6 Questions to Ask to Determine Your Approach to EQMS

When it comes to determining which Enterprise Quality Management Software (EQMS) provider to select, there's no one solution that's best for everyone. Your existing IT structure, type of business, geographic footprint, budget, and other considerations will factor heavily into the type of solution you pursue.


There are a number of options to pursue with respect to an EQMS implementation, briefly highlighted below:

  • Stand-Alone EQMS: Stand-alone EQMS provides capabilities for managing quality processes across the value chain from a centralized "hub." Able to be implemented independently, EQMS vendors provide extensive suites of automated EQMS functionality such as supplier quality management, corrective and preventative actions (CAPA) management, document and audit management, and more.

  • PLM-Based EQMS: PLM solutions provide strong workflow capabilities for managing every stage of the engineering process. Today, many leading PLM vendors are extending their scope of offerings to include quality management functionalities like CAPA, SQM, change control, and document management on top of their existing workflow platforms.

  • MOM Based EQMS: As MOM based applications have become more common on the shop floor over the past decade, many vendors are now recognizing the need for better quality management and extending complementary EQMS functionalities with their solutions, often in the form of statistical process control, CAPA, traceability, and SQM.

  • ERP-Based EQMS: As most global manufacturing organizations today have a large ERP footprint acting as the system of record over the enterprise, many ERP vendors today are offering considerable EQMS capabilities, such as NC/CAPA, document management, SQM, complaint handling, and more. For small and medium organizations especially, one of the primary benefits of this approach is the use of a single platform.

To determine your optimal approach, you're going to want to consider and weigh the six questions below. Keep in mind that typical answers to these questions are not universal and often similar companies can answer them differently.

Moreover, most companies will have to answer all of these questions simultaneously along with many other questions, so it is important to effectively balance the importance of all these different factors. A software decision such as this is never binary, even though some of these questions may seem like a simple yes or no.

1. Which function or department is driving your quality management needs?

Essentially, this factor speaks to identifying how you think of your quality organization's "center of gravity." If it's engineering or manufacturing, it may make more sense for you to go with a PLM-based or MOM-based EQMS. If it's corporate quality, stand-alone or ERP-based EQMS may be your best option.

2. Are there any specific pain points that dominate your need for enterprise quality?

As mentioned above, if your organization is highly focused on engineering or manufacturing, MOM- or PLM-based EQMS may be your best option. If you're leveraging contract manufacturers and suppliers, and are seeking upstream visibility into operations, PLM-based or ERP-based EQMS may still be the way to go.

However, the more you want your solution to span the value chain and serve as that "hub" for managing quality content and data, the more you may want to lean toward the side of stand-alone EQMS.

3. Which is your bigger focus: compliance and risk, or driving business value and product quality?

There are many organizations, especially ones in highly regulated or asset-intensive industries that work toward a proactive approach to compliance and risk with EQMS functionalities. If this resonates, your best option may be to go with stand-alone EQMS. If business value and product quality are larger motives for a quality implementation, you probably have more flexibility in terms of your solution approach.

4. What does your existing IT footprint/maturity level look like? In which projects have you already invested?

Organizations often make IT investments that support core competencies. So, if your company is, say, in the middle of an ERP deployment, ERP-based EQMS should be a consideration. Likewise, if you generate the most value through design or production efforts, you likely have a significant PLM of MOM footprint currently, and extending EQMS through these platforms will usually be the most cost-effective.

If you don't have significant resources tied up in an existing system, then it may be easier to justify the value provided by stand-alone EQMS.

5. What are your speed and cost requirements for an implementation?

As most IT budget holders require specific time-to-solution value, this will typically play a large role in the way you approach your solution options. With these considerations in mind, pure play tends to win in both cases—speed and cost.

However, time to value is closely related to existing IT investments. While stand-alone EQMS providers often have an advantage in this area, there are several MOM, PLM, and ERP vendors today that are expanding quality capabilities and are increasingly willing to be flexible with new customers in this regard.

6. What's your quality vision?

This last and least specific question may be the most important. When determining which solution approach makes the most sense for you, it's crucial to think about your long-term quality vision. LNS Research's recent quality management survey showed that nearly half of all executives feel their existing, disparate IT architecture is a substantial roadblock to quality improvements.

The point is, don't continue on this path and just make an investment to fill a need. Rather, it's important to do your due diligence and invest in a scalable solution that will continue to deliver cross-functional value over time.

As you can see, the answers to these questions create many multi-branched paths for companies to follow. And company priorities differ considerably based on their inherent DNA, from concrete attributes like existing software architectures to less quantifiable business aspects like organizational vision.

When considering an EQMS implementation, asking the right questions is a critical first step to ensuring future success. The LNS Research Solution Selection Guide is a critical resource in answering the above and other questions on your solution selection journey. For a free copy of this guide, click here.

Matthew Littlefield is President and Principal Analyst for LNS Research based in Cambridge, MA.