Venture Knowledgist Quality Integration
BUSINESS INTEGRATED E-QUALITY - INNOVATIVE
OPPORTUNITY FOR MODERN ADVANCED ORGANIZATIONS
Quality is the most important business factor for organizations'
performance and competitiveness. This is still more valid in e-business
environments of the new emergent economy. Quality is particularly
related to an organization's products. However, its attainment necessarily
deals with internal business management/leadership, business processes,
and relationships with external interested parties, especially customers,
suppliers and partners. Solutions of ICT (Information and Communication
Technology), especially based on Internet technology, have already
today a very significant role in realizing all business fundamentals.
Internet based business (e-business) covers all private and public
business sectors and all kinds of organizations. The concept "e-quality"
refers here to professional quality approach related to e-business
environments and use of e-business means in quality related tasks.
The phenomenon of e-business and its features that are relevant for
quality context are highlighted in this paper. E-business is not only
a technology issue and therefore it has very radical effects in all
fundamental principles of the professional quality discipline. Considering
these issues, and reporting on experiences in developing practical
applications of e-quality are the main topics of this paper. E-Quality
Portal "killer" application is presented as a case example.
e-Quality Portal is a cutting-edge gateway to business reality for
enhancing quality awareness, improved use of expertise, performance
management, and interested party confidence. It provides an innovative
portal solution to business integrated quality management (QM) and
quality assurance (QA) needs. This application was initiated as joint
venture of Sonera Corporation and Finnevo Ltd.
Within all kinds of organizations and their business processes and
relationships the use of information technology has been increased
overwhelmingly. This has very often taken place in terms of ICT experts
only. This has induced to difficult and even chaotic situations in
many business cases. Modern Internet solutions have become almost
obligatory in all kinds of businesses but typically they have only
not made the total situation easier. Fundamentally these solutions
are much more than only technological issues. A professional quality
approach is in e-business at least as important as in conventional
business environments but very apparently in many cases more important.
In general quality is understood as fulfilling the needs and expectations
of all interested parties of an organization effectively and efficiently
through organization's products. In general those products consist
of goods and services, and they are realized through business processes.
In competitive market situations quality approach requires striving
for excellent business performance of the organizations. A core issue
of quality management, the company-wide business integrated realization
of quality, is primarily based on the beneficial use of data, information,
and knowledge, and including corporate wisdom. Therefore means of
e-business are very promising for professional quality applications,
and even quality experts should follow the general development of
Typically researchers, implementers, and promoters of the e-business
are not at all familiar with systematic professional quality management
principles and practices. Practical business people don't see the
real problem or they see the business situations too chaotic in order
to have possibilities to touch them. E-business practitioners are,
in fact, in a very "blurry" situation, when businesses and
business leaders are "living on the fault line". On the
other hand, normally the quality practitioners don't know even fundamentals
basics of the the e-business. Therefore one can report very little
practical implementations of quality and quality management in the
field of e-business or they are very trivial, e.g. only realizing
conventional "quality documents" in electronic form. E-quality
has much bigger opportunities.
E-business as a global phenomenon
E-business - electronic, especially Internet Protocol (IP) based
form of business - is today's reality and increasing opportunity for
organizations in all sectors. E-business is not only a technological
issue. Today Internet covers already the whole life. Internet provides
a worldwide IP-based technological infrastructure that is growing
very strongly. The Net includes all the people, organizations, cultures,
and communities, and it has changed all these interaction environments
and behaviors. Also quality professionalism should adapt itself to
these new business realities.
Trying to understand the unique development and expansion of e-business
one should consider the fundamental phenomena affecting the development.
This includes the following:
- Where social systems improve incrementally, technology improves
exponentially (cf. Alvin Toffler: "Future Shock")
- In every eighteen months, for the foreseeable future, electronic
chip density (and hence the electronic computing power) would double
while cost remained constant (Moore's Law).
- The utility (value) of a network is increased as the square of the
number of its uses (Metcalfe's Law).
- In the evolving from market-place to "market-space", it
is not only the technological infrastructure that is different, but
the content and context of transactions as well. Complex, geographically
dispersed organizations were the result of market inefficiency. Organizations
organized to reduce the transaction costs of repeated and complicated
activities involved in creating, selling, and distributing their goods
and services. And they exist only to the extent that they can reduce
transaction costs more effectively than the others (cf. Coase's studies
- As market becomes more efficient, the size and organizational complexity
of the modern organizations becomes uneconomic. Organizations will
become smaller, comprised of complicated webs of well-managed relationships
with the interested parties of the business.
