With many big purchasing decisions, one of the biggest risks is not asking the right questions from the outset. After all, we often don’t know what we don’t know until after the fact, when problems are more likely to arise.
The same is true when choosing a cloud-based Quality Management System (QMS). You might feel good about your initial decision, only to experience buyer’s remorse once the glitches and process bottlenecks start to pile up.
To make the right choice in a cloud-based QMS, your selection process should include questions in areas such as flexibility, integration, vendor support and cloud privacy.
- Is the QMS Flexible Enough?
One of the biggest mistakes companies make when purchasing software is looking for a system to drive their processes, or choosing a QMS that isn’t flexible enough to adapt to existing ones.
The result is that you have to change your processes to fit the software. Not only is this inefficient, it offers little room to evolve in response to changing business needs. And when software becomes a roadblock to productivity, people stop using it.
To ensure your cloud-based QMS actually improves efficiency in your company, look for features such as:
- Fully configurable forms that allow you to sync form data with Microsoft Office attachments.
- Drag-and-drop custom workflows that make it easy to update or improve your processes.
- Intelligent routing to automatically remind users of assignments and due dates, so nothing slips through the cracks.
- Is the QMS Integrated?
Integration should be a top priority when choosing cloud-based QMS software. That’s because when you’re automating your quality processes, you need a way to close the loop from one step to the next.
For example, when you update a key policy, specification or work instruction, that’s not where your work ends. That one action may also mean updating employee training requirements, communicating with suppliers and/or adding new audit questions. No matter what it is you need to do, you don’t want to be jumping manually back and forth between different systems.
Key applications that should be linked together in the QMS are:
- Document Control.
- Employee Training.
- Audit Management.
- Corrective Action.
- Centralized Reporting.
- Risk Management.
- Complaint Handling and Nonconformance Management.
- Is the Cloud Private?
Many cloud software vendors push the multi-tenant cloud model, where multiple customers share one cloud environment. Imagine it like an apartment building, where several families in the building share the same resources such as laundry, maintenance and utilities.
This works out great for the vendor, but it’s not so great for you as the customer. Not only does a multi-tenant cloud give you less flexibility in terms of upgrades and configuration, it also means more downtime and risk in terms of information security.
Instead, your cloud-based QMS should be hosted in a private cloud to better control cybersecurity while minimizing costly downtime. Additional security measures to look for include TRUSTe, Safe Harbor and SOC Type II certifications.
- What Kind of Vendor Support Do You Need?
Looking at the vendor landscape for quality and Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Software, private equity firms have acquired a number of software companies in recent years. Many of these firms did so not because they are interested in serving customers, but because they see money in a growing market.
As a result, many companies are discovering that their software vendor is less than responsive when it comes to listening to their customer base or providing support. To make sure you get the support you need, look for a vendor who:
- Is well established with many satisfied customers.
- Offers regular training.
- Streamlines setup and implementation without hefty fees.
- Provides free email support and online resources so you can get questions answered quickly.
At the end of the day, choosing the right cloud-based QMS all comes down to your company’s objectives. Whether it’s more flexibility, visibility or control over your processes—or all of the above—make sure you ask the right questions from the start.