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Volume 6 · Issue 2 · February 2001

Contents

QuEST Forum Meets in Atlanta January 22-26
Voting on Revised TL 9000 Handbooks Ends February 15

On February 1, 2001, the 117 full members of the Quality Excellence for Suppliers of Telecommunications (QuEST) Forum began balloting on approval of versions 3.0 of the two TL 9000 handbooks. Expected approval of the TL 9000 Quality Management System Requirements Handbook when voting concludes on February 15 will represent the first alignment of a sector-specific supplement with ISO 9001:2000, slightly more than 1 year after the first registrations to TL 9000 and 3 years after the founding of the QuEST Forum.

Revisions to both the quality management system (QMS) requirements handbook and TL 9000 Quality Management System Measurements Handbook were completed and reviewed by work groups (WGs) at a QuEST Forum meeting in Atlanta January 22-26, 2001, at which both were approved for balloting by the Forum’s full members (total membership is 159, although only 14 service providers and 103 suppliers are presently full members entitled to vote).

At the Atlanta meeting, the Forum also recognized TL 9000 registrations by 14 suppliers to the telecommunications industry, bringing to 56 the number of registrations reported since the Forum recognized the first 16 TL 9000 Pilot Program registrations in January 2000.

The activity within the telecommunications sector as represented by the QuEST Forum and the development and future of TL 9000 is notable not only because of the incredible QMS developments within this sector, but because of the healthy debate that took place over the direction of sector-specific standardization–and the resounding support for that direction–during an Executive Round Table held during the Forum meeting.

At a time when the release of ISO 9001:2000 may raise questions about the need for sector-specific requirements aligned with ISO 9001, the youngest industry group to engage in QMS standards development remains committed to maintaining both ISO 9001 linkage and sector-specific "adders" to the generic ISO standard. Those "adders" include not just the 80 requirements added to ISO 9001:2000 to satisfy QMS needs in the telecom supply chain, but enhancement of its measurements program and development of its Business Excellence Acceleration Model (BEAM).

Whether your organization is a supplier to the telecommunications industry or you are interested in developments within the QuEST Forum program that might be replicated in other fields, you may find information of interest in the following reports. They detail the efforts of the work groups (WGs) that completed the latest editions of the TL 9000 handbooks, the debate during the Executive Round Table and developments involving the BEAM WG and Supply Chain Subcommittee.

QMS Requirements and Measurements Reach Version 3.0

In revising the QMS Requirements Handbook, the QuEST Forum’s Requirements WG met in July, September, October and November 2000 to review 392 suggestions that Forum members submitted for consideration. It also involved updating the draft of Version 3.0 after each meeting and circulating the revised drafts to the WG’s members for review and comment.

The Requirements WG used subteams to conduct much of the work in a way that would maximize the WG’s resources. For instance, one subteam was dedicated to combining the glossary in the version 2.5 Requirements Handbook with the one in the version 2.5 Metrics Handbook (now Measurements) so as to create a single, consistent TL 9000 Glossary that would be updated for the version 3.0 handbooks and contained in both.

Three other subteams focused on various aspects of the Requirements Handbook revisions. As has been previously reported, the purpose of revising the QMS Requirements Handbook was to align its contents with ISO 9001:2000, since version 2.5 was aligned with ISO 9001:1994. This involved three objectives:

  • Comparing version 2.5 with the Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) of ISO 9001:2000 and then ISO 9001:2000 to identify any changes to the ISO requirements that would eliminate the need for or require any new TL 9000 "adders" to the ISO 9001 requirements. While version 2.5 contained 83 adders to ISO 9001:1994, version 3.0 contains 80 adders to ISO 9001:2000, with 3 previous requirements now covered by ISO 9001 and no new requirements needed.
  • Restructuring the adders to fit the new structure of ISO 9001. The reorganization of the requirements from a 20-clause structure in ISO 9001:1994 into a process-approach structure in ISO 9001:2000, whereby requirements are grouped into 5 sections (Sections 4-8), was the biggest challenge for the subteams. The restructuring meant that the subteams had to determine where the TL 9000 adders should be placed in the ISO 9001:2000 framework, since some requirements from ISO 9001:1994 were separated into different parts of ISO 9001:2000 while others were combined with other parts.
  • Ensuring the wording of the TL 9000 adders was properly updated to reflect any agreed upon adjustments based on the Forum member suggestions and to complement the changed language usage in ISO 9001:2000. The intent was to verify that the requirements added to ISO 9001 to meet telecom sector needs did not change once the handbook was aligned with ISO 9001:2000, the subteam also was verifying that the intended requirements contained in the adders actually were reflected in the wording. In other words, was the intent of the drafters of TL 9000 conveyed by the requirements as written in versions 2.5 and 3.0?

