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David L. Hallowell

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Finding a Value-added Fit with Agile Development

The gains that Lean Six Sigma has brought in the areas of manufacturing, operations and physical product design speak for themselves. It is natural to want to replicate that success in software design. To do that most effectively, however, practitioners must meld Lean Six Sigma with Agile, a software development technique that is gaining traction…

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Six Sigma Software Metrics, Part 3

Parts one and two of this series surveyed the work connected with several goals shared by software organizations and Six Sigma (Goals 1-3 in Table 1). We saw that reaching those goals involved establishing systems to identify defects, classify them according to type and point of origin, predict their occurrence, and assess actual defect find…

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Six Sigma Software Metrics, Part 4

This article is the last of four parts. It presents a discussion of opportunities for defects (OFD), defects per million opportunities (DPMO) and Sigma levels. When comparing implementations across companies, using the common language of DPMO and Sigma levels will assist in understanding benchmarking data. Parts one, two and three followed a progression of goals…

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Software Project Management Meets Six Sigma

Part 1: Bottom-up Project Duration and Variation Prediction. A number of recent posts in the iSixSigma Software Forum have inquired about the application of Six Sigma methods to Software Project Management. In particular, how might we look at software project duration as a key project-planning and execution output (a “Y” in common Six Sigma terms),…

Six Sigma Software Metrics, Part 1

Six Sigma brings sharp focus to customer and business requirements and the defects connected with the failure to satisfy them. While the relevance of that view is clear enough to software professionals, their introduction to Six Sigma is often gets stopped short in questions about how the notions of yield, sigma level, or defects per…

Six Sigma Software Metrics, Part 2

Part 1 in this series on software defect metrics discussed Goals 1 and 2, which focused on identifying and removing defects in the development process as close to the point of occurrence as possible (Table 1). This installment looks at predicting defect insertion and removal dynamics early in a project and measuring predicted versus actual…

Toward an Integrated Six Sigma Software Knowledge-Base

I’m sure we are all happy to see the new iSixSigma channel dedicated to software. The growing knowledge base at this portal will take shape in the body of articles, discussion forum threads, links, and resources that are contributed. The most important factor in all this is, of course, you, the site participants. While the…

User Stories in Lean Six Sigma Software Development

The term “user story” is emerging in the practice of Agile software development, but the notion is very applicable in all types of products and services. A user story is a simple, one-sentence description of what an actor (any person or entity with behavior that expects things of a particular system) would find valuable to…

Usage-based Models Improve Odds in Software Testing

The need to test products of all kinds, software and physical products, often runs into challenges connected with: What to test? How to test? How long, how many tests to run? How to document the risk remaining after test? Software is particularly challenging because the properties worth exercising and assessing in tests are hard to…

Comparing and Contrasting IDEAL and DMAIC

Comparing and contrasting the way different disciplines and tools map to one another can help lead to a better understanding of each of the things being compared. This paper reviews a methodology called IDEALSM, which was developed and evolved by members of the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), and compares it with the Six Sigma DMAIC…

Remove Obstacles for Six Sigma Within Agile Development

It can be challenging at first to find the connections between Six Sigma and Agile; a number of obstacles stand in the way of reaching an integrated view. But there is some untapped leverage that, if explored, may ease the use of the two methods. It is often more interesting to find the intersections that…

Doing Some Software Six Sigma and Agile ‘Mythbusting’

These are interesting times in the world of software development. Urgency around reducing development cycle times and costs, and growing the business value of software and IT assets is high. Six Sigma, CMMI, Lean software development and Agile methods are variously working together (or not quite) to address that urgency and show results. In the…

Six Sigma and Innovation: Natural Partners from the Start

Innovation has broad appeal. Businesses see it as a key to survival, and most individuals enjoy being creative – at work or anywhere. At first it might seem that the discipline called for in the workplace would take all the fun out of being creative. But actually, innovation coupled with Six Sigma discipline and data…

Capabilities of Neural Network as Software Model-Builder

One branch of computational intelligence tools, neural networks, is worth surveying as part of the extended data mining and modeling toolkit. The focus here is on a specific kind of neural network applied to empirical model-building – comparing and contrasting its capabilities and performance to more traditional tools like regression analysis. Neural Networks Mimic Biological…

Software Development Convergence: Six Sigma-Lean-Agile

Some common messages are beginning to emerge from several software-relevant areas – Six Sigma for software, Agile development and Lean thinking. The links between Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) and Agile have been explored recently, but now a broader view yet can illustrate the way that Lean thinking, evolved from just-in-time manufacturing, aligns well with…

DFSS Meets Agile Development – Friend or Foe?

