool SharePoint. Invest some time and money into good easy to use forms that are laid out well and aesthetically pleasing. If your user hates the form, they will hate the system, and won’t adopt it. Not going to do anyone any good, no matter how great it is if people can’t stand to look at it.
- Make the system do the work for you. Again, spend some time and money here, make sure the system does the heavy lifting for you, automatic email reminders when items are overdue, make it copy you while you’re at it so you get up to date. While you’re at it, make the system name the files in your file libraries for you, no need to make your users remember complex naming structures based on meta data. And that leads me to the next point.
- USE META DATA FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Any worthwhile content management system will let you create multiple columns of data. For instance, for specifications or inspection forms, chose an arbitrary name for the file, such as TQA-SPEC1012 (auto named by the system). Then the additional columns could be MFG, Model, PartNo, Form Description, etc…. Make sure each of these columns is a drop down menu that is populated from a separate list, that way updating field codes is and easy process. This will allow your library or list to function quite similar to an Excel Spreadsheet with a detailed table with filtering enabled. Suddenly 1000+ docs can be filtered to the single one you’re looking for in a couple of clicks.
If I were to add number 6 and on, it would all be based on knowing your standard, be is ISO 9001, OHSAS 18001, ISO 14001, AS 9100, API Q1/Q2, etc… Map your entire QMS out on paper first. I don’t mean just scribble a few things down about goals. See I’ve learned the hard way that you need to pull out the old chart paper and map EACH AND EVERY columns and field you want to use beforehand. Draw your forms on paper before hitting the HTML and CSS to design it.
With the abundance of worthwhile content management systems out there such as SharePoint, Google Docs, ZoHo, heck even an Access Database with some good old fashioned forms, the options are limitless.
So that’s my story and my suggestions for you. I started as what you could consider a Jr Sys Admin and today I’m and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and IRCA Lead QMS Auditor. But you don’t need such titles in order to develop some tools that are useful to you. Just a little tech know how and some intimate knowledge of your standard, and your business, and its processes, and its people.
The goal is saving time and energy for what matters most, be it getting home in time for your son’s birthday party, or making time for that passion project at the office.
If you would like to know more, please free to call text or email. Visit us online at www.TexasQualityAssurance.com
Kyle Chambers CEO and Founder / Texas Quality Assurance
Tel: (281)-906-5415 | firstname.lastname@example.org
IRCA QMS Lead Auditor, MCSE SharePoint 2013, Productivity, MCSA Server 2012 & 2008
Your Business, Your Process, Your People