One can recognize very big potentials with e-business. This concerns
all kinds of organizations, including both enterprises (corporations
or SMEs) and not-for-profit organizations (governmental or local civil
services or authorities, and the third sector voluntary organizations).
Effects of the e-business can be widely seen in organizations' business
processes, products, operating and roles of the interested parties
A key strategic issue in e-business is the crucial role of information,
knowledge, intelligence and intellectual property. The market capitalization
(the genuine value of the organizations, excluding the hype) has become
more critical than loss & profit statements and it is more strongly
based on knowledge and intellectual capital of the company than on
physical assets. Also networking of the partnering organizations and
individuals is emphasized especially through wired or wireless (mobile)
Internet. Internet technology has enabled information access to masses.
With this medium all business partners have 24*7 hours connections
with each other world-widely. It is also facilitating communication
within modern virtual organizations. All these things also emphasize
the significance of information security and ethical issues.
Effects of e-business can be widely seen in organizations' business
processes, products, operating and roles of the interested parties
(stakeholders). These viewpoints include:
- new opportunities of business realization when applying web technologies
for improving customer relationship (CRM - customer relationship management),
human resource management (ERM - employee relationship management),
supplier partnership (SCM - supplier chain management) and business-internal
processes (ERP - enterprise resource planning),
- value network considerations among business partners,
- emphasis of information and knowledge components in products,
- customer focused and centric operation during the different phases
of custom, and different embodiments of the customers (recipient,
user, buyer, payer, regulator, expert support, leadership etc.),
- employee satisfaction in innovative knowledge work,
- aspects relating to owners, especially investors with exit expectations,
- needs, opportunities and responsibilities of the society, communities
and public authorities.
The new world of e-business where organizations live and work today
is blurry, and it is driven by three major forces:
- Speed - Every aspect of business and the connected organization
operates and changes in real time.
- Connectivity - Everything is electronically connected to everything
else: processes, products, people, businesses, companies, countries,
- Intangibles - Every offer has both tangible and intangible economic
value. The intangible is growing faster. Information and knowledge
issues (especially tacit knowledge) are emphasized in e-business.
Particularly the e-business movement sets requirements for business
leaders and for managing processes and related systems. E-business
organizations will be living for years to come in the center of various
turbulent environments caused by the above mentioned forces. This
calls for special means and capabilities. Particularly this is affecting
in all management structures and actions (including quality management),
and the business can't any more be managed in traditional ways.
Due to competitiveness also e-business companies must strive towards
excellence of business performance. That is also the intention of
all modern quality efforts. Business excellence can be achieved by
deploying appropriate approaches with superior effectiveness and efficiency
irrespective of the dynamics of business environments. The crucial
issue is that organizations realize its vital business requirements.
Mobility is the key issue
The Internet Protocol as an industry standard for packaging and moving
data and new packet based services enables wide scale realization
of mobility. According to the principal promise of the technology,
everything that is needed will be with you all the time.
During the last years all major business players have clearly become
committed to the future of wide scale use of mobility. Considering
mobile Internet as a technology in this respect, one can say that
it is still in the early market stage, although there are some applications,
which have already been able to attract millions of pragmatists. There
are already now in the world more mobile terminal devices than personal
computers, and in 2005 it is estimated that there will be about 1,2
billion people using mobile phones, and new kinds of PDA's (Personal
Digital Assistants) are being developed continually. So, even if there
were to be in the future some company which does not utilize mobility
in its business activities, processes or products, at least its employees
and customers will.
The development of mobility is changing drastically the nature and
role of physical accessibility. For instance, accessibility to work
was determined by the effort and time needed for travelling; now it
is possible for you to have your work with you anywhere, whenever
you want to participate in it. Full use of mobility means optimization
of all traffic & transportation and allocation of time as far
as itineraries and scheduled use of time are concerned. If realized,
this will have enormous effects and consequences to everything.
Basically the core consists of the easy availability of needed data,
information and knowledge at the appropriate opportune time. Utilizing
mobility improves exceeding expectations concerning the availability
of data, information and explicit knowledge in a focused, personalized
and situation/location-specifically relevant way. Impacts on better
use of tacit knowledge are indirect and based on multi-tiered consequences.
The ways in which positive effects are realized include optimized
human logistics, intensified leverage of tacit knowledge of better
empowered and equipped people, and the enhancement of vital knowledge-based
automatic or semiautomatic services.
