Evaluating software of any kind is tricky. You have to consider the technical infrastructure, user interface, features and functions, implementation, and support. Selecting CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement) software comes with its own set of challenges.
It may be something that you’ve never evaluated or even used before. It is a unique category of technology and there are lots of “impostor” products in the market.
So if you are wondering where to begin, you are not alone.
We recommend framing your evaluation by asking these 10 questions of every vendor that you consider.
Was the solution designed to manage improvement?
This is an important question because often vendors with project management or generic collaboration software will try to position it as a CQI software solution. These solutions generally lack key features, like impact measurement, that are unique to continuous improvement.
It also creates a set of competing priorities for the vendor as they work to please clients who are using the product for different purposes. It is far smarter to pick CQI technology that was designed for that specific purpose.
Is the solution available from anywhere on any device?
We recommend taking the “continuous” part of CQI literally. Great ideas for improvement can happen anywhere and you want your team to be able to capture and act upon them immediately. This means looking for a cloud-based solution that will work on mobile devices so that people can submit ideas with their phones or email without interrupting the flow of their work.
Does the solution include alerts and notifications?
One of the biggest advantages of effective CQI software is that it helps keep employees actively engaged in improvement work. The best way to do this is to choose a solution that has a
How robust are the search capabilities of the solution?
A “little” thing like search is easy to overlook, but it is really essential for turning your improvement software database into a source of knowledge for your organization. Users should be able to easily find past improvements so that they can learn from previous challenges and repeat what works best. The best improvement software platforms make it easy to tell if you're submitting an improvement that's similar to something else in the system by automatically searching the database as you type and notifying you if you might be entering a duplicate idea. In this way, you can prevent people from reinventing the wheel and increase collaboration as they discover they're working on the same problems.
Can the interface be configured to meet the needs of each user?
Executives, managers, team leaders, and individual workers all have different needs, and will all approach improvement work differently. Therefore, it is important to pick a CQI software solution that allows for the configuration of dashboards, reports, and displays for each person or role.
Does the system measure the impact of improvement?
The key to sustained quality improvement efforts is
Can improvement success be broadcast?
Another way to ensure that everyone is all-in on improvement is to broadcast successes far and wide. The best CQI tools have improvement broadcasting built-in so this type of recognition becomes a standard part of the improvement process.
Can I report on the health of CQI in the organization?
In addition to being able to quantify the impact of improvement, your CQI solution should make it easy to understand the level of engagement throughout the organization. Leaders should be able to see the number of improvement projects in play, the rate at which opportunities are captured, the people and teams that are most active in terms of improvement, and progress toward key goals or milestones.
Can you describe the successes of customers like me?
CQI software is used by all sorts of organizations from manufacturing to higher education. It is a good idea to find out if each vendor that you consider has customers that are similar to yours in terms of industry, size, and complexity. You may want to ask for references from those customers or at least gain some insight into how they were able to benefit from the solutions.
How do you handle implementation and support?
A good implementation plan is critical for long-term success and high user adoption. Talk to the vendor about how they will get you up and running. Will you have a dedicated account manager to take you through the process? Do they have a proven onboarding methodology? How will ongoing support be provided? Is there a knowledge base for self-service help? All of these are important considerations.
If you find a CQI software provider that has excellent answers to all of these questions, you’ll be able to proceed with confidence and accelerate your path to success.