P-D-C-A – For those of you in manufacturing or quality management, this is probably tattooed into brain. For the uninitiated, the concept of PDCA, came from W. Edwards Deming approximately 60 years ago as he was working with Japanese companies to help rebuild post-war Japan.

In meetings with people like Akio Morita (eventual co-founder of Sony), Deming conveyed that it was important to go through 4 steps in any process or product rollout and those are “Plan, Do, Check, Act”. If you executed on this 4-step standardized process you could achieve quality improvements in your process or product, like this:

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Later in life, Deming argued that the “Check” phase probably wasn’t the right name as it should be “Study” implying that after we do anything we should study, think, and insure it meets our requirements. What I have found is that in our world of IT and specifically Unified Communications and Contact Centers, we love to Plan, Do, and Act, but we often skip over checking and studying. Deming and the entire world of Quality Management argue that inspection, audition, and assessment are keys for continuous improvement, but I would argue that for many of our peers in the IT industry, we are waiting for the miracle to happen:

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I imagine you have seen this scenario before:

 Cool technology comes out in the market place
 Business case is created to acquire the technology
 Rollout plan is created to deploy the technology
 Technology is rolled out
 Immediate gains are felt from the “low hanging fruit”
 Do nothing (aka ‘Expect a Miracle’)
 Upgrade occurs a year or two later
 Expect a Miracle
 Upgrade occurs a year or two later
 Expect a Miracle
 Technology replaced

It seems something is missing in that progression: the inspection, the optimization, and the ongoing adoption of the technology. Deming recognized that in production or processes, the needed actions and activities to gain improvement were recurring, however, often missed is the step that enables the recurrence to be more productive than the previous cycle.

It’s also important to recognize that failure to perform the audit and optimization phase can result in significant outages and downtime. A recent analysis of Avaya’s Critical Accounts Program failure mode analysis indicated that nearly 10% of the most impactful customer outages come from these types of self-induced failures where the solution wasn’t optimized or the changes during the course of business took down the infrastructure.

So, the time to change is now and I have 3 recommendations in order to do this:

1. Make it part of your plan: In any technology rollout, pre-schedule your audit, optimization, and evaluation phase and insure that it is scheduled with a well-defined accountability model (aka RACI)

2. Don’t forget about the users: Remember the users before, during and after technology is deployed and insure they are getting the gains for which you had planned. The checking phase should include your users.

3. Leverage help: Professional consulting and services organizations can be invaluable to providing that expert, unbiased eye as well as experience in assessment, audit and optimization.

So, if you are waiting for a miracle to achieve improvements in your technology, I think you may have to keep on waiting. However, if you want to do something about it now, it’s pretty straight-forward to get started.