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DMAIC Case Study: Improving System Availability

A leading environmental services company applied the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology to improve the availability of an internal software system. The goal was to reduce system downtime (the time that the software application is not available for users) and reduce defect resolution time (the time it takes to fix a software defect…

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Lean Implementation for IT Company

An information technology (IT) services company was engaged by a European telecom service provider to provide end-to-end testing for its five lines of business. End-to-end testing is a methodology used to test whether the flow of a software application is functioning as expected from start to finish – for example, from receipt of customer order…

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Solving Decreasing Sales With Lean Six Sigma

Online retailer ABC sells books, DVDs, CDs, MP3 downloads, software, video games, apparel, furniture, food, toys and jewelry. ABC has a strong market research unit and a seamless feedback loop for enhancing the customer experience. In the last few years, however, sales had dropped significantly contributing to a slip in the overall market share of…

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Computacenter Returns to Best Places to Work List

Computacenter AG & Co. oHG, an information technology (IT) services firm that first began its Six Sigma deployment 14 years ago, has made its second consecutive appearance on iSixSigma’s Best Places to Work list. Computacenter was ranked at No. 10 for this year’s list, the same position it was given in the 2010 list. The…

Six Sigma and Lean May No Longer Be Enough to Improve Services

Service, or transactional, Six Sigma has sometimes struggled to keep up with its manufacturing big brother in terms of sustainable results. Lean Six Sigma is currently the approach of choice for many service organizations, but that methodology is under pressure as businesses look to cut costs aggressively to survive the recession. In more than 15…

Controlling Change in IT Departments Using DMAIC

During a Six Sigma project at an information technology (IT) department, there are many good reasons why a process or a system needs to change. There also are a few bad reasons – bad, but unavoidable. It’s up to the practitioners to decide how to transform bad reasons into good ones, and how to prevent…

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Top Lean Six Sigma IT Trends to Come in 2011

As the calendar flips to 2011, several technology experts and software providers have made predictions about how Lean Six Sigma and other process improvement methodologies will shape IT departments in the coming year. Collected here are four of their forecasts for the next 12 months.

Scorecards Help South African Bank Reap Savings

Standard Bank Group – one of the largest financial institutions in South Africa, with more than 1.33 trillion rand (R) (US$200 billion) – recently released a case study about how it deployed Lean Six Sigma methods to reduce waste and errors, and also created a balanced scorecard system to track its progress. As a result…

Planning Ahead with Project-Specific Software Process Models

Lean Six Sigma projects involving software development are an increasingly popular option for IT departments that are seeking to improve their efficiency. However, a number of research studies demonstrate that the average percentage of software projects that achieve all project objectives is significantly less than might be expected. For instance, a Standish Group survey conducted…

Australian Bank to Revamp IT with Lean Six Sigma

Australian financial services firm Westpac has launched a large-scale initiative to overhaul its information technology (IT) services, part of which will be accomplished through the application of Lean and Six Sigma techniques to reduce waste and remove unnecessary banking processes. The IT plan was announced during an Oct. 8 webcast briefing with Westpac investors. During…

Enhancing IT Quality Metrics with Six Sigma

One of the initial challenges of enhancing IT quality metrics is to manage the mountain of data produced at a typical organization. Those organizations that have not learned how to mine their existing information to find solutions tend to track their data via spreadsheets and then generate high-level reports for executive management. Often, major gaps…

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Career Advice for IT and Six Sigma Professionals

When facing an imminent layoff, what path should Six Sigma professionals with a technical background take to get into the information technology (IT) arena? This topic was brought up in a recent online conversation on the iSixSigma Discussion Forums. The suggestions included getting familiar with the capability maturity model (CMM), joining an IT organization, becoming…

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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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Six Sigma and MIS: A New Partnership

As an outsider to the Six Sigma world, I am immediately astounded at how quickly Six Sigma can change the culture of a company. As a technology consultant, I assist with some Six Sigma projects at a Fortune 500 company. My involvement in Six Sigma projects evolved over time as the head of Six Sigma,…

