Two for one

Q: My company is implementing an enterprise resource plan (ERP), as well as a quality management system (QMS). Both projects are being carried out at the same time. What advice can you give regarding integrating both projects to ensure they’re running smoothly?

Shaima Nasr
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

A: I would argue there is no better time for implementing a QMS than when embarking on an ERP replacement.

Your organization will never have a better opportunity to rethink, streamline and improve the way it does things than when it is installing a new business system. As part of that project, you will need to define and document your standard operating procedures, so implementing a QMS at the same time makes sense.

My first recommendation: At an executive level, these two projects should be considered one. In the end, your ERP system will become a living representation of your business processes, so for your QMS project to be successful, you will need to work together.

Your executive team should explain to everyone working on these projects—as one group—why the projects are strategically important to improving your business. The ERP team should understand the role and benefits of a QMS and vice versa.

At a tactical level, I would recommend the QMS project leader be a member of the ERP project team and participate heavily in the discovery, design and documentation phases of the ERP system. This will ensure the processes, control points, accountability, auditability, integration and documentation of the ERP system supports what you are trying to accomplish in the QMS project.

The good news is you are likely to find that much of your QMS project work might be done for you within the ERP system if you work together on documentation format and design.

In addition, new tools are available for next-generation ERP systems, such as workflow alerts and notifications, electronic signatures, security audit trails, document management and even documentation generators.

These are even tools available that can automatically record the keystrokes in your business system and automatically generate documentation (with comments and screen captures) that can be leveraged in support of your QMS project and provide you with the information you need to audit them from a compliance standpoint.

Finally, strong executive sponsorship, good teamwork and communication are critical to the success of any business transformation project. The change these projects impart can be disruptive to an organization if not managed well.

Your concern for your project’s success in the early stages and your recognition of the importance of aligning and integrating your project with your ERP business system project is a good sign you will be successful.

Geoff Lewis
Regional director
Raleigh-Durham, NC

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Expiration date

Q: When is the cut-off date for companies currently registered to ISO 9001:2000 to upgrade to ISO 9001:2008?

Dennis Kearney
Casa Grande, AZ

A: The amendment to the ISO 9001 standard was introduced Nov. 14, 2008. In the QP article "Energize Your QMS," it says:

"Twelve months after publication of ISO 9001:2008, there will be no new certifications issued to ISO 9001:2000. That means if your organization is currently seeking certification to ISO 9001:2000, it can proceed on its current path. All organizations currently certified to ISO 9001:2000 must transition to the amended standard 24 months after publication."1

In other words, ISO 9001:2000 was not valid as of Nov. 15, 2010, so the transition deadline has passed. With that being the case, the concern for many organizations is that ISO 9001 is tied to their business contracts. When the ISO 9001 certificate expires, their contract clause with existing customers may be breached as well.

Users that want to upgrade to the new standard should contact their ISO 9001 registrar as soon as possible if their ISO 9001 certificates have expired and work out a reasonable solution.

Govind Ramu
Senior manager, quality systems
SunPower Corp.
San Jose, CA


  1. Lorri Hunt, "Energize Your QMS," Quality Progress, October 2008, p. 24.

Survey concerns

Q: What’s the recommended length of a questionnaire placed on a website? Also, what should the ideal scale be? Is there a drawback to using a four-point scale? Are there any white papers available on the topic?

Abhilash Padmanabhan
Mumbai, India

A: I am not aware of any guideline for web surveys. But here are some general thoughts that are applicable to nearly every situation:

  • Keep the survey short. Ask yourself how you will use the information that comes from each question. Often, people clutter the survey with more questions than they really need, and respondents end up not completing the survey. When you write a question, ask yourself what value you will get from it.
  • Be open to longer answers. For each question, give survey takers the option of adding open-ended comments. Often, you will get some surprising information from these comments that may be more valuable than the numerical answers.
  • Don’t ignore the numbers. Include numerical responses to each question. From a statistics perspective, these answers are easier to analyze. As a result, you will often see trends associated with each question.
  • Temper your expectations. No matter how good you are, no one will rank you higher than satisfactory on price. They will not want to admit you may be undercharging them.
  • It’s OK to be odd. I tend to prefer a scoring system that uses odd numbers—either 1 to 5 or 1 to 7—allowing a middle choice in case the respondent doesn’t have strong feelings. Some organizations prefer an even number, forcing the respondent to lean one way or the other. Four choices is OK, but you can get more information on the strength of respondents’ feelings with more numbers, and it doesn’t slow them when completing the survey.

If all else fails, use common sense, put yourself in the place of busy survey takers and leave out anything that could cause them to abandon the survey—or ignore it completely.

Joe Tunner
Quality improvement consultant
Fort Collins, CO

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