ISO 9001:2015 journey with a fully remote Drupal agency
Core essence of certification :
The effectiveness of an organization depends much on its ability to perform several interconnected activities simultaneously in order to achieve intended results - the expectations of the interested parties. These relations have to be managed, prioritized and controlled.
I started on this journey as a program lead Q3 last year with a fully remote web services company providing Drupal services.
Sharing on how I approached the program (for phase 1) based on the organizational process maturity.
Through an initial review I discovered, the organization had very minimal process documentation segregated across projects and portfolios; managed by the project teams as documented solutions on what was working with them locally; some updated and some outdated with anyone in the project circle covering ground on the documents based on availability.
The organization had no baselines to refer back to for any functional circle; some of the global processes documented in pieces on google docs. I had to start from scratch if I had to declare its process operations. The organization had no process documentation or experience on audits.
I believe the journey could have been expedited if agility in this organization was not understood as “no documentation” or “convenience based documentation”. This limiting understanding of agile frameworks needed to change adding to another dimension of training running in parallel with this program.
Objective based activity theming for each functional and org. circle
I started the process by interviewing the unit leaders to identify objective based themes. This itself was a challenging exercise for some circles where leaders had their fingers everywhere, working on segregated activities day in and day out with minimal to no wholistic operational map. In turn not being able to control and manage where to focus and by how much ; correctively or proactively ; or have a pulse of current circle capability and needs (to list a few symptoms) of inside circle systemic operational mismanagement.
Systemic because, though things were working smoothly by solving local issues, the big picture for each of the circles and collection of circles as an organization was missing. There was no clarity on how a fix somewhere will impact or influence elsewhere in the same circle.
I knew I had to work both locally with each circle and also enable process flows across circles aligned to companies core business chain (scoping the program); while also looking into processes overarching the entire portfolio in parallel.
Outcome/Output based process naming and process templatization
While on this exercise with each functional circle, starting with grouping of related activities against a common objective; processes were identified and then appropriately titled to reflect the purpose and its objective(s). It was ensured that “a” process is not simply a folder to collect non related operational processes.
This went through multiple iterations to ensure granularity i.e. ensuring that number of processes were not too much or too less. And to also ensure that, each process had scope for innovation and context - specific tailoring without a need to alter the baselines. Context specific, tailored instances of process baselines were managed and stored in a different node in the handbook.
Followed by process templatization and a training for unit leads to have a common meaning of process attributes, each process was detailed to include inputs, outputs, responsible parties, risks and mitigation strategies, opportunities besides others.
Documentation of initial set of processes for each circle and the organization
For, initial set of processes for each circle, I followed an interview based data collection method to write the processes myself (leads had no experience writing process documents) with activity flow diagrams, collaboratively collecting notes on calls (to ensure simultaneous training on which data elements needs to go go in which part of the process document). This was followed by circle lead review and updates in WIP repository.
Overarching global processes such as onboarding, offboarding, security , conformance to standards, policy updates, tools and techniques updates, people allocation to projects, mentoring, life coaching and other such processes were covered while taking care of objective based theming.
Surprisingly, the exercise pushed the leads to look into each process with depth while documenting it to take care of gaps while on the process while also bringing clarity to roles and responsibilities.
Secondly this was an opportunity to look into ad-hoc activities that did not fit into any process definition and where to place them in the process model for their better management.
Thirdly every process documentation from the leads also built a futuristic backlog. Providing an opportunity to reflect on process scalability against numbers of partnerships, projects, people and other drivers.
Program enabled other operational solutions in the ecosystem.
While documenting processes. circle leads also got the opportunity to think more on what elements of the process could be measured to confirm on process commitments. Identifying such metrics also enabled a mapping to KPI management system while could also be fed into the OKR system.
Acknowledging a systemic need for process owner(s) as a new role
Each process was then assigned to the relevant lead as process owner post moving to handbook with a global notification for organization to access and refer when needed. Process owner was introduced as a role emerging as a systemic need with the process maturity and maintenance taking shape. Responsibilities for the role were defined.
How process structuring and templatization enabled process flows in customer success circle
While this program was ongoing, customer success maps were defined (for each stage in the agency partnership model) to be structurally in sync with the template. This helped provide a visual radiator for each stage in the customer partnership to allow all stakeholders to know where they are enabling the ecosystem.
Not everything on the customer and company journey can add to process documents. To enable minimal process documentation and manage depth, customer success maps were enabled with MoSCoW to provide a must have critical path mapping to process documents.
Rest of the activities on the customer journey, being specific to the context. These were left open and not added to process documents to ensure minimal micro-management and provide autonomy to experiment and innovate.
Cross process linking within each circle and across circles while mapping to organizational strategic goals
For each circle the processes had to be weaved to define a flow to allow for clarity on how each process was feeding into the other. This exercise implicitly helped to know if roles were demanding more than what was feasible for anyone to accomplish; and also identifying any cross - process communication deltas.
Cross pollination of processes across units was covered next.
Phase 2 was planned to cover process reviews and audits, collection of data and updating the process definitions (process engineering) with trainings for each circle to complete the feedback loop.
Phase 3 was planned to cover internal and external audits.
With the complexity around, the (minimum viable) processes need to be living documents.
Having a certification is not an end. Whether one receives the certification or not, I believe every organization must take this journey. The earlier in its maturity cycle the better it is. The journey itself is a learning experience for each circle and organization as a whole, providing in-depth clarity on what exists locally and collectively, to then provide a clear visibility on what is redundant and can be discarded, what needs to change or improved upon or what needs to be introduced at the functional level. Further , this needs to be taken as a dedicated owned and prioritized program.
This exercise further helped the company in context to eliminate lot of cross functional noise arising from redundant communication, unclear roles and introduction of effective and efficient operational solutions for better alignment against needs. Proactive determination of risks with each process almost became a practice. Process ownership and responsible parties with each process ensured collective ownership to the objective and collaborative participation.
The impact list is endless. Most important being workforce now understands the important of process documentation, enabled by the ISO process itself.
The company got the certificate last month.