Carl E. Nelson Best Practices Award was established to recognize excellence in the Enterprise Content Management field.
Geometrica's QMS on wiki project is unique and extremely productive. It is a good candidate to earn this prestigious award. As requested in the application guidelines, our nomination consists of the answers to the following questions.
- What makes this project remarkable? (no more than 200 words)
Development of any quality management system (QMS) requires intense collaboration. Wikis are a new tool for effective collaboration in document creation and editing. Geometrica used this tool to implement its QMS and discovered that the result went well beyond quality; the system effectively recorded and disseminated the team's tacit knowledge.
Geometrica found that using a wiki to implement a QMS enables the experts in an organization - the users - to read, edit and maintain documents right at points of use. As needed updates are spotted, they are done. Users quickly become comfortable with the system and, soon, they edit their documentation willingly and spontaneously. As if by magic, every day the company's procedures improve. Compared with single-user tools, like office software or a rod, using a wiki to capture knowledge is like fishing with a net.
BSI certified Geometrica to ISO 9001 compliance. As nice as the certification is, the true gain is having a living, effective and continuously improving Quality and Knowledge Management System.
- What was the process prior to the implementation? (no more than 200 words)
Geometrica started the ISO 9001 implementation with traditional means: a shared network drive, paper and a designated "document controller" appointment. But this darkly inefficient setup would dash even low expectations. Geometrica's technology in structural engineering and construction is leading edge, and we already used a wiki for project management. It did not make sense to step back in time for our QMS. The quality committee thought it a good idea to try a wiki. After one day and the first few documents the way was lit.
- What were the objectives/goals for this project? (no more than 200 words)
The original goal was to document a minimal Quality Management System that met ISO 9001 requirements. As we realized the efficiency of using a wiki, the goal became to document all our processes, including those not directly related to quality: marketing, finance, human resources, etc. As more progress was made, the goal and the system morphed into a full knowledge management system. We met every one of the evolving goals.
- Describe what was implemented to meet the objectives/goals. Include a general description of the content, document, and/or process management technology used to solve a critical business requirement. (no more than 700 words)
From the original objective, to document a QMS that complied with ISO 9001 directives, there were steps clearly stated from the beginning:
- Define processes. Every organization must define the processes it takes from the beginning of its product or service, to the very end when it is ready to be purchased or received by the customer. Thus, the first task was to get a quality committee together to understand what processes served as a bridge from Sales to Installation. Once these processes were defined, a diagram was created to show the relationships among each of the processes and functions (such as quality or maintenance, that don’t “do” anything, but rather support the processes). The diagram, key to the implementation and showed in the wiki for the organization to discuss, prompted the clarification of what goes on in each process, taking the organization to the next step.
- Define procedures as part of the processes. Every process that takes place requires a procedure. At the very beginning, a diagram was conceived as a way to show the steps required for each procedure. However, this required uploading Powerpoint presentations. By redefining it as a simple wiki table, it became easy to update. And also, every step that needed a format or called for another procedure could have a hyperlink, so the reader could easily jump to that section, instead of flipping papers in a binder.
- Create forms. Forms were created to document the steps taken in the procedures. Since forms are regularly typed in Excel or Word and printed, they become a paper burden for every department. Completing and keeping them in a wiki universe makes more sense, since it goes right into the server. It saves on thousands of sheets of paper being printed, on filing boxes, cabinets and storage space. In a world were space is limited and more expensive every day (think Japan or NYC), this means a lot.
- Teach the organization on the uses and the reasoning behind the implementation of this system. Since part of the team was familiar with quality systems, they immediately found ways to criticize this new procedure. It is common for people to struggle before they understand the benefits of new technology, or in this case, of the application of a technology we usually see in Wikipedia, and not in Quality Management. So the employees were instructed on the benefits of a wiki and how to use it, especially since they were the ones who were to follow the procedures, as well as complete the forms required to comply with ISO.
- Implement the system. This means taking the last step into reality and use the system in everyday operations, while improving it by finding and correcting mistakes. Every employee could “change” the documents, and an email notification was instantly sent to the owner and users. The owner could approve or delete the update. It made everyone aware that mistakes were found and could be corrected, and that the documents had (and will always have) room for improvement.
