How to categorize technologies?

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    Max Kanter

    Six Sigma Gurus,
    I have a new project which I’m struggling to apply six sigma tools to, so I humbly ask for your thoughts and opinions…
    With the future goal of developing a technology roadmap for my business I’m trying to tackle the task of categorizing technologies into some high level groups. When I say technologies I’m referring to everything that might be considered part of a typical large business IT stack. This would cover the wide range of mainframe systems to cutting edge Java, XML and wireless trends.
    The idea is to develop these groups, assign subject matter experts to watch the trends and develop in depth expertise in there respective areas. Then with a meeting of the minds of a sort, develop a path of least resistance for the future.
    So, I ask you, assuming I have at my disposal some of the great IT minds of a large global business… what’s the best way to gather VOC or data of this type and group this wide array of different technologies into logical groupings. What six sigma tools and methods would you use if it were your task? Even better, do you know of a best practice in this or a similar area, which I could apply here?
    Oh, by the way, I only have a week or so… .
    Thank You,
    Max Kanter
    Green Belt


    Jim Johnson

    I need some more information from you before I answer your question:
    What is your ultimate goal in this project?  Is there a particular problem that you are trying to fix or is this a new product/process that you are developing?
    This is going to determine which direction your project is going to take – Design For Six Sigma or DMAIC. 
    Either way, you should be focused on removing or precluding a defect.  At this point, I am not certain what that defect is in your project.


    Max Kanter

    The initial goal, as best as I can summarize it is to categorize technologies into a managable number of groups. We will then assign people to each grouping to become a subject matter expert of the category. Finally, in an ongoing process, those individuals will participate in project reviews, choosing, critiquing and consulting on technology selection for those applications.
    Additionally, we have another project, which intends to create an inventory of all applications under our roof. In order to decrease costs of maintainence, apps using similar but different technologies may be converted. Apps, with similar use, may be merged to reduce redundancy and again save costs. So for this again, the full understanding of the technology landscape will be useful.
    The ultimate goal, is to have a technology roadmap, to pave the direction for the future. The categorization of technologies and the inventory of applications are the first two steps.
    For my part, to develop the technology groups. I’m looking for the best approach to gather the vast array of technologies that exist today into logical groups. As you might imagine much of the grouping could be subjective. Therefore I’m looking for an objective analytical approach that will help form a consensus.
    To answer Jim’s question; due to the time constraints, I had not planned on following a full DMAIC or DMADV process. I do however hope to apply six sigma rigor. There are ways to consider this an improvement project, however we are also designing many new things.


    Jim Johnson

    Now, I understand better what you are attempting to do.  My suggestion is to gather the top minds in the organization and conduct two brainstorming sessions:
    1.  A session to define the categories.
    2.  A session to finalize the placement.
    This will get it done quickly and by involving everyone you will have consensus.  Remind the group that consensus is “I don’t have to agree 100%, however, I will and do support the decision.”
    The first step in performing the brainstorming session is to determine what the goal (outcome) of the brainstorming activity is.  This needs to be a written statement posted prominently in the room where the brainstorming is occuring.
    The second step is to fully define the roles of the team members.
    The third step is to outline the agenda for the brainstorming session.
    The fourth step is to define the rules of the brainstorming session.
    These four steps lay the groundwork for the real work to begin.  If you need some more information on brainstorming, send me a note directly at [email protected].
    I hope that this helps.
    Jim J.


    Tim Young

    I think Jim has given you a good insight into method here. I would like to add a couple of other comments that build on these.
    Your technology groupings will be irrelevant if your IT function is not properly aligned with your business (ie your IT processes are mapped to at least the CTQ processes). The most significant thing to understand is how technology contributes to your business goals (i) to understand ROI from your technology and (ii) to use this to determine which technology has been effective for your organization.
    Most IT organizations don’t do this. They buy the latest and greatest thing with little understanding of how it helps people running the business make better decisions.
    Feel free to also contact me off line. I have a few white papers I can share with you.


    Max Kanter

    I’d appreciate seeing the white papers which you have. Send me an email directly at Max.Kanter(Remove this spam filter)


    Carlos Aceves

    Dear Max,
    You should take a look at the ITIL ( Information Technology Information Library ) that are the best practices of Information Technology.
    This Best practices were written by the English government as far as I know, but big companies like Hewlett Packard & Sun Microsystems adopted them for giving consulting services to the big 500 companies in all the world.
    The company that I know that is marketing this best practices is called Pink Elephant, and they offer the BP, training, services and everything about it.
    I wish this information could be helpull for you; if so, and your organization starts to develop something around 6sigma and those tools please let me know, I´ll be very interested in knowing about your efforts.
    Carlos Aceves
    Mexico City


    Shruti Sukhwani

    Hi Tim,
    I read your reply to Max Kanter’s discussion. I would too want more information on how technology contributes to business goals. We have our IT processes mapped to our CTQ processes. I need to understand ROI from technology and know how to use this to determine which technology has been effective to my organization.
    Please do share the white papers/ sources on this with me at [email protected]

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