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Monday, July 30, 2012

What is Quality?

Quality is meeting customer expectations, simple as that.

Sourcing managers are frequently polled on their satisfaction with their services relationships. And usually more than half, sometimes closer to three quarters, say they are dissatisfied. Their expectations are not being met. Trillions of $ are spent every year on services that do not deliver the quality required.

That level of failure is dramatic and suggests an industry in crisis one would assume. What are these failures? What’s being done about them? Is it in service delivery, performance, continuous improvement objectives, tools or process, threat or issue management, knowledge management or the relationship itself? Incompetent service providers are at fault surely, perhaps it is unreasonable customers, or maybe outsourcing just does not deliver on expectations.

Some sourcing managers are satisfied however, a minority it seems, but for some there are competent providers, customers are reasonable and outsourcing delivers on its promise. Something is making a difference.

The darkest secret of outsourcing is that in the majority neither customers nor service providers make the necessary investment to ensure that quality expectations are met. They invest massively in production systems, ticketing systems, people (advisors and consultants at least, not so much in talent development and training), ERP add-ons, in sourcing projects and the commercial engagement.

However, neither party spends anything like the right amount of time and effort on the core capabilities required to ensure that attention is being paid all day every day to the small stuff – measuring things, understanding what matters, identifying issues, spotting potential problems and assigning actions, ensuring accountability is set and responsibility taken, change is planned for (and recognized when it happens), that the correlation, or more simply, the connection between things is thought about and acted on. The core capability is governance.

It is this small stuff that makes the difference in the end. Doing this small stuff well all the time is how the Service Provider shows they care, they pay attention, and they want to do better. If the culture of the customer is ‘this stuff matters and we pay attention to it’, that will be reflected in the attitude of their people and how they expect service providers to behave. This is hard work not through complexity, or the intellect required, but because it is repetitive, time and effort, tedious maybe, stuff that is not usually considered high value, or strategic. It only becomes that when things go wrong. It is not difficult work for the most part, and the preparation and care required to get it right at the beginning is relatively easily done. The hero who resolves the big problem of the day is lauded. The person who makes sure the problem never happens gets scant recognition. The result of not doing this well is poor quality, always. People can define this but it cannot be done reliably without a technology enabler. Because this is what technology is good at, consistently doing things the same way all the time. What’s this called? Good governance.

Using an enabling technology to support the Governance of your services engagements and experience quality, is the best investment you will make? The world smartest outsourcing relationships rely on technology to ensure quality.

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