One of the big benefits of Six Sigma is the discipline it brings to the use of facts and measures to guide significant and predictable results. At first glance, that discipline might seem to fly in the face of the flexibility and creativity that also are very important in development and problem-solving. One potential collision…

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User Stories and Measures for Competitive Analysis

Finding a Framework for Benchmarking and Reverse Engineering Product development is often forward looking – trying to discover and deliver value for a product or service in our own company. There are times, however, when it is worth learning what the competition has been up to. Some of the same tools that support a company’s…

Exploring Defect Containment Metrics in Agile

While Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) and Agile software development seem to have different orientations, there is more linkage than meets the eye. On one hand, DFSS and Agile appear to be at odds: DFSS talks about “stages” and tollgates, which Agile eschews in favor of Lean “single piece” or small batch flow. DFSS talks…

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DOE in Software Testing: The Potential and the Risks

Testing software is hard work. Many aspects of software systems are difficult or impossible to observe and measure directly. That makes finding defects, characterizing performance and estimating reliability the toughest parts of the development process. While there are no silver bullets (and no “lead bullets” either, as per Dr. Barry Boehm, noted software engineering professor…

With Flexibility, DMAIC Has Long Future Ahead

There has been a buzz about DMAIC, and it goes something like this: “Because DMAIC is for reactive problem solving, and companies are getting more proactive and oriented to Design for Lean Six Sigma (DFLSS), what is going to happen when the reactive problems go away? Won’t the use of DMAIC dwindle or disappear?” The…

Effective Use of Special Purpose KJ Language Processing

KJ Analysis is a method of developing insight into themes and relationships among issues. It helps drill from high-level issues at one level of context (usually abstract or vague) to a more detailed set of common, reusable statements. KJ is particularly useful in software because people have a tendency to state problems as abstract characteristics…

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DMAIC and DFSS Roadmaps: How to Connect and Integrate?

The roadmap has always been an important part of Six Sigma. It lays out the thought process for teams and leaders, and distinguishes the methodology from a parade of tools. With the original “Six Steps to Six Sigma” and then “Define Measure Analyze Improve Control” (DMAIC) as the improvement roadmap, plus the addition of Design…

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Tree Diagrams for Six Sigma: Plain and Simple?

With the complexity of many of the tools in the Six Sigma kit, it is easy to look at tree diagrams as fairly simple and routine. Experience shows, though, that there are enough pitfalls encountered and benefits missed that it is worth consolidating a few time-won guidelines and tips about applying them and explanations on…

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Causal Loop Diagrams: An Orientation in Software Context

Among the tried and true tools in the Six Sigma kit, cause-and-effect diagrams in the simple form of a tree, a fishbone or a Y-to-x diagram are a big help in identifying factors (x’s) that may drive changes in a results variable of interest (Y). There are times, though, that a flat, two-dimensional hierarchy does…

Tools That Complement SIPOC and Help Uncover Details

A SIPOC (suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, customers) diagram is a standard part of most Six Sigma projects for good reason: It helps a team to pose and answer important questions about customers, suppliers, requirements and dependencies. In many cases a SIPOC table and a simple process map can go a long way in discovering the…

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Creating a Fresh View of Six Sigma Data and Tools

Six Sigma DMAIC and DFSS roadmaps provide the guidance needed for using facts and data to understand problems, opportunities and solutions to get results in a wide variety of project settings. For the routine cases, they give practitioners what they need. There are some situations, though, that can benefit from a broader view of Six…

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Developing an Agile Planning and Tracking Scorecard

Agile changes the nature of planning and tracking. The term agile is used to refer to a variety of software development frameworks (like scrum, XP, crystal methods) which all share approaches to scoping work and managing the delivery of working features. Using scrum as an example (Figure 1), it is clear that the available development…

View via Tollgates in Six Sigma for Software Orientation

When software developers and project managers begin to learn about Six Sigma, it is natural that their first orientation is from within the processes most familiar to them. Developers looking at Design for Six Sigma (DFSS), for example, will often find a way that it aligns with their software development life cycle (SDLC) and then…

Use Cases and Measures: Strengthening the Six Sigma Link

“Use cases,” a term coined by Ivar Jacobson early in the evolution of object-oriented thinking, have been widely accepted as a helpful way to understand and document the functionality that is important in all kinds of software or business systems. Anyone within miles of object-oriented design will be familiar with the typical application of use…