The bank in the following case study had been encountering problems with new customer accounts. The account setup cycle time was quite high because the information-gathering process was ad hoc. It typically took several attempts to collect all the needed specifications from customers. This was causing customer dissatisfaction and, in some cases, defective accounts.

The bank’s senior management decided to execute a Design for Six Sigma project to improve the information-gathering process for account setup. The project team followed the Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify (DMADV) roadmap.

Define Phase

The Master Black Belt and the team for this project identified the following problems with critical-to-quality aspects (CTQs) of the process:

  • A high number of discrete conversations were required to communicate customer information.
  • Employees used existing test accounts and templates inconsistently, and did not conduct routine maintenance of the test accounts.
  • Too much time was needed to set up new accounts and fix failed accounts.
  • Many accounts did not meet customer specifications.

The team created a threat vs. opportunity matrix to understand the short-term and long-term threats and opportunities. They identified several major threats to the business if the bank continued to use the same process:

  • Delays in account setup
  • The creations of incorrect/non-working accounts
  • Dollar and productivity losses
  • Negative impacts on business relationships

The bank also stood to gain major opportunities if they were to resolve the problems. The opportunities included:

  • Development of a single process framework
  • Reduction in time spent in account specification gathering
  • Creation of accurate accounts

The team drafted the project scope with help from an include-exclude diagram. They also created a SIPOC diagram to identify the customer, supplier, input and output for this project, as well as the process steps.

Measure Phase

The team segmented customers at the beginning of the phase to identify those who were impacted by the changes. They created a questionnaire to get the voice of customer (VOC) regarding the process.
Interview sessions were conducted with all the impacted customers to collect data and the requirements for the updated system.

The interviews helped the team to track high-level customer needs, shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Stakeholders and Their Needs

Stakeholder High-level Need
Bank Maintenance of integrity and accuracy of the information captured in transition to account management
Bank Knowledgeable representatives to handle account-related disputes/anomalies
Bank Efficient and timely information-gathering mechanism
End User Comprehensive and accurate collection of account specifications
End User Anomalies/disputes resolved in a timely manner

The team also created an affinity diagram to classify the needs as function, operational or performance (Table 2).

Table 2: Classified Needs

Functional Needs Operational Needs Performance Needs
Comprehensive collection of account specifications Single point for collecting all account specifications User-friendly information-gathering method
Efficient information-gathering mechanism Knowledgeable representive to handle information gathering Comprehensive and accurate information-gathering method
Accurate collection of account specifications

They prioritized customer needs using the Kano model. The following features were identified as basic (must be) features:

  • Comprehensive collection of account specifications
  • An efficient and accurate information-gathering mechanism
  • Knowledgeable representatives handling information gathering and resolving disputes

A single point for collecting requirements was deemed a satisfying feature. An exciting feature (delighter) was customer sign-off on information once collected to prevent disputes.

The team used a quality function deployment (QFD) to drill down the business requirements to functional CTQs. CTQ performance standards and tolerances were identified and team came up with a measurement plan for each CTQ. They also completed causal analysis to identify the potential causes of the problems with the information-gathering process. Lack of a standardized process was identified as the main cause.

Analyze Phase

The team performed a functional analysis to identify high-level design concepts based on the high-level needs (Table 3).

Table 3: Functional Analysis

High-level Need High-level Design Concepts
Information completely captured Accurate demarcation of mandatory and optional data requirements. Check process in place to staisfy all mandatory requirements
Information captured accurately Engagement process manned by an experienced employee to gather requirements from account requester
Information conveyed accurately internally Formal documentation and handover of requirements internally within account setup teams, and handover signed off by teams
Information frozen as per defined in service level agreement (SLA) Process owner manages SLA compliance and esclation procedures
Anomalies/disputes resolved in a timely manner Experience and trained employees manage account setup requests
Knowledgeable representative to handle information gathering Thorough training and hands-on experience to be provided to the account setup team members prior to handling requests independently
Minimum price increases Process to be simplified, streamlined and optimized to reduce time invested in account setup

They came up with alternate design concepts and selected the best possible option using a Pugh matrix and a criteria-based matrix. The team also brainstormed alternate technology options and chose the best possible one using a criteria-based matrix.

Next, they created a second QFD to drill down the functional requirements so they could create a low-level design. The requirements included:

  • Alignment from all teams concerned with the process
  • Appointment of a single process owner
  • Defined checklists and checkpoints in the process
  • Clear communication and escalation channels
  • Knowledgeable representatives managing the process

A system design concept for test account setup was created using the functional specifications received from the second QFD. The information gathering module was designed to minimize the number of interactions required to capture the account specifications accurately and convey them to the account setup team.

The data flow for the information gathering module for the account setup process was as follows:

  1. Information was collected through a web interface available on the bank’s intranet.
  2. Once the information was submitted, it was reviewed by the account setup team.
  3. After review, a call was placed with the requester to review the information.
  4. If the required details were present in the request, the request was signed off on by the requester. If not, the request was returned back to the requester for fulfillment.
  5. Upon sign-off, the request was submitted to the account management module for further processing.

Design and Verify Phases

The team created alternative low-level designs (LLD) for the same set of CTQs. They completed risk analysis using an FMEA for the LLD. Action items were identified on the following risks:

  • Human error in identifying the type of the account required
  • Incomplete/inaccurate information gathering
  • Flaw in application design allowing incomplete information to be submitted
  • New account set up when the information could have been gathered from the requester’s already existing accounts

They created a verification plan considering the following points:

  • Collect post-implementation data for information gathering
  • Get verification from the requesters to make sure the information was captured accurately
  • Calculate the time reduction per request in comparison to the average time taken earlier (pre implementation)
  • Note any exceptions to the process

The team also drafted unit and integration testing plans. They piloted the changes with a specific set of users and observed the functionality of the new information-gathering system.

The following activities were performed for performance verification:

  • The team created a plan (procedure and frequency) for collecting CTQ metrics defined in the Measure phase.
  • They collected full-scale results of the newly designed process and verified the data against set targets.
  • Finally, they created a failure response plan.

As part of project closure, the Six Sigma team handed over the process flowchart to the account setup team. They also conducted demos for the account setup team and trained them on the replication opportunities.

About the Author