Getting online processes right

One of the big lessons, and somewhat a surprise, was how much we could accomplish virtually. Change wasn’t necessarily easy, but it was swift as we adjusted to the new dynamics of meeting and working virtually.

One of the teams I manage is responsible for factory acceptance tests (FATs). Before our customers take delivery, we work with them to validate that the equipment and any related software meets their precise specifications. Our products also must comply with strict regulatory standards applied by various governmental bodies in multiple geographies. To conduct a FAT prior to the pandemic, customers would send two of three representatives to one of our facilities for onsite testing.

As that is unfeasible during lockdowns, we standardized a process around hosting a virtual FAT, or vFAT. This called for sharing documentation, checklists and other information electronically and conducting all business online.

One challenging byproduct, however, is that when you host a virtual call, interested attendees can skyrocket. Rather than hosting two to three customer representatives on a call, more than a dozen customer team members might join. We didn’t mind the additional interest, but productivity doesn’t exponentially increase with attendance. In fact, the opposite can occur. With so many people asking questions, offering opinions and debating issues, it can be easy to get off track.

Getting online processes right

One of the big lessons, and somewhat a surprise, was how much we could accomplish virtually. Change wasn’t necessarily easy, but it was swift as we adjusted to the new dynamics of meeting and working virtually.

One of the teams I manage is responsible for factory acceptance tests (FATs). Before our customers take delivery, we work with them to validate that the equipment and any related software meets their precise specifications. Our products also must comply with strict regulatory standards applied by various governmental bodies in multiple geographies. To conduct a FAT prior to the pandemic, customers would send two of three representatives to one of our facilities for onsite testing.

As that is unfeasible during lockdowns, we standardized a process around hosting a virtual FAT, or vFAT. This called for sharing documentation, checklists and other information electronically and conducting all business online.

One challenging byproduct, however, is that when you host a virtual call, interested attendees can skyrocket. Rather than hosting two to three customer representatives on a call, more than a dozen customer team members might join. We didn’t mind the additional interest, but productivity doesn’t exponentially increase with attendance. In fact, the opposite can occur. With so many people asking questions, offering opinions and debating issues, it can be easy to get off track.

Ultimately, we created a new process to request that customers designate one or two associates who can channel all their feedback to keep the process moving. We set this ground rule for all subsequent vFAT meetings. This allows customers to engage as many people as they need in the vFAT process without slowing the acceptance of the equipment, and its entry into service to produce urgently needed medications.

Change wasn't necessarily easy, but it was swift.

Ultimately, we created a new process to request that customers designate one or two associates who can channel all their feedback to keep the process moving. We set this ground rule for all subsequent vFAT meetings. This allows customers to engage as many people as they need in the vFAT process without slowing the acceptance of the equipment, and its entry into service to produce urgently needed medications.