The entire WG took "one last look" at version 3.0 of the Requirements Handbook in Atlanta before sending it to the Forum for membership ratification and publication in March 2001, according to Brendan Pelan, Chair of the WG. "During one of the work group sessions, an observer made the comment that the members were the best working team he had ever witnessed," remarked Pelan, who expected the revised edition to receive overwhelming approval. "It is a tribute to all members of the work group that we have been able to produce another quality document in a relatively short period."

The QuEST Forum’s Measurements WG met January 25, 2001, in Atlanta, resulting in approval of the final draft of the TL 9000 QMS Measurements Handbook, Version 3.0, for release to the Forum membership for balloting. Almost 40 telecommunications organizations are represented on the WG, with a total membership approaching 70, which reflects on the importance of the WG’s activities.

According to Rick Werth of SBC Communications, Chair of the Measurements WG, upgrades from version 2.5 of the handbook include:

  • The handbook’s title has been revised to replace "quality system" and "metrics" with "quality management system" and "measurements", as reported previously.
  • An Initial Return Rate Measurement was added to the Return Rates Section to cover the first 6 months of a product’s field life.
  • The software section was reorganized to better align with GR-929-Core RQMS (Core Reliability and Quality Measurements for Telecommunications Systems).
  • The Product Category Table was changed to cover the addition of Section 4.3, Ancillary Operations and Maintenance Products, Section 7.7, Procurement Services, Section 7.8, Logistical Services, and the splitting of Section 3.2.1 into two parts–Manual Cross Connect Systems and Digital Cross Connect Systems.

The Measurements WG also set new priorities for 2001 in Atlanta, with several subteams being evaluated to see what role they will play–and what changes may be needed to the subteams–as the WG begins drafting Version 4.0 of the measurements handbook. Priorities for the next version of the Measurements Handbook are:

  • A performance indicator (Outgoing Quality Measures)
  • Handset quality measures
  • The product category table.

Other areas to be evaluated by the Measurements WG in version 4.0 include:

  • Continued input from the Oversight and Training WGs and the Supply Chain Subcommittee
  • Industry best practices submitted by QuEST Forum members or presented at the September 2001 Best Practices Symposium
  • In-process quality measures.

The Measurements WG estimates that version 4.0 will be ready for publication in mid- to late-2002, while the Product Category Table will be updated separately several times in the interim. For a look at the role of measurements in TL 9000 and the telecom industry, see "Measurements, Telecommunications Quality and TL 9000".

Executive Round Table: Is TL 9000 the Right Direction?

The QuEST Forum’s leadership decided to hold its first Executive Round Table in Atlanta to provide attendees with meaningful information and a chance to ask specific questions about TL 9000 and the Forum. Members of the QuEST Forum leadership were selected to briefly explain their perspectives on one of four subject areas, followed by an open-floor question-and-answer session that gave these leaders a chance to address specific questions and concerns from the audience.

The four subject areas were as follows:

  • Service providers vision of the QuEST Forum
  • TL 9000 and ISO 9001:2000
  • How to prepare for a TL 9000 audit
  • Why become a member of the QuEST Forum.

The first subject area included representatives of two of the regional phone companies–Steve Welch of SBC and Don Pickens of Bell South. They discussed the overall vision of the QuEST Forum and how the QMS measurements data collection, which is part of the TL 9000 program, will help their organizations and the telecommunications sector as a whole improve their operations and provide better service to their customers.

However, it was the third panelist that generated the greatest discussion and debate during the Round Table requiring more time to be devoted to the session than had been planned. Marty Lustig of Sprint, which provides long-distance phone and nationwide wireless communications services, began his presentation by indicating that he spoke on behalf of Sprint, as well as AT&T and WorldCom, when he said that their vision of the QuEST Forum involved the need to redirect the Forum’s efforts towards an effective improvement orientation.

Lustig recommended that best practices be identified and that practical ways be sought to identify and disseminate these practices. It was the opinion of these three major telecommunications service providers (TSPs) that TL 9000, including the measurements database, was not likely to lead to overall industry improvement without the BEAM approach.

