“[They] lost their quality leadership to new, aggressive competition. The most obvious consequence was lost of market share (…) [due to] quality features that were perceived as better meeting customer needs [and] they did not fail in service as often.”
“Loss of market share is not the only reason behind [it] (…) a second major force has been the phenomenon of life behind the quality dikes. We have learned that living in a technological society puts us at the mercy of the continuing operation of the goods and services that make a society possible (…) without such quality we have failure of all sorts (…) at the least these failures involve annoyances and minor costs. At their worst they are terrifying.”
“A third major force has been the gathering awareness by companies that they have been enduring excessive costs due to chronic quality-related wastes (…) about a third of what we do consists of redoing work previously done (…) lacking expertise in the quality disciplines, they are amateurs in the best sense of that word.”
J.M. Juran’s assessment on Quality issues in the 1960s-70s.
What follows are some of the insights driving the work that I’m doing on reviewing, leveraging and updating QbD (Quality by Design) in the context of today’s fast growing and all-encompassing digitalization.
I am dusting off my research from 2010 on the 3Q Model. Back then I was a senior manager at Alcatel-Lucent’s Solutions & Technology Introduction Department. My current role is Senior Studio Director at Nokia Software’s Solutions Engineering. Note that the scope is End-to-End Solutions. These are holistic system-wide (cross-sectional and longitudinal) undertakings intersecting different domains to deliver the higher value of the whole. I have discussed QbD for Digital Transformation projects at the Design Thinking 2018 event and at the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) conference on CQR (Communications Quality and Reliability) back in April and May of this year. Interestingly enough, both events were held in Austin, Texas.
QbD was first coined by Juran, a renown pioneer of quality practices, whose work on that specific topic started in the mid 80s. He linked Quality to customer satisfaction and reliability as the two dimensions to focus on:
“Features” were defined as “quality characteristics,” which meant properties intended to satisfy specific customer needs. That would also include “promptness of delivery,” “ease of maintenance,” and “courtesy of service” to name some examples. “The better the features, the higher the quality in the eyes of customers.”
As far as reliability and, therefore, replicability and consistent performance, “freedom from deficiencies” conveyed the fact that “the fewer the deficiencies the better the quality in the eyes of customers.” A “deficiency” is a failure that triggers dissatisfaction, which calls for incurring higher costs to redo prior work.
“Fitness for use” was mentioned as an attempt to capture the above two together. The so-called Juran Trilogy entails Quality Planning, Quality Control, and Quality Improvement.
More than three decades have passed since Juran started to work on “New Steps for Planning Quality into Goods and Services.” Let’s decompose QbD’s acronym at face value and distill its essence.
As a designer, my belief & practice system focuses on “serial innovation” consistently delivering superior value. This is achieved by means of purposeful and elegant solutions equipped with capability models and optimal functionality leading to Quality Experiences.
Customer Delight, rather than just satisfaction, being the sought after outcome. This applies to both small and large undertakings, and as A. Kay, a pioneer in graphical user interfaces, best put it, “simple things should be simple, complex should be possible.”
Following that train of thought, “Designing Quality into Solutions” should become center stage to: (a) collaborative and iterative ideation, (b) agile development, (c) continuous delivery and (d) the dynamic diffusion of (e) new and mass-customizable digital services for consumer and enterprise markets, as well as no-for-profit. Overall, QoB is key to Operational Excellence.
In a world where “Continuous Improvement” leads to incremental and breakthrough innovations, Quality’s critical KPI, Key Performance Indicator, can be expressed in terms of measurable advances in QoUX, the Quality of the Users’ Experiences. These are lagging (outcome) metrics that are far from static because they evolve within and over lifecycles. Therefore, reliability is not just applied to production operations, but also to the solution’s consistent performance and serviceability over time and under changing scenarios and events.
Given Quality’s unequivocal narrative around the “experiential” paradigm and, therefore, human-centric-optics, QbD’s best work should optimize for user “delight,” which is defined as superior “satisfaction,” rather than just aiming for requirements compliance.
