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Better Than Oil

Editor’s Note:   This article is co-authored by Dawn Ringrose MBA, FCMC and Keith Philips (bio at bottom of article).  Dawn is the Principal of Organizational Excellence Specialists and Author of the Organizational Excellence Framework and related toolkit. Her qualifications include: Masters of Business Administration, Certified Organizational Excellence Specialist, Certified Excellence Professional, Registered ISO 9000 Specialist, Assessor of Quality Systems. She has worked in the area of organizational excellence since 1990 and is currently the representative for Canada on the Organizational Excellence Technical Committee (QMD, ASQ) and Global Benchmarking Network. In 2017, she is Chairing the Canadian ISO Committee that will be preparing guidelines for implementing an excellence model and related ISO standards. Dawn is an author featured at Flevy (view her documents here).

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Oil rig in the Caspian Sea by Mark Ireland.

Oil rig in the Caspian Sea by Mark Ireland.

Futurists and industry observers all agree that data is the underlying currency of the Information age. Peter Sondergard, senior vice president, Gartner group adds to this chorus. “Information is the oil of the 21st century and analytics is the combustion engine.”

If data is oil then the assessment industry is sitting right on top of one of the largest data oilfields in the information age.   The Assessment industry is made up of thousands of people whose primary function is the gathering of data on quality, compliance, risk and excellence across millions of business. If we could mine that data, refine it, convert it to knowledge and understanding we could be releasing untold riches and fundamentally change industry forever.

It can be further argued that data is better than oil. This is because it can multiply and grow. Adding one data set to another data set can exponentially increase knowledge. Adding one barrel of oil to another would only get you two barrels of oil.

To put this in the context of the quality sector let’s take a simple example. Let’s say that several independent Quality organisations are assessing quality in an industry. They will all know what individual quality standards are against a best practice framework. But as soon as you add those different databases together you get new knowledge on quality issues effecting the whole industry. And then if you have a similar exercise in another industry you can start to understand how the different industries compare and what quality issues prevail throughout the country. Comparing knowledge of one country to another or one ISO criteria to another adds further knowledge dimensions. Throw in a time dimension and you can monitor and evaluate change to ensure continuous improvement. 

Early Stage Digital

The Assessment industry is at the very early stages of digital as the industry struggles to evolve from a culture of spreadsheets and paper. As an example, ISO sells PDF’s or paper based products.  You download manuals and templates. In a digital world ISO would be selling apps that would be connected to a database and would be selling products like benchmarking and dashboards.

The assessment industry today looks like the accountancy industry of last century. In the 1970’s accountancy was carried out using pencil and paper or mainframe computers customised for the use of large corporations. In the 1980’s spreadsheet technology like VisiCalc, Lotus123 and Excel started to emerge as technologies for financial measurement. It was only in the 1990’s that universal platforms for accountancy like MYOB, Sage, White Plains, Intuit, gathered momentum. These were widely distributed software packages that automated the process of accounting, leading to knowledge and productivity gains.

Accountancy is now entering the age of SaaS and connectivity, enabled by the internet and cloud computing. Cloud accounting systems like Xero will change the world forever. Clients and accountants can become interconnected, processes can be commoditised, applications and information shared and costs of repetitive functions driven to zero.

As was first initiated by larger accounting organisations, some of the larger assessment corporations have built computer driven assessment systems. But these are largely for internal use and for control of the assessment function. Their focus has been on automating their own assessment process and integrating it with their own management and control systems. These systems in themselves are for internal use and are not connected to the databases.

To date, proprietary software developed for individual organisations is being obsoleted by systems developed for the industry in general by specialist software developers. This has been for three fundamental reasons – economics, specialisation and accelerated learning. Software developed for the industry is financed in its development by multiple companies, and hence has a larger research and development funding base, and there is a focus on continuous improvement of the software. Emerging will be new  available software for professional and self-assessment as we have seen in accountancy.

Digital Adoption Will Deliver Further Benefits

Digital adoption will not only deliver superior knowledge but will at the same time reduce cost, increase the quality of services and speed up delivery. A full summary of the benefits of a digital system are listed below:

Reduced Costs

  • Automation of manual processes such as data gathering and reporting, make it faster and easier for assessors to deliver services.
  • Elimination of double entry reduces error and duplication of effort.
  • Client self-assessment and on-line tools enable better preparation for an audit and lower costs of the audit overall.

Improved Assessment Quality

  • Easier to use tools with functionality and information are available at the assessors fingertips.
  • Collaboration improves between teams of assessors and clients in different localities.
  • Assessors are profiled to identify assessor bias and training needs.
  • On demand training allows learning while doing.