Lustig also indicated an opposition to requiring suppliers to obtain registration to TL 9000, because he did not view it as likely to be effective in the long-term. Indeed, he urged voluntary usage of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) assessment approach.

Pickens and Welch were joined by many Round Table attendees who responded to Lustig’s vision by warning that companies should not polarize around advocating and/or requiring the use of TL 9000 or MBNQA–that TL 9000’s QMS requirements and measurements and the Baldrige approach are both beneficial and complementary.

It was clear that there was little support among most TSPs and their suppliers for abandoning the use of the TL 9000 QMS requirements and measurements in the industry. The suppliers in particular find these TL 9000 elements to be valuable because of the consistent QMS requirements they provide and the benefits they expect to see as the TL 9000 measurements data collection is used to develop a database that will permit organizations to compare their QMS performance against the industry.

Clearly, the vision of three major telecom companies for the QuEST Forum’s future direction is worth considering, and their overall vision supports the goal of identifying and disseminating best practices throughout the sector.

However, the Forum’s membership by and large demonstrated support for continued development and use of sector-specific QMS requirements aligned with ISO 9001:2000 and of QMS measurements identified and/or developed specifically for the sector. Organizations in the telecom sector find both the TL 9000 requirements and measurements useful in improving their processes and identifying areas that need the most attention.

The intention of many organizations is to benchmark their performance against the industry database to see where each organization is ahead of the competition and where it is behind.

To clarify its position on this subject, AT&T submitted a letter to the QuEST Forum subsequent to the Round Table. The letter acknowledged the Forum’s support for TL 9000 development and use but advocates the use of ISO 9001:2000 and state and national quality award programs rather than pursue a TL 9000-based registration and measurements approach. THE OUTLOOK has obtained a copy of the letter, which is reprinted on the previous page.

Much of the question-and-answer session is available in the FAQ section of the QuEST Forum web site at www.questforum.org.

BEAM and the Supply Chain

Eugene Hutchison, Chair of the BEAM Team, announced that Ron Asbury, Chairman and past president of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and an advocate for business excellence models (BEMs), has agreed to serve as a subject matter expert (SME) and facilitator for the BEAM Team.

A key objective of the Team in 2000 was to develop telecommunications industry guidance for the application of BEMs to an enterprise, which involved building relationships with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and EFQM.

In Atlanta, the BEAM Team continued work on this guidance document, with a committee draft expected to be available in February 2001. The document will provide guidance in the following subject areas:

  • Strategic partnering
  • Managing the supply chain
  • Efficient product delivery and support
  • Life cycle management and planning
  • Optimizing time-to-market
  • Encouraging and managing innovation
  • Managing continual improvement and organizational and cultural change
  • Technology assets management
  • Network reliability and availability.

During 2000, BEAM has expanded its relationships with BEM agencies, including the Director of the MBNQA program at NIST and a representative of EFQM during the London QuEST Forum meeting. The goal is to find ways for the Forum’s BEAM Team, MBNQA and EFQM to support each other’s activities to improve performance in the telecommunications industry and beyond.

The Supply Chain Subcommittee is involved in the following activities to assist direct and indirect suppliers to the telecommunications sector:

  • Creation of a list of proposed additions and/or changes to the Product Category Table to suit the needs of direct/indirect suppliers
  • Identification of applicable supply chain requirements and measurements
  • Development of a TSC Supplement, which is expected to be submitted to the Forum’s Oversight and Measurements WGs for review and approval. The TSC Supplement is still being developed by a task team but would be a guideline/supplement to the TL 9000 handbooks to help explain how an indirect supplier can conform to the requirements of TL 9000.

Additional information about the Subcommittee will be provided as its activities are completed and proposed supplements and other documents are submitted to the Forum.

UTD and the QMS Data Indices

As previously reported, a pair of indices unique to the telecommunications industry is being developed that will enhance the effectiveness of TL 9000 conforming QMSs by evaluating the system’s impact on telecommunications products and services. These indices are referred to as the TL 9000 Performance Index (TPI) and Telecommunications Quality Report (TQI).

