How a Solution Provider Gets from a 97% to 99.9% Success Rate – and Why You Should Care

05 Jun 2018

What’s the difference between 97 and 99.9? If you said 2.9, you’re only partially correct. When it comes to the successful implementation of retail store technology, the difference between a solution provider with a 97% first-time project success rate and one that delivers 99.9% can amount to thousands of dollars. It costs retailers both in the direct cost of troubleshooting and repairing problems that emerge from an error made along the way, plus the impact of delaying the project and missing out on the benefits of the new technology. Anyone who has witnessed a big store tech deployment derailing knows how painful it can be.

The reason some solution providers can deliver 99.9% while others only 97% or 98% comes down to this: how rigorously they approach quality and compliance.

It’s great to have highly trained and experienced staff – but even the best make mistakes. It’s laudable to employ a quality assessor to verify quality at the end of the project, before anything goes out the door. But when they find a mistake, it takes a long time to track it back to the source. The only way to get to that 99.9% is to implement quality controls and quality assurance at every step of the project.

The Power of Quality

Five years ago, Level 10 became one of few retail IT solution providers capable of delivering a 99.9% first-time project success rate, by incorporating a robust Quality Management System. At every step of your project, each team member documents their work though checklists, digital photos and electronic recordings. Then, a second person independently verifies the quality of a technician’s work before the next step can proceed.

That catches mistakes so they can be corrected early. It also helps for troubleshooting down the line. Say you just installed new access points in a store, but they stop working. Your first instinct is to order replacements. But that doesn’t work either, or the next set after that. At that point you realize it must be something else that’s wrong, perhaps a firewall issue. By then you have lost a lot of time.

If the AP installation project was installed with excellent quality control and compliance, things would go differently. All that documentation would quickly eliminate AP configuration as the issue, since you have verification that they were all loaded 100% correctly. You could move on to the firewall a lot faster, simplifying the troubleshooting and getting the project back on track a lot faster.

Research by McKinsey found poor quality processes and lack of alignment between staff incentives and overall project goals accounts for 40% of overspending on large IT projects. Excelling at core project-management practices, such as short delivery cycles and rigorous quality checks, is one of four key pillars to prevent these disasters and achieve project goals

Identifying a Commitment to Quality

It can be hard to get past the hype to discern whether a potential solution provider partner has a true quality management process. Here are some things to look for:

  • They live quality. Quality isn’t a one-time push, but part of the culture. The solution provider holds brief daily quality meetings, discussing any issues that emerged the previous day. They talk to their staff about quality relentlessly through communications, training, meetings, messaging and so on, to keep it front and center. Compliance – adhering to the quality processes – is intrinsic to how staff is evaluated.
  • They use quality assurance tools. They use things like digital cameras, electronic recording, checklists and direct supervision, and attach names to each phase of the project, to document every step.
  • They have quality metrics. Every step of the project has a clear definition of success and an accurate way to measure it.
  • Gated controls are built into their processes. Projects don’t proceed to the next step until the previous one is verified. No one checks their own work: it’s always confirmed by a second person working independently.
  • They use customer portals. A good provider makes all that quality control documentation available to you via customer portal where you can drill down to individual steps.
  • They use proactive communications. Best practices also mean you’re kept in the loop as the project progresses and you are made aware as issues are discovered and addressed.

The term IT compliance is often associated with things like PCI and EMV. But those regulations and others like them only tell you what the end result needs to be. Quality and compliance is all about how to get there: the project management best practices that reduce risk and ensure a project successfully reaches its goals.

A thorough quality management program adds some additional time and cost to the upfront part of a project. But it pays off big time by assuring that a store tech rollout actually delivers on its TCO and ROI projections. At Level 10 we have found the cost of NOT using solid quality management methodologies is about three times higher than doing things right the first time. That’s why every Level 10 project includes Quality Management, and that’s one of the things that sets Level 10 apart among retail solution providers.