Do I need a quality management system?

What are the benefits and costs of a quality system

Is a quality system important?

It is not uncommon when dealing with our business clients to be asked the benefits and potential costs of a quality system.  We engage many clients to prepare professional tender documents as a growth strategy.  The next logical step often appears to be the potential development, implementation and certification of a quality management system.  However, as a business do you really need a certified quality system?

What is a quality system?

A quality management system is a set of documents, procedures and processes that control how your business delivers services to customers.  This covers all aspects from document management through to services and processes.  A typical quality management system would include:

  • Quality manual that sets out the process on how a quality system will be managed and applied
  • Internal procedure manual that covers processes and practices relevant to the delivery of client services
  • Human resources management manual and position descriptions
  • Relevant forms, documentation and evidence
  • Site specific quality project plans as required

The system can be as small or large as required however must meet certain standards, usually ISO-9001.  Incorporated in this system can also be links to relevant legislation or Australian standards that may be relevant to your business.

The primary focus of a quality management system is to develop and implement business processes focused on achieving customer requirements.  Certified systems provide added guarantees that your system has been audited by a third party and a certain level of consistency can be guaranteed.

Who needs a quality management system?

Business and companies that need quality management systems are usually of a reasonable size or engaged in major contracts with large corporations or Government.  Most businesses who seek to achieve a third party accredited system have been forced to do so through winning certain contracts or are engaged in a highly regulated business environment.  It is rare for small business to undertake certification for a quality management system.  However any organisation that is involved in a customer service where high quality and consistent delivery is required will benefit from a third party accredited quality system.

If you are a Government contractor delivering services over a particular dollar amount a third party accredited quality system is mandatory.

Do I have to be accredited?

The short answer is no.  Unless specifically requested by a particular company or department third party accreditation is not always required.  There are certain benefits though to third party accreditation including the capability to advertise and gain an advantage over competitors.  However on many occasions just the preparation and implementation of quality systems and procedures is sufficient to demonstrate through the tendering process your capability to maintain a consistent approach towards the delivery of all services.  On many occasions site specific quality plans are sufficient to secure larger contracts and provide a systemised approach towards delivering services.

In our experience many organisations prepare quality management systems but rarely implement or use them effectively.

For

There are a number of benefits to developing and implementing a quality management system.  These include:

  • Accreditation and recognition through a third-party of consistent and high quality processes to deliver customer services
  • Capacity to achieve larger contracts and Government work
  • Consistent approach to service delivery for all internal staff members
  • Development of important documents such as position descriptions, forms and procedures for managing works
  • Compliance with legislation and Australian standards

By far the most single important benefit of a quality management system is achieving consistency in delivering services to customers.  When displaying a third-party quality management accreditation customers can feel secure that your business will deliver services as guaranteed.

Against

Developing and implementing a quality management system is not easy.  This is a time consuming process that requires a dedicated internal person and where appropriate external consultant to develop and implement the required procedures and manuals.  Some of the issues faced by our clients in developing and implementing quality management systems include:

  • The cost and time involved in developing a system can be significant and you can add to that using a third-party auditor
  • Potential to develop a system that is not implemented correctly and gathers dust on the shelf
  • Failure to achieve quality accreditation requiring more developmental processes and procedures
  • Upkeep requirements which includes annual auditing and a dedicated internal document controller and management involvement

The decision on whether to develop and implement a quality management system is not taken lightly.  There are a range of benefits and issues that may impact on the development of these systems.  It is essential you make your decision on the anticipated benefits you will receive as a business from developing a quality management system.

Do you need assistance in developing systems – go here.

Download a template here

Professional tender writing – go here

John Matthews