The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) was tasked to lead the research and development of the TPI and the TQI. The concept of TQI matured during late 1999, when the following goals were developed by the QuEST Forum leadership:

  • Develop a TPI that will be reported quarterly to the QuEST Forum and represents the effectiveness of the TL 9000 QMS.
  • Determine correlations between the TPI and measurements taken to gauge related telecommunications customer satisfaction.
  • Establish a TQI based on the TPI and the correlation studies.

The following strategic plan was also developed:

  • Derive a TPI from data residing in the TL 9000 Measurements Repository System (MRS).
  • Develop key telecommunications industry criteria that will measure customer satisfaction and perception of service.
  • Combine the output of the TPI and the customer satisfaction key criteria to create the TQI.
  • Use the TPI and TQI as tools for continuous improvement by reporting them as industry performance indicators.
  • Use the TPI and TQI results to target QuEST Forum WG activities where appropriate.

Forum Brochure

The Forum’s MARCOM (marketing and communications) WG has completed work on the QuEST Forum Brochure, which provides information on the Forum, including information on its board of directors and membership, the MRS and Registration Repository System and meetings schedule. Copies of the brochure can be obtained by calling Irene Gliniecki at ASQ (800-248-1946 (United States and Canada only), ext. 7329).

A list of upcoming meetings is located here.

Further information on the QuEST Forum, its activities and how your company might become a member can be obtained by contacting Jeff Weitzer at ASQ (jweitzer@asq.org).

THE OUTLOOK will provide a look at the revised handbooks once they have been released and will provide updates on other QuEST Forum activities in future issues.

Letter from AT&T
January 26, 2001

Dear Board Members,

In light of recent events, we at AT&T feel there is a need to clarify our position regarding the QuEST Forum, the TL 9000 quality management system, and the associated measurements. We believe that a better approach for driving excellence within our industry would be the establishment and sharing of best practices, using National and State quality awards, and adopting ISO 9001:2000 as the recognized cross-industry standard (one that already has a well-established infrastructure). We believe this is consistent with the BEAM model shared on 1/22/01 by Steve Welch. We feel the more prescriptive an approach, the less likely it will satisfy the needs of the entire supply chain. This position was clearly communicated to the QuEST Forum board in July 1999 and our suppliers were informed of our position in the fall of 1999.

However, it would not be realistic to think that the QuEST Forum would necessarily embrace our recommended approach and cease activities already well underway by a significant number of service providers and suppliers. As a leader in the telecommunications industry, AT&T joined the QuEST Forum and has worked within its structure to clarify and refine the existing requirement and measurement documents. Additionally, as TL 9000 is deployed, we have collaborated with other service providers and suppliers to embrace meaningful measurements that will provide the data necessary to accelerate improvement in our industry through the QuEST Forum. Since 1998, AT&T has supported the work of the QuEST Forum through annual membership, providing resources to the Requirements and Measurement Work Groups and subteams, and most recently, by sponsoring the QuEST Forum event in Atlanta at the Platinum level.

Although the approach selected by the QuEST Forum was clearly not the approach preferred by AT&T, we have worked and continue to work within the structure of the QuEST Forum to make our industry stronger.

Cordially,

John Cornetta
AT&T Supplier Management

Stephen E. Ford
AT&T Quality Office

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2001 Forum Meetings and Conferences

  • Global Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina April 24-25
  • Forum Meeting in Berlin, Germany July 10-12
  • Best Practices Conference in Dallas, TX September 11-12
  • Forum Meeting in Singapore October 23-25
  • Work Group Meetings:
    • San Diego, CA March13-15
    • Tampa, FL April 17-19
    • Berlin, Germany July 10-12
    • Dallas, TX September 13-14
    • Singapore October 23-25
    • Tempe, AZ November 13-15

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Measurements, Telecommunications Quality and TL 9000

By Art Morrical

In the absence of measurements, customers fear the worst about the performance of a product. After all, without measurements, a customer is buying blindly. Thus, taking measurements of the product and making them available to your organization’s customers is a good way of marketing the quality of your product.

In theory, it is possible to create any number of measurements. Of greater importance is that the information extracted from the data be useful and accurate. When an organization undertakes the collection of data, there is a tendency to overcollect and underanalyze. The quantity of data collected and the number of measurements does not need to be overwhelming. It is important to understand that measurements, in and of themselves, are not the goal of a useful QMS–analysis of the measurements is. Analysis is the key to transforming raw data into useful pieces of information. Keeping this in mind, it is essential that a measurement program be analysis-driven instead of data-driven.

