If you are like most people, you don’t buy technology to support Kaizen every day, even though you know that you should be implementing something more strategic and robust than spreadsheets and paper boards. Most people who come to us have never faced the challenge of evaluating solutions and choosing a vendor themselves, so don’t feel alone if you are in that boat. It's not as hard as it seems at first blush!
The good news is that there are some easy ways to sort out which solutions you should seriously consider.
Here’s a primer on what to look for.
Product features aren’t the only consideration, but they are a good place to start. Here are the key feature questions to ask.
- Does the solution make it easy for anyone to submit an opportunity for improvement?
Capturing ideas for positive change is the first step in Kaizen, so you want a solution that makes this easy. It should be accessible to everyone at any time and ideally available on any device.
- Does the system support active improvement management?
Passive systems like spreadsheets and other static lists rarely lead to completed improvements. Instead, look for a solution that has built in alerts and notifications to ensure that people are aware when tasks are due and keeps managers informed about the progress of Kaizen work.
- Can the impact of improvements be tracked?
Understanding the results of each improvement is essential to Kaizen. You want to select technology that helps you calculate the impact of each improvement and improvement work across the organization.
- Is the interface configurable for each person?
Executives may need a 30,000 foot view into the health of improvement work across the organization, while individual employees may want to dive right into the details of a particular project. The best solutions provide the flexibility to give everyone the specific information they need.
- Is it easy to search past improvement data?
We notice that people often overlook this when they are evaluating Kaizen software, but it really important that people can easily search the database for past improvements. The solution becomes a repository for knowledge, making it possible to learn from past successes and mistakes.
- Does it include reports on engagement with Kaizen?
One of the main advantages of implementing the right Kaizen software system is that it gives you a window into how engaged employees are and how your improvement work is trending over time. You can identify specific individuals or teams that are engaged in improvement and provide coaching to those who are not.
- Does it include improvement broadcasting?
One way to drive that engagement is to recognize and reward people who are contributing to positive change. Built-in improvement broadcasting makes this easy to do right from the system you are using to manage Kaizen.
As we mentioned, features are important, but there are some other vendor selection considerations as well. We recommend paying attention to the following:
- Was the solution designed as an improvement management or Kaizen system, or was it built for something else?
Improvement management is gaining traction in a much broader set of organizations than ever before. This has caused some vendors to market product management software that was not designed with Kaizen in mind as improvement technology. We recommend approaching these kinds of tools with caution. You’ll have much better luck with one that was designed for this specific purpose.
- Does the vendor have similar customers to me and have they achieved results?
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. It pays to ask questions about what other clients have achieved using the proposed solution. Lots of Kaizen projects get started, but never go anywhere. You want to partner with a vendor whose clients have been successful.
- Can the vendor be a resource for Kaizen knowledge?
Kaizen software is important, but it is only a piece of the puzzle. Creating a culture of Kaizen is the best way to achieve sustained improvement over the long haul. Look for a partner that can be a resource for your team with educational materials like eBooks, webinars, events, and videos.
If you have decided to invest in Kaizen software, congratulations! It is an effective way to bring more improvement projects to the finish line, track the health of Kaizen in the organization, and measure the impact of positive change. If you take these feature requirements and other points into consideration, you are sure to get a solution that will empower your team and bring your organization closer to its most important goals.