A survey sponsored by the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI) finds that Six Sigma is feasible as an enabler of the adoption of software, systems and IT improvement models and practices.

Many iSixSigma readers may have participated in the Software Engineering Institute’s study on the effects of Six Sigma on software, systems and IT improvements. iSixSigma promoted the survey on its web site and encouraged its readers to become involved. Here now is a summary of the initial results of the survey.

Better. Faster. Cheaper. While typically applied to the product development life cycle, these criteria also apply to process improvement. Recently, the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI) funded a study to explore the use of Six Sigma in the adoption of software, systems, and IT improvement models and practices. Initial results of the survey have been released.

The study found that Six Sigma is feasible as an enabler of the adoption of software, systems and IT improvement models and practices. Additionally, domain specific models and practices were found to enable Six Sigma. Findings include the following:

  • Six Sigma is influential in the integration of multiple improvement approaches to create a seamless, single solution.
  • Rollouts of process improvement by Six Sigma adopters are mission-focused as well as flexible and adaptive to changing organizational and technical situations.
  • When Six Sigma is used in an enabling, accelerating, or integrating capacity for improvement technologies, adopters report quantitative performance benefits, using measures that they know are meaningful for their organizations and their clients (e.g., returns on investment of 3:1 and higher, reduced security risk and better cost containment.
  • Six Sigma is frequently used as a mechanism to help sustain (and sometimes improve) performance in the midst of reorganizations and organizational acquisitions.
  • The quantitative data from Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) adopters supports the hypothesis that Six Sigma can accelerate the transition of CMMI.
  • Six Sigma is effectively used at all maturity levels.
  • Many Design for Six Sigma adopters are progressing with CMMI but not taking advantage of Architectural Tradeoff Analysis Method (ATAM).

An overview of this project, including additional findings and proposed future work, is summarized in an SEI technical report which can be downloaded at http://www.sei.cmu.edu/publications/documents/04.reports/04tr018.html (see Chapter 5). Additional reports are forthcoming.

The objective of the study was to discover if Six Sigma, in combination with improvement practices, can result in:

  • better selections of improvement practices and projects.
  • accelerated implementation of selected improvements.
  • more effective implementation.
  • more valid measurements of results and success from use of the technology.

The SEI gathered survey, case study and publication data to study the joint implementation of Six Sigma and improvement models or practices such as CMMI, Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (COBIT), and ATAM.

Notice: Capability Maturity Model, Carnegie Mellon, CMM, and CMMI are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by Carnegie Mellon University. Architecture Tradeoff Analysis Method; ATAM; and CMM Integration are service marks of Carnegie Mellon University.

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