System Integrator’s Quality Tax: 10 Ways to Convert the Tax into Real Delivered Value!

Almost all system integrators (Accenture, IBM, EY, Deloitte, PwC, Capgemini, etc.) price regular quality reviews as a requirement in their large SAP engagements.  These reviews are designed to ensure the overall quality of the program and to provide an independent view of risks and issues.  Recently, I have noted that the balance of benefits from these reviews has shifted from the client to the system integrator.  One client referred to these reviews as the system integrator’s “Quality Tax”.

System Integrator Value Pitch for Quality Reviews

As a part of its system implementation proposal, the system integrator will include resources to conduct quality reviews.   These reviews are conducted on a regular basis and are expected to accomplish the following:

  • Introduce a second opinion of critical designs or plans. This can help provide the client with confidence in the solution or identify any specific gaps or solution short-comings.
  • Confirm that the team is following the firm’s methodologies and that the deliverables being produced meet identified guidelines. This provides confirmation that the client is getting what was paid for.
  • Provide for an independent view of program risks and issues that should be mitigated or resolved. This view is intended to offset the biases that might be present from the on-site full-time team.
  • Validate that the program’s governance model is operating as designed. Early detection of a flawed governance model will help prevent significant scope creep and efficient program execution.
  • Detect if expectations are not properly aligned across the program or throughout the organization. Misaligned expectations can lead to program delays if they are detected later in the program timeline.

How the SI Benefits from the Quality Reviews

As I mentioned, System Integrators are realizing a large portion of the benefits associated with these quality reviews.   Here’s how:

  • The results can provide a clearly defined audit trail of advice recommended to the client. If clients are not willing to heed the advice of the onsite project team, the quality review results can be used to emphasize this point.  This formal documentation also provides a record of such nonadherence in the unfortunate event that a project fails in some aspect that was directly related to these points.
  • Early detection of poor SI project team performance can be corrected quickly. This will mitigate potential risks associated with contractual penalties and minimize client friction points.
  • In a review of the plan and estimates to complete, the quality review can reveal potential gaps in the current contract or future gaps that can be closed through the execution of a project change order.
  • Identify the misalignment of expectations between the integrator and key stakeholders. With enough lead time, the SI can work to lower the client’s expectations and allow the project team to potentially meet or exceed these lowered standards.  By exceeding expectations, SI’s build in psychological barrier to clients considering other sourcing options.
  • Access to project stakeholders allows the SI to identify potential sales opportunities both internal and external to the program.

Ten Ways to Enhance the Value of Quality Reviews

So how can clients shift the balance of value back and remove the quality tax?  Here are ten ways to change the value quotient over the life cycle of an SI engagement.

  • Have the proposed Quality Lead submit logs of potential risks, issues, and key dependencies.  This will allow the project team to be proactive in addressing these risks and issues.
  • Interview the Quality Lead to ensure they have the required skills and experience.  The lead should have relevant industry, content and delivery qualifications, be independent from the delivery and sales team, and be incented by successful program delivery with minimized business risk.
  • Use the log to clearly define the scope of the quality review and consider adding client responsibilities to the scope.  Like it or not, the SI is dependent on the client not fulfilling all of their responsibilities as a reason to submit change orders.  Having the SI provide a review of client responsibilities allows the client to close these gaps.

Prior to Each Scheduled Review:

  • Develop an inventory or list of specific issues/potential risks that you want the QA partner to address.  Results of the review that are not aligned with your list of issues can be addressed in the results review session. Include specific instructions for the QA partner to provide remediation plans.
  • Prepare stakeholders for the quality reviewCoordinate the key issues and questions across the stakeholders.  Each stakeholder should be given 2-3 issues to communicate.  This way the depth of the issue can be explained sufficiently with the quality partner.

During the Quality Review:

  • Assign a client quality executive to shadow the QA process and participate in meetingsThis will allow the client to develop an internal quality assurance skill set. This technique will also allow for a more balanced view of the project.
  • Provide supporting documentation.  SI quality leads will allocate a limited amount of time in support of the quality review.   As a client, you want to maximize the time they spend on issue resolution rather than issue identification.

As Part of the Quality Review Readout:

  • Insist on a timely readout from the quality review. UpperEdge recommends project sponsor meetings be scheduled within 2 weeks of the onsite reviews. A summary review of the quality review results along with action plans should be planned as an agenda item.    This will ensure reports are issued with expediency.
  • Request the output provide an opinion on all areas that have been agreed to be assessed. This ensures that the scope of the quality review was as intended.

Following the Audit:

  • Log all identified issues and remediation plans in the formal project issue tracker.  Recommended issue resolution actions can then be prioritized, responsibility assigned and planned within the overall context of the project plan.  Regular reviews of the issue and risk register should be used to close out and report on actions to be taken as a result of the quality review.

System integrator quality reviews should not be considered as a substitute for independent validation and verification audits.  Truly independent reviews and audits can deliver the most value through the unbiased identification of risk and project execution assessments.

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