Applying Quality by Design practices to your professional services offerings results in predictable margins, on time delivery, lower risk and more happy clients!
Quality by Design (QbD) has been embraced most fully by the automotive industry as well as others such as electronics and semi-conductor manufacturers. It was more recently endorsed by the FDA in its guidance to drug makers (Pharmaceutical Quality for the 21st Century: A Risk-Based Approach).
I am a big proponent of lean and six sigma practices for improving and maintaining quality, both in my own organization and for improving and optimizing customer business processes. Practitioner Michael L. George has written Lean Six Sigma for Service, an excellent book on applying lean six sigma to services. It is highly recommended reading for professional services leaders who want to get the most out of their organizations. While lean six sigma is great for optimizing services and speeding service delivery, it assumes an existing process that needs improvement — that is, these are reactive techniques. QbD is a proactive approach that seeks to build in quality from the start.
What does poor quality look like for a services business? The age old challenge for professional services is delivering projects on time, on budget, within scope and with minimal defects. We’ve found ways to mitigate these risks, such as time boxing, applying agile techniques, and actively managing customer expectations. But often times these efforts are not enough, and the end result is missed deadlines, busted budgets and the unplanned “firefighting” needed to salvage endangered client relationships. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to confidently predict delivery dates and project margin, and consistently make customers happy?
INTRODUCING PROFESSIONAL SERVICES BY DESIGN
The solution that I propose is what I call Professional Services by Design, or PSbD. PSbD means designing services from the start, by offering repeatable processes and pre-configured, targeted products and solutions that drastically increase the probability of success and decrease overall risk.
The traditional services engagement starts with a scoping study, where you identify unique requirements and then plan and estimate an engagement that is unique to that client. But most likely you service customers in a small number of markets, who for the most part do the same kinds of things. This repeatability from customer to customer is rarely leveraged by professional services firms, and is the key to successful PSbD.