Six Sigma in Information Technology

Six sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes. Six Sigma (DFSS- Design for Six Sigma) 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(is used for projects aimed at improving an existing business process) to ensure that DFSS is applied most effectively. Users of IT products and services seem to demonstrate a unique lack of restraint when expressing feedback relative to the quality of their customer experience. As a result, when introduced to utility of the Six Sigma approach, many IT managers immediately embrace the notion that DFSS is the most useful application of Six Sigma to enhance their current project management discipline and delivers better applications, networks or hardware faster and at a lower cost. In executing this well-conceived notion, IT organizations are quick to realize the importance of understanding the customer's value stream and both the latent and expressed requirements through the effective analysis of use cases and language data.

By this point, a typical DFSS project will have facilitated completion of the requirements-gathering component of a project management discipline by executing the Define and Measure phases of the DMADV approach.

There is an important characteristic of Six Sigma that no project is perfect and no set of data is perfect. This is particularly true in new Six Sigma deployments where the three process dimensions have not yet been adequately addressed. Choosing to apply DMADV to current or new projects without the benefit of a robust process management infrastructure is a viable strategy as long as there is an explicit plan to document, measure and control the critical value streams within the IT organization. The development of a mature process management system takes time and will ultimately require the participation of most, if not all, IT employees.

The result, however, will be powerful as this view of the internal value streams will provide the organization with the basic understanding of Lean principles as it relates to value, waste and process performance measures (including quality, cycle time and cost). This internal process perspective will provide a foundation which will enhance the application of DMAIC to continuously improve internal processes and DMADV to optimize the effect of IT products and services on the customers which it supports.

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