It is very tempting to rally around core competencies within comfort zones that exist, and then settling on just aiming for “customer satisfaction” around “must-meet” baseline requirements. Though, that might not suffice given the necessity to innovate and better compete by leveraging unique sources of sustainable differentiation.
Let’s now state the obvious: “designing” Quality Experiences into digital solutions is best addressed by means of Human-Centered methodologies that optimize for (f) users’ “acceptance criteria” and (g) the kind of “adoption levels” that foster user base growth.
The opposite approach would risk the adverse effects (and hidden costs) that can be incurred when technical myopia leads the way. A. Cooper’s “The Inmates are Running the Asylum” captures that very well. His book is referenced below.
Just for the record, the year is 2018 and we are gearing for a pervasive digital world dominated by software defined systems. The 4th Industrial Revolution’s floodgates are set wide-open.
Low and high tech perform best when playing a supporting role. Technology enables “Services” which justify it, otherwise the so-called Chasm and Valley of Death wait around the corner. It pays to emphasize that “Services” are defined by “Use Cases.” So, it shouldn’t take much effort to see that “Use(case)ability” (“usability” being the proper term) is a CSF, Critical Success Factor. “Fitness for use” in other words.
Let’s take that further and couple “usability” with designing for usefulness,” “utility,” “consumability & serviceablity” as well as “affectivity” because perception and human affects orient satisfaction and dissatisfaction levels.
QbD cannot be put to work without adequately addressing Human Dynamics, which entails psychological (e.g. cognitive models, information architecture) physiological (e.g. device form factor, workstation ergonomics) and social dimensions (e.g. network effects increasing value for users.) That happens to be the SoW (Scope of Work) of HFE’s (Human Factors Engineering) interdisciplinary teams in Design Studios… and the topic of my next post on QbD’s Intellectual Capital.
A few more thoughts…
In spite of one’s day-to-day work and/or belief system being either closer to or removed from the kinds of jobs and tasks that make tech human, it makes sense to engage in meaningful outcome oriented and goal driven practices by applying HCD, Human-Centered-Design. The purpose is delivering quality and achieving customer acceptance and delight, given that customers are human beings. That is the reason why Design Thinking has outgrown the field of industry design and is applied to a wide variety of domains and disciplines nowadays.
Tech’s roller-coaster industry is packed with well intended technologies that fail. We all know that this is a fiercely competitive environment in constant change. Though, it is also true that, in many of those cases, UX, User Experience, professionals were not engaged at any part of the process, or were purposely involved at the back-end, or were called to come to the rescue in the eleventh hour. That leaves no room for Design to make a difference. Superficial changes just amount to bells-and-whistles and shiny-objects to disguise the underlying quality issues that are likely to re-surface at some point.
QbD’s top objective should be excelling at effectively & efficiently addressing our customers’ acceptance and adoption criteria. That remains true even in the context of full automation. Humans still get promoted and demoted (or fired) based on those system’s performance. D. Newman’s recent article on Forbes magazine rightly states that “you cannot run your business without people (…) you cannot operate technology without people (…) research have shown that people are a critical component for digital transformation.”
Today’s best practice calls for “reverse engineering” solutions by working from that human-centered understanding around Human Machine Systems (HMS.) That is substantially different from only relying on a far riskier “if you build it, they will come” model and its costlier brute-force mindset.
When dealing with challenging, intractable and complex projects, overlooking that fact typically results in exponential project risk and plenty of the, otherwise, avoidable zig-zagging course corrections ahead (e.g. opportunity costs in financial analysis and hidden and latency costs in systems engineering.)
Agile’s iterative development and ability to pivot shouldn’t be a refuge for either subpar or no design effort, but a vehicle to best implement QbD and augment development capacity while minimizing technical debt. This is why this revision of QbD for today’s tech industry calls for Design Sprints to lead the way.
Last but not least, before dismissing this QbD revision as a philanthropic and humanistic only endeavor, I suggest deep thinking around its (1) business criticality and (2) contribution to risk mitigation.