- Internal audits conducted to review the compliance of the system. ISO 9001 requests internal audits to ensure compliance. As part of these audits, the system and its maintenance are reviewed, including the way the revisions to documents are automatically stored. Since every page has a list of the updates made on it, and the name of the person who has done the update, it becomes easy to show how everyone is involved. There is also a strong commitment by management to get the whole company involved.
- Certification audit by the registrar. BSI visited Geometrica for a week and reviewed documents, formats and general implementation. They were pleased with the results of this application, since every document and form and the information regarding its creation and modifications are just a click away.
- What quantifiable benefits were derived from implementing the nominated solution (i.e., IT benefits, cont/resource savings, increased corporate adaptability, etc.)? Relate the benefits to the objectives/goals established for the project. (no more than 500 words)
- Consistent quality
- Everyone shares one instruction for each activity.
- The whole organization learns when one does.
- Best practices are quickly incorporated and disseminated.
- Eliminate reliance on improvisation.
- Elimination of wasted time:
- By indexing pages and carrying links throughout the whole documentation, time is not lost in searching for papers. Currently there are over 2700 pages in Geometrica's QMS. Every one of them is easily accessible through indexes, search, related documents lists, and contextual linking.
- Time is not wasted in printing manuals - not to mention the cost savings in paper, copier supplies, and a person's time.
- Since the system immediately informs people of changes in procedures, the Quality Manager does not have to spend time informing everyone of the changes.
- The system automatically keeps track of every document and revision thus eliminating time spent by the Quality Manager in having to do that.
- Fast Training and On-boarding:
- Organizational knowledge stored in an easy-to-use platform. Any new employee of the company can access documents to better understand how to do his or her job and how what they do relates to other areas of the company.
- Employees may easily cover for each other as work procedures and duties are clearly described and readily available.
- Describe the impact this solution has had on the organization and others. (no more than 200 words)
Knowledge has become accessible to everyone through a click, saving time and teaching people that working as a team becomes easier through technology. It has also helped in training new employees. Since employees have access to documented procedures, they not only learn their jobs but also how better to interact with other departments. They can rely on the information since any changes are reflected immediately.
- What is the state of implementation (enterprise, department, work group, proof-of-concept, pilot)? How long has it taken to achieve your objectives/goals? (no more than 100 words)
Our QMS has been completely implemented and audited by the competent registrar, as well as certified in ISO 9001. It took a year to become certified. However, the continuous improvement process is on-going.
- What are the success criteria for this project (risk mitigation, cost avoidance, increased compliance, etc.)? (no more than 500 words)
- Compliance with ISO 9001 through certification. This was achieved.
- Consistent quality. Through the application of the ISO 9001 methodology, rework, scrap and recurring non-conformities are systematically reduced.
- Continuous improvement as part of everyday work.
- Updates on the wiki: In the past year, there have been over 30,000 improvements to the system in the form of edits. Being a wiki, older versions of documents are kept.
- Updets through Corrective Actions/Preventive Actions: Over 600 CAPA cycles have improved our processes by eliminating root causes of non-conformities.
- What is the ROI for this project? What factors were used to generate the ROI (savings, cost avoidance, etc.)? (no more than 500 words).
The return on investment for our QMS on wiki project is too high to quantify. Costs are negligible, as the software costs are trivial and the time spent in documentation would have been spent in corrections of non-conformities. The difference is that with our QMS, the roots of problems (and not only their symptoms) are addressed and eliminated. Other intangible benefits include:
- Consistent quality.
- Automatic document control.
- Continuous improvement.
- Easy and fast track system for changes. Each time one of the participants makes a change in the QMS, the wiki sends an e-mail or RSS update to the owner of the process and registered users of that wiki page. Owners review immediately and may revert if needed, although such reversions are extremely rare.
- Describe the legal or regulatory hurdles encountered or resolved through this implementation. (no more than 200 words)
As the system grew, it encompassed and facilitated our compliance with safety regulations. Geometrica is in the process of documenting its Safety Management System to BS OHSAS 18001, and produces its safety manuals and records on the wiki too.
- How does this project help your organization comply with the green initiative?
The use of paper is very limited since procedures and other useful documents are stored electronically. There is no need to be printing revisions or updates to the documents. Just a few documents are printed and distributed to areas where computer access is not feasible.