Managing IT Demands Through Project Portfolios

If you are thinking change is the only constant in today’s world, there is more. In fact, organizations are required to deal with and manage dynamic changes all the time. The strength of a delivery system is determined by its ability to respond to changes and meet customer expectations. Changes come to the delivery organization…

Six Sigma for Software – A Role Based System

Part 1 in a series exploring Six Sigma Deployment for Software and IT Organizations Because the application of the Six Sigma methodology is relatively new to Software and IT, many of the readers of this web site may be unclear as to the methods of deploying Six Sigma into an organization successfully. From participation in…

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…

Six Sigma in the Information Technology Services Sector

Challenges Faced Today Offer Solutions for Tomorrow Six Sigma has come a long way from statistically oriented tools to today’s “not so data driven” tools like Lean and quality function deployment (QFD). The application of Six Sigma across different sectors has made this change from statistical tools to softer tools possible. The methodologies and framework…

Objective Defect Evaluation Leads Improvement Efforts

Many times it is imperative for a firm to improve the quality of its deliverables even though it is operating consistently at a high sigma level. Such continuous improvement is also necessary when addressing various levels of the capability maturity model integration (CMMI), a software process guide. CMMI Level 5 calls for a proactive reduction…

Creating a More Accurate IT Availability Definition

Availability is one of the key metrics that demonstrates the overall performance of an information technology (IT) system. But defining and calculating the availability of an IT system from a business perspective is a challenging task. Most of the time, IT departments report availability values that are on the higher side (such as more than…

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Tracking and Technology Speed Black Belt Certification

With more than 1,000 trained Black Belts, the U.S. Army continues marching forward in its Lean Six Sigma efforts. Trained Black Belts who complete projects and obtain certification are essential to building a robust cadre of practitioners. To this end, the Army formalized the use of Belt course portfolios (BCPs), the collection of projects assigned…

Six Sigma Aids in IT Employee Resource Planning

Effective resource planning is an important part of any process improvement program. Formalizing processes and developing measurement systems helps to determine the value of internal projects from a human capital perspective. A measurement system for effective resource planning in implementing project goals may be particularly helpful for information technology (IT) divisions of companies. Developing a…

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Using a Criteria-Based Matrix to Prioritize IT Projects

One of the common challenges for a company’s information technology (IT) department is how to prioritize IT projects that can deliver the greatest benefits to the business. A criteria-based matrix can be an effective tool in prioritizing the IT projects with just such results. The matrix is a vast improvement over allowing priorities to be…

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ITIL and Six Sigma Make a Winning Combination for IT

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Six Sigma have both been successfully employed to improve the quality of information technology (IT) services. Often the two approaches, although distinctly different but with a common focus on customer satisfaction at their core, are used independently of each other. Fortunately many organizations are coming to realize the…

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Lean First…or Six Sigma?

When initiating process improvement the question often arises which to pursue first – Lean, Agile, Six Sigma or a combination of these tools. There have been case studies surrounding the order of choice – or whether Lean and Six Sigma complement each other at all. Many Six Sigma experts have spent significant time living and…

Six Sigma in Data Warehousing Domain – IT Case Study

Most quality professionals recognize that Six Sigma is a breakthrough strategy. They understand that the methodology uses data to measure current process effectiveness and to validate improvement; uses proven statistical and quality tools to identify process gaps and improvement solutions; and uses change management processes for institutionalizing and integrating improvements in an organizations’ operational and…

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Improved IT Project Forecasting Through Six Sigma

The various costs of an information technology (IT) project is forecast at the beginning of the fiscal year and usually re-forecast at the end of each month based on the actual spending pattern. Variation in the IT project forecasting process can result in either underspent or overspent budgets. As is true in most processes, variation…

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Implementing Six Sigma Methodology in a Small IT Firm