J. de Francisco
Bell Labs, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff
Nokia Software, Senior Studio Director @ Solutions Engineering
A. Cooper. The Inmates are Running the Asylum. Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity, Sams Publishing, 2004.
D. Newman. 3 Reasons People are Critical for Digital Transformation Success. Forbes, June 2018.
J. de Francisco. IEEE ETR 2018, Emerging Technologies Reliablity Roundtable – Human Factors Session (2). Innovarista: Innovation at Work, July 2018 innovarista.org
J. de Francisco. IEEE ETR 2018, Emerging Technologies – Human Factors Session. Innovarista: Innovation at Work. May 2018 innovarista.org
J.M. Juran. Juran on Quality by Design: the New Steps for Planning Quality into Goods and Services, The Free Press, 1992.
“Bell Labs created the very first industrial Human Factors Research department at an American company, back in 1947. The department was quite small, containing just one specialist: John Karlin. Human Factors Research is sometimes known as ergonomics, but the way a human interacts with a machine or a system goes beyond simply physical space.”
“Industrially, the practice of Human Factors Research combines psychology with engineering in order to refine a system and make it more usable, friendlier, more efficient.”
“Karlin headed the HFR department from 1951 to 1977. Charles Rubinstein, who appears in this film, took over the department in ‘77. Human Factors Research at Bell Labs went well beyond that minuscule core staff of the 1940s: by the 1970s, the department had a staff of over 200, and by the time this film was made, staffers numbered more than 400.” – Designing for People, AT&T Archives.
Nokia’s community fosters Bell Lab’s heritage by embracing Human Factors Engineering as an innovation engine. We are gearing up for this year’s company event on HFE, which will be held on December 6. This event is sponsored by the Nokia’s Technology Leadership Council and here is the agenda:
We would like to thank all of the speakers most sincerely for their contribution to this conference. This is a private event for Nokia’s worldwide workforce. The live webcast and the recodings will be made available on NokiaEDU, our professional development organization.
“At Nokia, we’ve always been excited by where technology will lead us. Our business has evolved to adapt to a changing world for 150 years, but what we stand for remains true. Our vision is to expand the human possibilities of the connected world. We continue to reimagine how technology blends into our lives, working for us, discreetly yet magically in the background. Today, we’re shaping a new revolution in how people, businesses, and services connect with each other, creating new opportunities for our customers, partners, and communities.”
“We’re weaving together the networks, data, and device technologies to create the universal fabric of our connected lives – where new applications flow without constraint, where services and industry automate and run seamlessly, where communities and businesses can rely on privacy, security, and near instant response times, connecting through the Cloud. Our distinctive Nokia approach to designing technology for people guides us as we prepare the way for the Internet of Things, and ready our networks for 5G. We create intuitive, dependable technology, to help people thrive.”
Introducing Lean Ops – Integration & Decision Support System
“Over the past year, #maketechhuman has featured debates about the exciting promises and ominous perils of humanity’s tech-driven future.”
“Leading thinkers, from technologists and academics to entrepreneurs and philanthropists, have shared their thoughts on how we can ensure that technology and society positively reinforce each other.”
“Now #maketechhuman is publishing an e-book to push forward the dialogue that’s unfolded in its articles, podcasts, videos, and events. Whether you’re new to the conversation or have been following along all along, you’ll find that debates around the future technology and humanity often center around five hotly contested fronts:”
- “Artificial intelligence—the most all-encompassing of all technologies;”
- “Privacy—how we’ll redefine it and protect it in the all-digital age;”
- “Security—how we’ll deal with an array of emerging digital threats;”
- “Equality—how technology can create and distribute this crucial element of human lives;”
- “Connection—the main reason any of this matters. We’re going to need each other, no matter what the future holds.”
