According to a survey by IDG Enterprise, a full 7 in 10 companies now use at least one application in the cloud. Cloud-based platforms are now common in nearly all fields of business, a growing trend that includes Quality Management System (QMS) platforms.
If your team is considering using a cloud-based QMS, this checklist of must-haves will help you ensure you get a solution that fits your business.
- Document Control
One of the most important functions of a cloud-based QMS is Document Control. Documenting your policies, work instructions and specifications is the first step in the plan-do-check-act cycle.
Document Management tools are essential for:
- Creating automated workflows for review and approval of different document types.
- Improving traceability of controlled documents for regulatory compliance.
- Linking document updates with employee training records and requirements.
Another must-have for any cloud-based QMS is Employee Training tracking software. Look for tools that allow you to:
- Develop comprehensive training plans for individuals and groups.
- Get email notifications for overdue training assignments.
- Conduct and report on post-training assessments.
- Automatically trigger new training requirements when processes are updated.
- Audit Management
Audits are an essential part of the “check” step in the plan-do-check-act cycle. Any cloud-based QMS should have Audit Management tools that enable continuous improvement through:
- Streamlined audit scheduling and assignments that helps you stick to your annual audit plan.
- Customized audit profiles and workflows for different types of audits.
- Inherent links to processes such as corrective action, to ensure comprehensive follow-up on audit findings.
- Corrective Action
Corrective action is critical to almost every quality process, so calling it a must-have isn’t an overstatement. Cloud-based QMS tools need to make it easy to track events from start to finish, whether it’s a nonconforming material, customer complaint or safety incident.
Essential capabilities to look for in Corrective Action software include:
- Seamless routing for different event types through initial review, root cause analysis, action taken and final verification.
- Records that automatically inherit data from the source event.
- Risk-based filtering for better prioritization of issues, as well as risk assessment to ensure the action taken worked.
- Escalation rules to notify supervisors when action items are overdue.
- Reporting Tools
Centralized Reporting tools are what pull all of your processes together, giving you the high-level visibility into what’s driving quality performance. One of the biggest weaknesses of paper-based or spreadsheet-based quality management methods is the fact that it often takes weeks or months to crunch data. By the time you’ve collected everything you need from various team members and analyzed the data, it’s no longer even meaningful anymore.
Cloud-based QMS reporting, on the other hand, gives you instant access to your quality metrics. Look for a solution that allows you to:
- Create report templates for automatic distribution.
- Set up compliance alerts based on specific conditions you set.
- Drop key graphs or metrics into your portal dashboard to get live updates on your most important numbers daily.
- Leverage Risk Management tools for more effective decision-making.
Beyond all the tools you’ll need for success with your cloud-based QMS, the flexibility of the platform itself is also an important consideration. One of the main reasons is because you’ll get much more out of the QMS if you can mold it to your unique business needs and processes.
After all, chances are you spent years refining your internal processes. Using a QMS that forces you to adapt those processes to the technology is a recipe for problems. And while some companies will look for a software solution to dictate their quality process, most experts agree this approach is a huge mistake.
In terms of flexibility, we’ve already discussed how you want to be able to create your own customized workflows for different processes. Most importantly, you should be able to align the QMS to your evolving processes without the need for programming.
The final must-have element for any cloud-based QMS is integration. In terms of individual functions, each one is related to the other in important ways, so it doesn’t make sense to use different point solutions to manage related processes.
Most executives believe their company has too many apps, so using an integrated solution helps streamline the process and reduce overhead through greater economies of scale. With a faster, more agile solution, companies can spend less time chasing down data, and more time actually using the insights generated by the data to improve quality.