Updated: Feb 1, 2021
Several years ago, I led a program to implement an enterprise quality solution. As the program manager, the platform recommendation was in my hands. This platform would be used by multiple teams for various businesses processes. A bad decision could set the program up for failure, waste money, and ruin my career. I turned to my Lean Six Sigma toolkit for help and found the Quality Functional Deployment (QFD) tool to be the best solution to my dilemma.
A QFD is a tool that provides a structured approach to aligning a plan to the customer’s needs. To complete a QFD, a House of Quality is created. The process below is a modified version, suited specifically for software selection.
Step 1: Identifying Customer Needs
The first step is to identify all of the customers of the product. Here are some parties to consider:
Users of the application
Financial decision makers
Process owners, if any
Once the customers are identified, collect feedback directly and independently. For my program, this was done during a brainstorming session where the people recorded their requirements on post-it notes. Our list had over 100 ideas included! In order to digest these needs, they were rationalized to eliminate duplicate ideas and categorized into themes. For this application, they connected into different business processes and technical capabilities.
Step 2: Scoring the Relative Importance
To calculate the relative importance, each of the needs identified by the customers is given a rank of 1, 3, or 9, with 1 being lowest importance and 9 being the highest. This scoring creates differentiation of the most important customer needs. The discussion should happen in a meeting with representation of the different customer groups. A best practice is to limit the team to 5-6 people for the discussion, to reach consensus faster.
I remember the team meeting for my program vividly. This event was planned for an entire day and therefore several people didn’t attend. The smaller group worked well and the results were shared with others later. What I remember most was that the building was evacuated due to a fire. Luckily, it was a lovely summer day and standing outside for an hour was not a burden. I guess our discussions were really hot that day!
Step 3: Finding Options
Fortunately for my program, I had access to Gartner’s recommended list of enterprise solutions to start with. Each of these companies was evaluated against the items ranked as a 9 from Step 2, by looking at their website. We quickly created a list of 3 options for our QFD evaluation in Step 4, by eliminating solutions that didn’t meet a critical requirement.
If your company doesn’t own a Gartner subscription, there are options such as G2 or even conducting a Google Search. Document all of the solutions that you look at, as it will help with credibility of the exercise later.
Step 4: Score the Requirements to the Solutions
Our team took a 2 prong approach to evaluate the final 3 solutions against the entire list of requirements. We scheduled detailed demos with the vendors and scheduled site visits with existing customers with the vendors. In my younger years, traveling was still fun, so we seized the opportunity. These site visits could be conducted remotely with today’s technology. The biggest recommendation is to evaluate the solution without the vendor present to get the full perspective of the application. During these discussions, have a copy of the QFD present and make sure you hit all of the requirements. Several people should take notes to help drive the ranking discussions later.
Once the interviews of the application are complete, rank each of the solutions against the requirements. Use the following guidelines for scoring:
9 - the application meets the requirement
3 - the application kind of meets the requirement
1 - the application meeting the requirement is a stretch
0 - the application does not meet the requirement
Once complete, each solution receives a final score.
The top scored application is the mathematically calculated selection, based on the collaboration and input of all stakeholders. Our top application was not in alignment with leadership’s preferred partner. The data backed up the decision and we moved forward with the program, mostly successfully and with plenty of learning. In Summary The decision to move use a QFD to assist in the major decision of platform selection turned out to be effective. In fact, I’ve used it for several other decisions, including personal ones. In hindsight, my only major regret was that the usability was not even considered. In the early 2010’s, most software was clunky and required training, so it was accepted practice. That’s why here at Leverage4Data, user experience and minimal training is high priority.