May 19, 2020

Leadership strategy: Creating a culture of good governance through quality assurance

quality assurance
Leadership strategy
Martin Ellingham
6 min
Leadership strategy: Creating a culture of good governance through quality assurance

How do you know that your business is moving in the right direction? How can you tell that your teams are working together towards one shared goal? How do you maintain your success in a sustainable way for years to come? The answer to all three questions is governance. It might not sound exciting, but good governance is vital for success in your business – especially when it comes to managing customer feedback effectively.

Say, for instance, that a customer gets in touch with a complaint. How do you make sure that their feedback gets to the people who need to see it, and that it's acted on as swiftly as possible? Without governance, you have no effective way to know, potentially leaving gaps between teams and departments for information to fall into. Once the information falls into these gaps, you also won't know when it'll next be discovered – or what impact its disappearance will have on your business.

In any successful business, each department needs to work together, sharing unity and focus. Not only does this mean being able to trace information flows across your business, it also means being able to treat your customers equally. Without the shared knowledge of how to respond to different customer queries, different agents will offer different solutions to the same problem. This scenario will only have one result: damage to your reputation and a hit to your bottom line.

So, how do you bring in a culture of good governance to improve customer interactions and boost performance?

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Using QA to bring teams together

The first step towards establishing a culture of good governance in your business is making sure QA is consistent across every department. Most companies acknowledge the importance of QA, but still overlook how it can bring teams together and stamp out breakdowns in communication. This is because many see it as a checkbox exercise, which only serves to obscure the bigger picture of how effective feedback management can have a positive impact on a business.

Implemented properly, QA can transform the way you share insight and intelligence – essential elements in handling customer complaints. By giving you visibility and encouraging a shared culture of quality across your business, QA gives you the ability to prevent costly breakdowns in customer care.

QA does this by providing the basis for closing the gaps between your departments and making sure no feedback goes missing. As well as creating the process needed to record and share information and insight effectively, it drives individuals to take responsibility for their part in the process (and gives you an overview of instances when they haven't done so). This then becomes a fundamental part of building a coherent culture of quality that makes governance effective – and, in the best-case scenarios – simple.

Developing the right framework for your business

Once you've identified how QA can improve your information-sharing processes, the next step is to find the right system – one that will support your goal of establishing a culture of quality and good governance. How you do this will depend largely on your business, what success means to you and how to achieve it within your corporate structure.

For instance, some argue that quality standards are set by the board of executives and implemented from the top down. Others suggest that culture has to come from those on the frontline, built by the people who interact with the core business processes on a daily basis.

Either way, you need everyone to buy into a culture for it to work. This is easier said than done, but you can achieve it by putting in place a system that empowers individuals to contribute to the collective and encourages departments to work together.

Technically speaking, you need a system that not only collects all the essential data from customer interactions, but also identifies and deals with wider customer service issues. With this in place, you can expose problems you'd never have discovered before and come up with responses that place an emphasis on quality.

With this mixture of insight and response going on within your business, you'll soon notice the quality of customer interactions improve – with this raised standard becoming the norm and the expectation among every department.

Beginning to build a collaborative culture

Once you have the right system in place and running smoothly, you'll see a culture of quality begin to take shape within your teams. Aware of what's possible, individuals will demand higher quality of each other at every interaction, becoming the agents of change you need to shape a more sustainable business.

Change won't necessarily be easy to come by, however. You could quite easily find one department reluctant to switch to your new system because they're already happy with the one they have. It works for them, but not the business as a whole, and you need to help them see the bigger picture in instances like this.

Your teams need to be aware that – whatever department they belong to – they all have an impact on customers. That's why you need a QA system to track, manage and pull every bit of information together. It provides support for every customer interaction, regardless of who's adding data at any given time.

This also provides a good reason to resist stepping outside the QA system to manage anything that can take place within it. The crux of good governance is in managing an effective system that everyone uses to work together towards the same goal. Allowing manual workarounds simply undermines that aim and leaves you potentially worse off than when you started your QA journey.

Effective QA leads to good governance (and happy customers)

As mentioned earlier, every company is different, so you need to put in place a QA system that'll meet your exact requirements. This will be a major help when it comes to staff buy-in when they see just how much easier it makes their everyday tasks. You also have to look for a system that's flexible, helping you adapt to any changes in your industry and business.

With the right QA tools in place, good governance will be much easier to achieve. Not only will you have the visibility across your business to see what's working well and what isn't, but you'll also have the means to act on issues – along with the desired standards to aim for.

Ultimately, you need to stick to the goal of making sure your customers' voices are heard throughout your business. After all, without them, your company isn't going anywhere but backwards. By making sure your people have the tools to truly 'listen' to what customers are saying and act on it positively, you'll create a much more effective platform for long-term success.

Martin Ellingham, Senior Product Manager, Aptean Respond

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Jun 13, 2021

Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl

Kate Birch
5 min
Former CMO for IBM Americas Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl. Maria talks about her new role and her leadership style

Former Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Americas, and an IBM veteran of more than 25 years, Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl.

Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.

With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.

You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?

I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.

We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.

What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?

I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.

The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.

I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.

What does success look like to you?

I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?

I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.

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