Leaders of small to medium-sized information technology (IT) businesses are aware of Six Sigma and what it has done for other organizations. However, some think that Six Sigma works only in large businesses. Six Sigma can help improve any organization by providing an important competitive edge. The main thing that prevents these IT firms from…

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Rush to Enact Solutions Sabotages a DMAIC Project

In 2004, a small and relatively young technology company (7,500 employees and an annual revenue of $2 billion) implemented the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act of 2002, or what is usually referred to as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). In an effort to be fully compliant the company identified and initiated more than…

A Parallel Process View for Information Technology

The value and impact that a solid Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) approach can bring to an IT business is well known. While many organizations understand the relationship between DFSS and their own project management approach, what they often miss is attention to the foundational concepts of Lean and DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control)…

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How Six Sigma Can Help ITIL Service Level Management

Many information technology (IT) organizations are utilizing the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) as a guiding framework for operational excellence. One of the many “best practices” within ITIL is utilization of service level agreements, (SLAs) and operational level agreements (OLAs). When implemented well, these agreements and associated management processes go far in establishing fruitful working…

Problem Management: Coordinating ITIL and Six Sigma

Information technology (IT) expenses are growing at a significantly faster rate than any other portion of most businesses, and IT has become a significant component in the cost of doing business. Increasingly, IT organizations are required to determine the cost of delivering and supporting particular services, as well as qualifying and quantifying the value that…

What CIOs and CTOs Need to Know About Lean Six Sigma

CIOs and CTOs are faced with a plethora of issues ranging from corporate realignment to growth to shrinking budgets. Many have heard about Lean Six Sigma but given their busy state of mind, it is difficult for them to dedicate the time required to translate Lean Six Sigma successes in top manufacturing company’s to its…

Process Improvement and Technology: The Virtuous Cycle

Because of information technology’s unique role as a support function in most organizations, process improvement means improving both the processes of its internal management system and the business it supports. As a matter of fact, for most organizations today information technology (IT) infrastructure and management is the backbone of all critical processes. Combine that with…

Software and IT Measurement Systems: Effort Accounting

Effort accounting is needed in software and IT for the simple reason that labor is generally the most important controllable element of cost. Labor cost (effort hours times prevailing labor rate) is an essential and fundamental element of efficiency measurement. Six Sigma projects in software and IT (especially DMAICs) are often focused on driving down…

Manage IT Projects and Resources the Six Sigma Way

Best-practice companies have been using Lean Six Sigma to drive Information Technology (IT) improvements and better software designs for years. But broad acceptance, despite proven results in the sector, has been slow. This may be due to a lack of understanding about the processes and benefits of Lean Six Sigma. By exploring how Lean Six…

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Process Improvement: A Process Owner’s Dilemma

In the midst of a complex organizational structure and multiple frameworks, a process owner is often faced with the challenge of providing the biggest “bang” for the lowest “buck” in the shortest time. At the same time, organizations want to optimize the investment a process-improvement drive demands and strive for a common approach that can…

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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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DMAIC Helps Agency Craft Green Electronics Plan

The increased demand and limited supply of fossil fuels has signified the importance of energy efficiency and conservation across the world. Energy resourcefulness has come to the forefront in both federal and private organization’s policies and practices. Many organizational standards and procedures aim to minimize the use of energy, thereby protecting the environment. Various federal…

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Six Sigma Encourages Improvement Within CMMI Framework

Six Sigma is a powerful improvement program that started in manufacturing but has subsequently proven to be useful in a multitude of industries, including software development. But many of the assumptions and approaches of using Six Sigma in traditional industries may not be relevant in information technology (IT) and software development. Traditional Six Sigma program…

Tips for Defining and Collecting IT Process Metrics

Several information technology (IT) metrics can be developed on the basis of best practice frameworks such as capability maturity model integration (CMMI) and information technology infrastructure library (ITIL). Measuring and collecting such data, which is often part of process improvement initiatives, brings to light what is happening in IT processes. Following are a few tips…

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