What’s the Point of Point Releases?
TL 9000 is a quality management system standard designed for the ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) industry. It takes ISO 9001 as its foundation, and supplements it with dozens of additional requirements which provide the added depth and detail required to meet the quality needs of ICT. These are captured in the TL 9000 Requirements Handbook (RHB). TL 9000 is unique among management system standards in also requiring TL-registered organizations to submit monthly performance measurements, according to rules documented in the TL 9000 Measurements Handbook (MHB). The TL 9000 QMS standard is developed and maintained by a large group of volunteers, as members of the Business Performance Community of TIA, the Telecommunications Industry Association.
Following a period of development and trialing, TL 9000 was publicly released twenty years ago, in 1999, with Revisions 2.5 of both handbooks. R3.0 versions of the RHB and MHB were issued two years later. Subsequent up-issues of the two handbooks have come out independently, at intervals ranging from two to five years. New revisions of ISO 9001 inevitably drive updates to the RHB, of course, as do new or changed TL 9000 additional requirements. New versions of the MHB reflect newly added measures, or changes to the counting rules or calculations for existing ones. The last full releases of the handbooks were RHB R6.0 in 2016 (a major revision to incorporate ISO 9001:2015) and MHB R5.0 in 2012.
FROM FULL RELEASES TO POINT RELEASES
Note the term full release. For the TIA volunteers who develop, review, debate and finally determine the new and changed content for a handbook up-issue (while at the same time trying to perform their “day jobs”), bringing out a new revision of the RHB or MHB is a big job which takes a good two years to accomplish. But that, in turn, means that necessary improvements to TL 9000 can’t get rolled out in a very timely manner.
To address this problem, a rolling TIA BPC Roadmap was developed to plan and direct the activities of the TIA’s Business Performance Community. This Roadmap instituted the concept of point releases which are used to deliver small (but significant), focused updates to the TL 9000 Requirements and Measurements Handbooks in an agile, timely manner. The Roadmap also establishes a “release train” comprising a calendar of scheduled release opportunities at which, if any candidate content has been approved, a new point release can be issued to deliver it.
THE FIRST POINT RELEASE: MHB R5.5
The first point release to be issued was a perfect demonstration of the procedure and its value. Measurements Handbook (MHB) R5.5 was released in 2017 and comprised just three key changes, all of which made the TL 9000 standard better. I discussed them in detail in this September 2017 post; but, in brief, they comprised:
one new measurement: Incident Restore Rate (IRR), a key measure of effectiveness for ICT service providers and network operations centers;
one changed measurement: Software Fix Quality (SFQ), whose calculation was annualized to make it more meaningful; and,
one deleted measurement: Normalized One-Year Return Rate (NYR), which was simply determined to have become non-value-added.
THE SECOND POINT RELEASE: RHB R6.1
Requirements Handbook (RHB) R6.1, also released in 2017, was a different kettle of fish. It effectively introduced a single change to TL 9000; but that change was expressed through small updates to the wording of eleven of the TL 9000 additional requirements: ten in section 8.3 (Design and Development) and one in clause 8.6.S.1 Test Documentation. The intent of the rewording was to make TL 9000’s design requirements more methodology agnostic – so that they would be a better fit for approaches such as Agile and DevOps, for instance. (For example, references to “a plan” or “plans” were typically softened to “planning”.)
In making this set of changes, though, the intent of the requirements was not changed; consequently, RHB R6.1 is considered to be equivalent to RHB R6.0, and an organization may be audited against and certified to either revision. The choice between R6.0 and R6.1 basically comes down to which wording makes better sense within the certified organization itself.
ARE MORE POINT RELEASES POINTED OUR WAY?
Yes, indeed. Two new point releases are currently riding the release train:
MHB R5.6, to be published in Q2 of this year, will introduce a key change to how data for the TL 9000 Measurements is collected. Currently, data is reported for products and services from their General Availability (GA) until their End of Life (EOL). However, by the time a product has been MD’d (Manufacturing Discontinued), it’s typically been in the field so long that there are virtually no problem reports being submitted or items being returned; so, when data is submitted for long-lived products that are now in MD status, the averages get skewed and the Best in Class numbers are unrealistically good. Effective with MHB R5.6, data is to be collected for products only between GA and MD.
RHB R6.2 will introduce further wording changes, and some new notes, aimed specifically at bringing TL 9000’s additional requirements more up to date with respect to modern software development methodologies and considerations. If approved, R6.2 will be released in Q4 of this year.
WHAT DOES MY COMPANY HAVE TO DO WHEN A POINT RELEASE COMES OUT?
It depends on the point release. Whenever a point release comes out, an Information Alert is also published that lays out the implementation requirements. In the case of RHB R6.1, for instance, Alert17-008A explained that R6.1 was equivalent to R6.0 and that a certified organization could transition from the then-current RHB R5.5 to either R6.0 or R6.1 as desired.
With MHB R5.5, however, Alert 17-004B stated that submission of TL 9000 Measurements against R5.5 would be optional beginning with July 2017 data but mandatory with December 2017. It also pointed out that it would be mandatory for third party auditors to have successfully completed MHB R5.5 delta training before performing any audits against it.
Similarly, it is expected that submission of Measurements against the forthcoming MHB R5.6 will be optional beginning with this year’s July data, mandatory with December’s. However, because there is only a single, simple change, formal delta training is not planned.
SO WHAT IS THE POINT OF POINT RELEASES?
Point releases allow key improvements to the TL 9000 standard to get out to the user community in an agile, timely fashion. (No two-year waits!) As a result, satisfaction with the standard is continually increased, and TL 9000 remains relevant as the ICT industry evolves.
MHB point releases come with the added bonus of a corresponding new version of the Product and Service Category Tables. Every new PCT release adds value to the TL 9000 Measurements – for instance, with the addition of needed product categories (such as 6.2.2 Cloud Terminal in PCT R5.5).
And point releases are free: the new and changed text is available for download at no charge from the TL 9000 website.
Feel free to contact the TL 9000 experts at NQA with your questions or concerns on this or any other topic.
Author: Rick Hill, TL 9000 Program Manager