From traditional quality approach to
Professional quality principles and methodology for quality management
(QM) and quality assurance (QA) has long roots and development around
the world during decades since 1920s. Now the most important sources
and references of contemporary quality approaches can be grouped in
- ISO 9000 standards and their derivatives
- Quality awards criteria and business excellence models
- Benchmarks and the best practices of advanced organizations
- Teachings of world-widely recognized quality gurus
All this knowledge references reflect today very similar ideas and
practices generally labeled with TQM (Total Quality Management). These
should also be taken - and are also possible to take - into account
when developing QM/QA solutions for e-business environments. The most
essential guiding principle and strategy for quality realization is
integration. That means that genuinely achievements of quality can
take place only within normal business activities. This excludes e.g.
distinct "quality systems", which even may be dangerous.
"E-Quality" concept refers to the way the quality integration
can be realized in organizations operating in e-business environments.
Another aspect that is related to e-quality concept is how to use
the means of e-business in professional QM and QA tools and practices.electronic
business, environment and tools in the context of QM/QA within integrated
business management. In this new world, distinct quality systems definitively
When integrating quality expertise into the e-business, the quality
professionalism must follow the general development of business. That
- Flexibility to accommodate to the new needs of business
- Avoid isolation
- Develop itself - as an expertise - along with the general development,
e.g. to use means of new e-business technology for QM/QA purposes
- Provide clearly demonstrable benefits to others within the new business
Business leaders should be able to obtain identified benefits from
the knowledge of quality experts. That requires:
- Development of suitable professional quality- related principles,
practices, and methodology for the e-business needs
- Modern professional quality experts familiar with e-business facts
- Effective communication between business leaders and quality experts
Modern business integrated quality approach is based on systematic
managerial actions regarding to e.g. business system and its organization
structure, business environments, interested parties (stakeholders),
business performance and targets, management and leadership, technology,
products (goods and services), business processes, work and employeeship,
customs and customers, and company culture. Now in new e-business
environments there are fundamental changes in all these issues. This
means that remarkable innovations are necessary also in quality thinking
and practices, e.g. relating to quality management principles, quality
management and quality assurance practices (including TQM concept),
quality management frameworks (especially ISO 9000 standards and business
excellence or quality awards models), quality methodology, and quality
expertise and experts. Thus, all quality related concepts are still
relevant but their substance could be understood in a new way.
Only two examples that, however, are very central issues for QM and
QA are considered here, the concepts of organization and management.
These both concepts have very changed states of reference in e-business
compared with the traditional business environments (figure 1). Corporations
have changed into virtual organizations whose borders are rather vague.
There is no more any single clear organization where one could implement
e.g. a quality management system. Nobody is any more managing this
kind of complex organization but there are many individual actors
with different roles and performance options depending on access,
reach, and control characteristics of the actors.
Figure 1. Actors and virtual organizations in e-business environments.
Networks are often unplanned, emergent systems. Their growth is sporadic
When the business to be controlled is getting mobile and thus potentially
increasing its variety, the controlling / regulating system (e.g.
QM) ought to increase its corresponding variety more than the mobile
one. Otherwise the system will spin out of real control. Managing
complexity goes beyond using simplistic tools and the feedback cycle
needs to be at least ten times faster than the response time of the
system. This is a key challenge to leaders and managers and to the
quality professionals who support them in the e-business environments.
One has often seen how leaders have responded to this challenge through
suppression and pseudo-management with no or even extremely bad results.
Cutting down the variety of complexity through authoritative power
or simplicity is strictly in conflict with the requirements of improving
business excellence in dynamic environments of the e-business. Meeting
these call for a special leadership focus on values, principles (guiding
ideas) and policies, and innovative use of empowerment Especially
in these environments the effective use of information and knowledge
- particularly tacit knowledge - is emphasized. Conventional quality
systems and quality manuals have no more any role for QM or QA in
these conditions. Quality management system should be understood primarily
as a mental system or as a general concept for a good systematic management
Special features of dynamic environments require that win/win-partnerships
play an especially important role when crystallizing options in opportune
moments of truth. Here "buyer" and "seller" represent
the two parties in any human or business interaction that lends itself
to realize a win/win-partnership. All elements in this context are
different when mobile as opposed to being non-mobile. The simple concept
customer is no more clear or useful enough in all Internet-related
Corporate business portals, challenging
solutions to the needs of QM and QA
The organization needs to share information and knowledge among employees
and people in the interested parties, locate information and knowledge
sources, push information to users, or create a central location to
navigate through data that one can benefit from. This is the most
essential aspect of quality management and quality assurance.
In order to manage situation, organizations have invested in IT solutions.