“The #maketechhuman e-book breaks down these topics and explores the burning questions that technology presents in each case. Will artificially intelligent machines take our jobs? Is the Internet bringing us closer together as humans or further apart? Is safety from cybersurveillance worth the privacy tradeoffs? But the e-book doesn’t just ask questions, it also features solutions put forth from experts from IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde to Internet pioneer Vincent Cerf.”
“As we produce equipment that enhances digitalization, we believe it’s our responsibility to ensure our communications technologies are used to respect, and not infringe, human rights and privacy. We strive to apply appropriate safeguards to protect people’s personal data against unauthorized use or disclosure.” – Addressing human rights and right to privacy..
“We enhance the power of connectivity by creating product offerings that help overcome missing broadband connectivity, improve the resilience of communities to extreme weather changes and increase public safety. Our product offerings also support the battle against climate change.” – Improving people’s lives with technology.
“Becoming and staying relevant in today’s cloud environment is not only driven by offering more services faster, but also by understanding the emergence of new tectonic plates such as the fast shifting Carrier Cloud. This is a game changing paradigm, one which entails the underlying infrastructure and platform behind NFV, Network Functions Virtualization coupled with SDN, Software Defined Networking, at scale.”
“Moreover, the rationale behind engineering next generation SDPs, Service Delivery Platforms, and OSS, Operations Support Systems, in the digital communications industry has to do with delivering a pool of shared and fully automated network resources that developers addressing multimedia services (voice, video, data) with QoS, Quality of Service, do not need to replicate and can, therefore, take advantage of with the right SLA, Service Level Agreements, in place.”
“This redefines mutually beneficial “coopetition” where rich communication services are set to outdo or even make over-the-top ones better. A perfect match for Carrier Clouds purposely built to deliver a pool of shared cloud and network infrastructure: a programmable carrier grade fabric enabling the ecosystem to operate with unprecedented agility, unparalleled scalability and, equally important, at cost efficient levels. But what will it take to get there?
IIT Real Time Communications Conference & Expo – Program Schedule, Tuesday October 15 at 10:00am.
Tomorrow Tuesday I will be speaking at IIT Real Time Communications conference. I am scheduled to contribute to two sessions. The first one is a panel discussion that takes place at 9:00 am (see below). Thereafter, I will be presenting on “demystifying the fast emerging carrier cloud.”
My role in the panel is to cover the WAN, Wide Area Network, side of the story, which relates to how cloud technologies are impacting the more conventional network operator environment. Then, in my talk, I will further develop what the new carrier cloud entails and will position NFV, Network Functions Virtualization, and SDN, Software Defined Networking, as key developments in that space.
By the way, the above picture was taken at last year’s event where I also joined a panel. Back then, the topic I was engaged in had to do with a business ecosystem. Telcos and OTT, Over the Top, players did not yet see eye to eye for the most part. My belief was that we were already entering a new ecosystem where coopetition would become a fact of life for all of us. That should permeate through the value chain and, hence, happen in everyone’s best interest.
A year later, I do think that we are actually turning a corner for the better. The growing integration of IT and Carrier technologies is fostering one another’s awareness and understanding on what each brings to the table. That alone is changing behaviors on both sides by blending technologies and practices where it makes sense. We are now innovating at the intersection as well. Frankly speaking, many of us do not think that unnecessarily prolonging a debate in terms of seemingly irreconcilable bell-heads vs. net-heads is the way to go in what’s now the cloud age. So, I highly recommend attending Sarah Reedy’s panel discussion on Tuesday at 3:00 pm, which will involve T-Mobile’s Ahmad Armand, AT&T’s Mike Paradise and Comcast’s Ken Greene.
See you at IIT Real Time Communications Conference 2013.
“Panel participants will provide a set of defined perspectives that will allow participants to put each of the presentations of the Cloud Track into the context of the Cloud Service Consumer, Cloud Service Provider, and Cloud Service Creator. The Security, Resiliency, Performance and Governance of the Cloud will be woven into the discussion as examples are presented.”
IIT Real Time Communications Conference & Expo – Program Schedule, Tuesday October 15 at 09:00am.