The QuEST Forum Measurements WG developed some of the TL 9000 measurements using the experience of the group’s members with GR-929-CORE RQMS (Core Reliability and Quality Measurements for Telecommunications Systems), which are telecommunications industry measurements that have been in use for and have been evolving during the last decade. Due to the RQMS linkage, when a measurement from RQMS is used by a supplier registered to TL 9000, the supplier can use the RQMS version of the measurement to conform with TL 9000’s requirements and can send those measurements to UTD for the TL 9000 MRS without alteration.

The calculations themselves must be in compliance with the latest issue of the RQMS to have been released. The intent is to prevent redundant effort by suppliers when both RQMS and TL 9000 measurements are contractually required. In that situation, TL 9000 conformance audits would accept an RQMS-based procedure.

For example, at the time of TL 9000 implementation at Lucent Technologies’ 5ESS Project, the Project was producing the RQMS measurements needed for TL 9000 conformance and registration and had been sending them to its subscribing customers. TL 9000 also requires that objectives are placed on the measurements and that the results are sent to the supplier’s management. Since the RQMS measurements have customer-defined objectives that the 5ESS Project was already embracing, the Project was in conformance with the required measurements for TL 9000. The 5ESS Project produces and sends quarterly reports of the measurements to the customers that detail current trends and provide analysis of the data.

An organization can gain many benefits by inputting data to a data repository system, including:

  • The use of drop-down menus provides the user with data accuracy.
  • Data verification at the time the measurements are collected–using data checks and selecting from standard field values–avoids typing and abbreviation errors.
  • Periodic database audits can clean up inaccuracies in the data.
  • Long-term measurement trends reveal a measurement’s variability and assess a supplier’s maturity and room for improvement.
  • The data identifies the areas where management can initiate action to get the biggest payback.

In addition, the TL 9000 measurements will provide industry means and ranges. This will allow a telecommunications supplier to perform a self-evaluation and fine-tune its resource allocation in response to its position relative to the industry direction.

Another key to an effective measurements program is keeping the measurements visible. The measurement results need to be visible to all project members, which the 5ESS Project has been accomplishing by using web-based access to TL 9000 customer measurement data, called a "dashboard". Dashboard measurements are tools to help employees monitor the progress of the organization’s business.

Just as a driver glances at the gauges on the dashboard to monitor speed, temperature, oil pressure, etc., a project member can look at his/her "dashboard" and, based on the status of the business, take the appropriate actions to maximize performance. The "gauges" are updated monthly to give everyone the most timely and accurate figures available. Management can set objectives based on the figures and manage the measurements to close any performance gaps. Using the TL 9000 measurements, quality improvements can be focused around how customers define quality that can be demonstrated through measurements.

Measurement results can be used in executive reviews, since they provide a window into customer interactions, thus connecting a customer sales team to a product team’s performance. Customer visits can then cover shared measurements results and conclude with a joint setting of gap reduction goals. The most important measurement area for improvement can also be jointly determined.

Measurements are a key part of a healthy and effective management system. Overall product quality improvement is the results of increased visibility of measurements data that show the level of compliance with product specifications and the integration of these measurements into standard management practices. Product quality improvement also results from increased focus on areas needing attention.

When TL 9000 measurements are used, there can be enhanced customer/supplier relationships and the introduction of improvement programs based on well-defined measurements. More informed–better–decisions can be made as to where to apply resources. The TL 9000 measurements also lead to standardized data collection that provides opportunities for industry comparisons and benchmarking. The long-term use of the TL 9000 measurements can result in improved industry performance and improved telecom services.

Art Morrical is a Manager of the Lucent Technologies 5ESS Project and an initial participant in the QuEST Forum, working with the Metrics, Metrics Implementation, Requirements and Training Work Groups. He recently provided THE OUTLOOK with an in-depth look at the TL 9000 registration effort involving the 5ESS Project (see "TL 9000 Registration by Lucent Focuses on Flagship Project", THE OUTLOOK, January 2001). Mr. Morrical also represents Lucent Technologies at the RQMS Technical Forums. He has an MS in Computer Science from North Central College in Naperville, IL, and a BS in Electrical Engineering Technology from Bradley University in Peoria, IL. Mr. Morrical has been an ASQ-Certified Quality Engineer (CQE) and an ASQ Senior Member since 1989. He is also the President of the Library Board of Trustees in Sugar Grove, IL.

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