Speedier Responses

  • Better prepared clients save time by directly inputting data and evidence.
  • Inputs from all parties (clients, assessors, stakeholders) can be conducted concurrently on the same document.
  • Report generation is accelerated as assessment input can be automatically turned into reports.
  • On-line action planning can speed up agreement of activities, allocate responsibilities and send out timely reminders.
  • Deeper insights are gained from captured data.
  • Continuous improvement is achieved through measuring and monitoring.

Improved Knowledge

  • Assessments are automatically captured to a database and provide deeper insights of communities and clusters.
  • Multiple organisations are able to operate independently but collaboration enables benchmarking and strategic analysis of data.

Monitoring and Evaluation for Continuous Improvement

  • Enables everyone responsible for change to know what is going well and what needs to improve.

Explore the Future Now

You have the opportunity to explore this digital world for free by participating in the ‘First Global Assessment on the Current State of Organizational Excellence’ launched by the Organizational Excellence Technical Committee, Quality Management Division, ASQ (OETC) and being voluntarily conducted by Organizational Excellence Specialists (OES) in collaboration with other major research partners including the Global Benchmarking Network (GBN) and ISO Technical Committee 176 (ISO/TC 176).

If you participate, you will experience a cloud measurement system that is available globally, connects you to digital resources and enables global benchmarking and monitoring for continuous improvement.

The assessment tool is based on the Organizational Excellence Framework (OEF) that integrates leading excellence models and provides implementation guidelines for the practitioner. Authored by the representative for Canada on the OETC and GBN, the publication is intended to provide additional support for excellence models and encourage organizations to use validated best management practices to improve their performance and productivity. For those interested, and as a thank you for participating, the publication may be downloaded at no charge on the home page at   http://organizationalexcellencespecialists.ca/

To participate in the global assessment, you have two choices. Complete the:

  1. Teaser Assessment – takes 5 minutes, assesses culture of excellence and delivers a free feedback report to your inbox http://www.qlbs.com/QimonoVBA/assessment/OrgExFrameworkTeaser
  1. Full Assessment – takes 15 to 30 minutes depending on organization size, assesses culture of excellence and deployment of best management practices  http://www.qlbs.com/QimonoVBA/Assessment/OrgExFramework

Individual responses for both assessments will be strictly confidential. Only the aggregate data will be reported on the open OETC LinkedIn site https://www.linkedin.com/groups/4369749 so that respondents can benchmark their performance with others.

This research is intended to provide benefits for all stakeholders. For example:

  • Unite the quality community on a common project where all organizations can participate, regardless of quality approach, and apples can be compared to apples
  • Contribute to the OETC mandate ‘to support and promote the use of international excellence models and to help all organizations attain higher levels of performance’
  • Contribute to the GBN mandate – ‘to promote and facilitate the use of benchmarking and sharing of best practices’
  • Contribute to the ISO Central Secretariat and ISO/TC 176 mandates – ‘to share knowledge and develop standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges’ and ‘to ensure the integrity of the generic quality system standards and the effective implementation of the sector policy on quality management system deliverables’
  • Create awareness with leaders and managers about the principles and best management practices that are common to high performing organizations
  • Examine the extent to which best management practices are deployed by organization size, industry sector and country
  • Enable organizations to build on strengths and address opportunities for improvement

A Final Word

Knowledge industries are using knowledge technologies to reduce cost, speed up delivery and most importantly offer clients deeper insights with the data they can harvest. There is no doubt that professionals engaged in the assessment and continuous improvement of quality need to use knowledge technologies if they are to maintain relevance and competitiveness.

The time is now. The assessment industry is following a similar trajectory to the accountancy industry with information technology making a contribution to the work we do–enhancing quality, improving turnaround time and providing cost savings.

About the Authors

Keith Philips is President and CEO of QLBS (Quantum Leap Beyond Spreadsheets). His qualifications include Business Science (Hons), INSEAD Leadership Program and Past Lecturer at Auckland University Business School and his corporate experience includes Brand Manager Unilever, International Marketing Manager Gillette, CEO Apple United Kingdom and Director Business Apple United States. Keith has also been involved as an angel investor and venture capitalist with several IT start ups and has overseen Organizational Excellence Framework, Baldrige, EFQM and ISO deployments in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

About Dawn Ringrose

Dawn Ringrose is Principal of Organizational Excellence Specialists and Author of the Organizational Excellence Framework. She has a Master of Business Administration and is a Fellow Certified Management Consultant. Her credentials include: Certified Organizational Excellence Specialist (OES, 2011), Certified Excellence Professional (NQI, 2004), Registered ISO 9000 Specialist (ICMCC, 1996), Assessor of Quality Systems (IQA IRCA, 1996). The Organizational Excellence Framework is a unique publication that ‘integrates’ the principles and best management practices from global excellence models and provides ‘implementation guidelines’ for the practitioner. You can contact Dawn at [email protected].




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