However the development and use of the IT solutions has very often
been problematic in practice. During the past years nearly every new
application and idea created by software industry has made the jobs
of people more complex and difficult, rather than simplifying their
responsibilities for them. This includes problems for employees and
business leaders making operational and strategic decisions, and today
they all have to access many IT applications to do their jobs. In
many cases the data sources, systems, and applications located throughout
the organization need to be combined to present the summarized information
or desired report format that executives expect to review. Corporate-wide
systems are complex and designed for a specific purpose and function,
so the IT department is required to deploy many different and often
unrelated applications and modules to fill the information and processing
needs of the entire organization. An incredible amount of training
time is needed for an employee to learn how to effectively use such
a complex suite of applications and all of the processes and steps
involved to complete their assigned responsibilities.
The corporate intranets were originally designed and implemented
to meet the needs for shared information across the organization.
Correspondingly Internet and extranet solutions were developed for
external purposes. Using the corporate intranet, employees are able
to access corporate information using web browser to find forms, open
applications to perform their jobs, and review a customer or development
project status, and for many other activities. The corporate intranet
solution provides navigation to different enterprise systems and documents.
Corporate intranets are responsible for hosting a multitude of applications
and an exponential growing number of documents to be readily available
for employees to use. As intranet sites grew larger, a new set of
problems created related chaotic situations with information access,
information maintenance, knowledge-sharing, and security. There are
a lot of doubts about the real benefits of the existing emergent business
Internet, intranet, and extranet solutions. Anyway, all these IT solutions
have been used very poorly for the purposes of QM and QA. Especially
the fundamental new features of e-quality have not taken into account.
Portals solution are solutions to help in this situation. They may
provide be a facilitator facilitation to knowledge that helps employees
people operate and make decisions. Portal is a Web based interface
to a wide range of content, services and links; a gateway that is
or proposes to be a major starting site for users when they get connected
to the Web or that users tend to visit as an anchor site. It adds
value by selecting the content sources and assembling them in a simple-to-navigate
and customized interface for presentation to the end user. There are
general or integrated portals and specialized or niche portals. Portals
typically offer such services as Web searching, news, reference tools,
access to online shopping venues, stock quotes, e-mail, chat rooms
and community forums.
There are several issues and perspectives and issues to consider
when looking at how an organization can leverage knowledge for the
purpose of making better, faster, consistent, and more informedgood
decisions at opportune time. This is very crucial when considering
QM in e-business environments. The perspectives are operational and
strategic. Operational issues are those faced by employees responsible
for completing transactional, day-to-day, and well-established tasks.
Employees responsible for operational issues in the organization are
constantly looking for ways to fulfil requirements of customers and
markets and to improve or simplify existing processes or tasks. Strategic
issues are those faced by employees responsible for ensuring that
the overall mission, vision and strategies of the organization are
met. People responsible for making strategic decisions are tracking
financial and other information that measures how well the organization
is performing and improving the performance. The information presented
tofor strategic decision-makersing is used to monitor and analyze
the internal and external business performance so that, when necessary,
appropriate improvements can be made for the organization to remain
effective in the marketplace. Very similar issues relate also to QA,
but then additionally organization's external parties, e.g. customers,
are also involved.
The portal solution is a collection of browser-based technologies
- including software and infrastructure - that work together to aggregate
a selected subset of information into a central location. That allows
different employees to gain access to, collaborate with, make decisions,
and to take action on a wide variety of business-related information
regardless of employee's virtual location or departmental affiliations,
the location of information, or the format in which the information
is stored. Employees can then easily use information that is relevant
to their roles or business and personal requirements and in the process
work more effectively with each other. A corporate portal is usually
structured around roles inside the organization. An enterprise portal,
by comparison, expands the corporate portal to include customers,
vendors, and other roles outside the organization.
Development of the IT solutions have been, however, problematic.
During the past years nearly every new application and idea created
by software industry has made the jobs of employees more complex and
difficult, rather than simplifying their responsibilities for them.
This includes problems for employees making operational and strategic
decisions, and today all employees have to access many IT applications
to do their jobs. In many cases the data sources, systems, and applications
located throughout the organization need to be combined to present
the summarized information or desired report format that executives
expect to review. Corporate-wide systems are complex and designed
for a specific purpose and function, so the IT department is required
to deploy many different and often unrelated applications and modules
to fill the information and processing needs of the entire organization.
An incredible amount of training time is needed for an employee to
learn how to effectively use such a complex suite of applications
and all of the processes and steps involved to complete their assigned
The corporate intranets were originally designed and implemented
to meet the needs for shared information across the organization.
Using the corporate intranet, employees are able to access corporate
information using web browser to find forms, open applications to
perform their jobs, and review a customer's project status, and for
many other activities. The corporate intranet solution provides navigation
to different enterprise systems and documents. Corporate intranets
are responsible for hosting a multitude of applications and an exponential
growing number of documents to be readily available for employees
to use. As intranet sites grow larger, a new set of problems has been
created related chaotic situations with information access, knowledge-sharing,
and security. The key problems the corporate intranet is likely to
encountered include the following:
- Employees need to make more informed and consistent decisions.
