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Quality Systems and Continuous Improvement

Choosing the best approach for introducing  a more formal Continuous Improvement plan in IT Service Management quickly generates dozens of views and suggestions.  Most opinions usually  have some merit, but don't always offer the best practical solution for all businesses and situations.

I'm not about to preach the virtues of one system over another.  However, it is useful to have an understanding of different quality systems, relevant tools and practical methods for diving into effective Continuous Improvement.

In my latest presentation labeled Quality Systems and Continuous Improvement, I provide a brief overview of the following quality system philosophies and standards.

As I already mentioned, all have some merit and should be reviewed in more detail (See our  quality resources links for a start).  However, for many IT service management industries, the following three stand out today for offering a combined  and effective meansof  "shaking the dust"  in a langouring business.

  1. ISO 9001:2008
  2. Lean IT
  3. Six Sigma

Using the ISO 9000 standards (preferably certified externally), provide two quality hinch pins to then apply some ground rumbling and break through tools and methodology from Lean - Six Sigma continuous improvement toolbox.

Firstly, committing to build a Quality Management System based on the ISO 9000 standards (and ISO 9001 where design and development is involved) ensures a serious and consistent level of organisational disciplines and practices for managing service quality along with company policies, processes, SOPs (work instructions), records, training documents,  and "know-how". I say ensures but only if executives and line managers are committed and accountable. Also, appropriate quality management roles must be defined and secured, along with a rigorous schedule for internal audits and process reviews.

Secondly, submitting your ISO 9001 based quality management system to external scrutiny and certification delivers both self confidence and customer trust and respect.  Customer trust and loyalty is only maintained it quality service (and products) are both visible and enduring. Customers of IT services are generally providing services themselves and are also committed to quality systems.  The readily identify providers who "fluff" their delivery credentials with hollow quality slogans.

Lean and Six Sigma provides both the philosophy and practical tools that can be tailoredand scoped to jump start and then maintain an ongoing continuous improvement programme that targets both value in your customer deliverables as well as a vastly improved working culture in your teams and staff.

Two of the gems in the Lean toolbox are value process mapping (or value stream mapping) and elimination of non-value waste in the delivery process.  You'll need to read the presentation for an overview of the Value Stream Mapping methods, but I will list the 8 areas of waste from the presentation (for both manufacturing and service management).

Whilst Lean is focused on eliminating wastes and adding value and quality to the service or product, Six Sigma is management philosophy and problem solving methodology focused on reducing operational variance.


In Six Sigma, problem resolution and continuous improvement are based on the D-M-A-I-C approach.


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