Co-authored by Shrikant Chaphekar, Senior Consultant at Axis Technical Group.
Traditionally a Quality Assurance team in a business technology consultancy is responsible for ensuring projects follow internal processes based on the organization’s quality standards. In past years, QA process function was seldom responsible for implementing new practices based on changes in customer expectations.
In the past two years, IT budget cuts across the globe combined with business agility has compelled customers to opt for technically and economically viable solutions. This in turn encouraged them to purchase or rent inexpensive, faster solutions. In order to cope up with this change, consultants must reorganize their internal functions, particularly within the delivery and process function.
Seemingly, there is need for QA teams to assess team capabilities, upgrade competencies and play an advisory role to the ‘delivery’ function for process improvement. They first require the right mix of practices selected from various frameworks to radically change its contribution towards business excellence. It’s important that Software Quality Assurance Standards are also in place, which show commitment towards the practice and how it is centered around excellence.
In this article we’d like to share the P-CUBE Model – adopted for one of our major customers due to changes in attributes related to quality assurance. In the end, we will outline the proper steps to upgrading from Process Compliance to Business Excellence as well as ways of applying the model.
As the nature of contracts have changed substantially, development methodology has also changed, from Waterfall to RAD/DSDM/CMMi and even sometimes fusing more than one process framework together, i.e. CMMi and Agile, Lean and Six-Sigma, etc.
Shift of the Business Technology Ecosystem
From 2000 to 2010, Managed Services contracts were predominantly emphasized on SFIA, ITIL, ISO20K, COBIT and related frameworks, while Large Fixed Price contracts were signed under Transition and Transformation by customers who signed with IT vendors for:
- – Study and Analyze Current IT Estate
- – Take Over Resources in Custody and Total Cost of Ownership
- – Manage Operating Expenses, Other Vendors and Systems Availability
From 2011 to 2015, very few customers completed transformations successfully by signing contracts in order to:
- – Standardize System Stack
- – Reduce Total Cost of Ownership, Capital Expenditures (CAPEX) and Operating Expenses (OPEX)
- – Improve Efficiency and ROI
- – Make Solution Scalable
Through the transformation program, organizations and customers achieved:
- – Standardized System Stacks and Processes
- – Reduced Number of Systems in IT Estate and Total Cost of Ownership
- – Improved Operational Efficiency, Scalability and Reusability
- – Improved Customer Experience
- – Improved Contract Margins and Financial Reporting
- – Increased Cash Flow Control Systems
Nowadays, in addition to delivering projects or managing services, customers expect their chosen business technology vendor to be a strategic partner and act as catalyst for business excellence. The nature of this relationship shows how much we’ve matured.
Three Levels of Excellence
In order to cope up with changes in roles and responsibilities, a typical QA resource has to uplift his/her skills from process compliance to business excellence in order to remain competitive with companies who make it part of their normal business process. When a consultancy has a Software Quality Assurance Standards in place, it shows commitment towards the practice and how it is centered around excellence.
The “excellence” we’re looking for can be achieved on three levels: Defined (Process Compliance); Quantitatively Managed, and Optimized (Business Excellence)
Level 1: Defined (Process Compliance)
Level 1 is when the majority of QA work involves checking whether a project complies with processes and standards. This Defined Stage requires knowledge of:
- – Process Compliance – Audits and Assessments
- – Process and Models Trainings
- – Learnings and Knowledge Sharing
- – Projects Improvement Tactics
Competencies required for a resource at Level 1 include knowledge of:
- – Quality Standards and Engineering Models
- – Domain Management
- – Metrics Analysis
- – Model Improvement
- – Estimation
Level 2: Quantitatively Managed
Level 2 occurs when a QA resource is involved in managing projects by quantitative techniques. The second stage requires that he/she is able to:
- – Manage Key Performance Indicators
- – Curb Customer Escalations
- – Employ Robust EWS
- – Build Competency into Business Models
- – Understand iso14K, H&S, Contract, Security, Customer Audits
- – Automate Tactical Reports and Dashboards
Competencies required for a resource at Level 2 include knowledge of:
- – Tools, Techniques, Methodology for Development, Testing, Managed Services and Business Processes
- – Customer Contracting and Delivery
- – Engineering-to-Business Processes
- – Internal and External Customer Satisfaction
- – Results Oriented Delivery and Execution Excellence
Level 3: Optimized (Business Excellence)
Level 3 is when a business technology consultant has to upgrade their skills so that an employee can help customer strive for business excellence. This level requires knowledge of:
- – Manage Business Metrics – Deliver to Customer Organization Scorecard Goals
- – Business Improvement Processes
- – New Method Adoption Techniques
- – Competencies Evaluation Tactics
- – Technology Innovation
Competencies required for a resource at Level 3 include knowledge of:
- – Innovation and Business Excellence Frameworks – TQM, EFQM, Malcolm Baldridge
- – Strategic Business Tactics and Transformation
- – Financial Management Concepts
- – Enterprise Risk Management
What’s Next? Baby Steps
Everyone likes baby steps because they make us feel so good about ourselves, right? Maybe not, but they are necessary sometimes. Here are the recommended easy steps a business technology consultant can take to upgrade its QA function from Process Compliance to Business Excellence:
- – Enhance & Customize P-CUBE Model to Suit Business Needs
- – Map Current Resources to This Model
- – Record Competency Gaps and Training Needs
- – Define Road Map for Improving Competency (>2 years)
- – Define Evaluation Methodology
- – Declare Results of Evaluation
- – Review and Refine the Model
- – Demonstrate Contribution to Business Process Improvements
How To Apply the P-CUBE Model?
CHOOSE. The QA Manager should select a major account for which his/her team is helping lead to business excellence (innovation, transformation, modernization).
ASSESS. If the Manager has a team of five supporting this account – after assessing competencies of the team – he/she may find some of the team members are at Level 1, a few at Level 2 and no one at Level 3 (please refer to competencies at various levels listed above).
UPGRADE. The supervisor now steps in and should upgrade competencies of the team through training and certifications so that he/she has one resource at Level 1, two at Level 2 and three at Level 3. This will help the customer (internally as well as externally) to be process compliant and start managing KPI for the project. Eventually it will help the customer excel in transforming the business.
REFLECT. The supervisor and manager together should conduct a retrospective at the end of project delivery in terms of how effective the P-CUBE Model was. Acquire feedback, investigate internally and be objective.
UPDATE. Update list of competencies, if needs be, and apply it to another project immediately. Our experience says that the model also can be used to set-up a career path for the team.
The New Norm
Expectations of customers for their business technology consultant counterparts have grown exponentially – from checking process compliance to being a strategic partner – and making large strides through business process transformation and modernization is becoming the new norm.
In order to meet these expectations, QA process functions should gear up, upgrade its team competencies as specified in the P-CUBE model, and equip itself to respond to the changing demand.
Contact us directly if you have questions related to this article or want to discuss your specific business pain points.
Co-authored by Shrikant Chaphekar, Senior Consultant at Axis Technical Group.
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