- Employees are asked to complete more activities online.
- Intranet sites contain thousands of pages and continue to grow.
- Intranet pages must be continually updated.
- Employees must still access information from multiple sources.
- Navigation through your organization's intranet becomes impossible.
To begin to envision an intranet solution that can be implemented
to deliver the type of features and services that one want to have
available for employees, there must be an appropriate knowledge- and
information-sharing strategy. Then a portal is an intranet concept
that solves these problems and issues the organization is currently
faced with. A portal is an intranet "window" that presents
information to users and an intranet "door" that allows
users to pass through to reach selected destinations. The portal creates
the central location where navigation services are available for employees
to find information, launch applications, interact with corporate
data, identify collaborators, share knowledge, and make decisions.
Such portals can provide a successful intranet strategy for the organization.
Portals have the following features:
- A consistent view of the organization
- Information organization and search capabilities
- Direct access to corporate knowledge and resources
- Direct links to reports, analysis, and queries
- Direct links to relative data and knowledge experts
- Individual identity and personalized access to content
The case: E-quality portal
The e-Quality Portal is a cutting-edge gateway to quality-related
business reality for enhancing quality awareness, improved use of
expertise, performance management and interested party confidence.
Thus, e-Quality Portal is the solution for both QM and QA. To the
portal owner organization (POX) the e-Quality Portal is a software
engineering product and to the end users (members of the portal organization
and its interested parties) the Portal provides automatic services
for quality management and quality assurance.
Targeted grade of performance of the e-Quality Portal was to create
a killer application to enable to bring about a disruptive and regenerating
radical improvement compared with the following traditional quality
management and quality assurance practices:
- Conventional poserish activities of a kind of service provided by
- "Quality System" as a distinct system with inadequate
integration with business management to aim at quality of management
- Quality Manual as a distinct collection of disciplinary written
procedure etc. documents, which are typically more harmful than useful
or then forgotten to bookshelves for auditors of certifying bodies
- Third Party Certificate as a piece of paper with the purpose to
end interaction instead of confidence creating discussions with customer.
Figure 2. Challenge of the e-Quality Portal to enhance the effectiveness
and efficiency of the use of knowledge and information
The biggest challenge for the e-Quality Portal is the poor use of
business related knowledge and information that may appear in many
forms (see figure 2). Knowledge may be missing in general, or just
internally. It may be unused because the needed tacit or relevant
explicit knowledge is not available or accessible at the moment of
truth or is not in a useful form. It may be used but not appropriately
or at opportune time and place, or it may be misused. As one can see,
a greater challenge than to stretch the usefulness of explicit knowledge,
information and data to its extreme is to bring about a radical improvement
of utilization of tacit knowledge and information.
Quality assurance should be realized in a way that is most efficient
and suitable in the light of a customer-case requirements and taking
into account the competitive aspects of the marketplace. Product features
(including both goods and services) which take into account customers'
needs and expectations do offer an opportunity to provide also superior
QA services to the customer. Thus quality assurance can be seen as
a value-adding part (i.e. a service-element) in company's products-offerings
(figure 3). The new e-business technology creates completely new "e-certificate"
solutions for quality assurance. E-certificate is an essential QA
feature of the e-Quality Portal. E-certificate consists of Internet
site(s) providing for assurance that an item conforms to a standard
or specification indicated by the certificate. It gives also an opportunity
to personalize and create partnership-dedicated efficient solution
Figure 3. QA is based on factual process-based information for customers'
confidence. It is a communicational service-element to the customer.
E-certificate uses modern Internet facilities for QA communication.
E-business based on electronic technology, especially Internet Protocol,
and particularly using mobile technology has enormous effects and
consequences to everything including the behavior of individuals,
groups, organizations, corporations, and societies. Quality management
and quality assurance are still crucial issues for business competitiveness
and may be handled in a professional way also in these changed conditions.
One should only have profound knowledge on realities of e-business
and professional principles and methodology of the modern quality
approach. E-quality is a challenge for quality professionals who are
developing business integrated quality solutions for e-business environments
and using tools for QM and QA based on e-business means. E-Quality
Portal is a modern killer app for these purposes, and its e-Certificate
application opens unlimited new opportunities towards innovative and
customer-focused QA solutions.
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[This text was presented as a conference paper in Harrogate, UK in
2002 and Prague, Czech Republic 2004]