(PDF, 86 KB) H. James Harrington, Systemcorp, and Tom McNellis, Temple University School of Business Six Sigma is a quality concept made popular by Motorolas quality improvement initiative during the 1988-1989 timeframe and, since that time, has been applied successfully in many service-based organizations.
1 SIPOC: Software Development Inputs Process Outputs Suppliers Customers 1. Initiate Project Charter 2. Approve Charter 3. Product Requirements 4. 1 SIPOC: Software Development Inputs Process Outputs Suppliers Customers 1. Initiate Project Charter 2. Approve Charter 3. Product Requirements 4.
When Web development and Six Sigma are used together, the result is Internet excellence. Testing has always been an important and time-consuming process in any Internet development initiative. Since the customer is next in line, there is no room for error. Rapid application development (RAD) has allowed the Six Sigma Black Belt to deliver Internet functionality faster than ever before.
However, one bottleneck in the information technology development life cycle remains: 'Getting the deliverable right the first time around.' Error detection, message description, frame isolation, and error rectification are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to catch once an Internet initiative is in production. When customers use that application, they do not care how the problem got there, they just know that the Web site 'doesnt work.' The last thing a company wants in this seamless and competitive environment is to tarnish its image and efforts with inferior Web quality. Key words: customer requirements, dashboard, development model, organizational change, process improvement INTRODUCTION The Internet is transforming the world of business. With that change, software professionals are taking their business organizations to new transactional levels. Change is necessary for progress, but the Internet is demanding development at such an accelerated pace that the definition of Internet quality remains somewhat undefined.
Speed to market, customer convenience, and competitive advantage make the Internet a valuable tool. The pace of change, however, is placing the development effort into a constant state of flux. In fact, research indicates that many Internet initiatives fail to add value to the customer, end in rework, and exceed budgets by significant amounts (Harrington and Mc Nellis 2001).
What can a company do to change the Internet failure scenario? One alternative is to improve continuously upon deliverables through Six Sigma process improvement and the best practice sharing that is associated with Six Sigma excellence.
There is a tremendous amount of cost with rework, not to mention the time, resources, and bad customer experience associated with unquality. Six Sigma is a unit of measure that improves process capability by 20,000 times that of a three sigma effort and is defined statistically as 3.4 defects per million opportunities. Some successful Web sites realize a million hits in one day. Since the customer is a partner in this seamless environment, there is not much room for error. Customers are demanding a higher assurance of quality in both product and service. Planning Six Sigma quality into an information technology project adds the benefit of a shared vision toward excellence and smooth transactional service. This article will address how an organization can combine Six Sigma and the Internet to reduce costs, improve the delivery success rate, and increase service quality. The model that was developed to map the Six Sigma quality process against the software development life cycle will be introduced.
A case study in which the model was applied will be discussed; use of the model enabled the information technology (IT) organization to infuse Six Sigma into the Internet development effort and gave the rest of the company an understanding of the necessary steps for that attempt to be successful. Total commitment is necessary to carry this process out. This commitment, however, allows organizations as a whole to get it right the first time while satisfying client and business requirements. THE IMPACT OF THE INTERNET Technological change, over a relatively short period of time, has brought Internet connectivity to a central role in current business models.
Internet value may be evaluated as the sum of business process integration plus the satisfaction level attained from customer service. In many cases, the output of that equation becomes greater than the sum of it parts. Organizational processes that are integrated into one seamless set of transactions, from the supplier side through the customer experience, eliminate duplication and dramatically drive down factors of costs.
That cost reduction is lean-sizing organizations to the point where the culture of a business is changing based on the way transactions are Web enabled. But, that is only the beginning. As time advances, technological creativity and the boundaryless search capability of the Internet will provide suppliers with unlimited enhancers to increase the level of customer satisfaction. Global access will provide the ability to search every corner of the world to find the right commodity, at the right price, at the right quality, and with product changes that align with the real-time voice of the customer. Competition will be fierce, and the methods used by the IT organization will be crucial for survival. This article provides a business model and case study that supports the belief that development teams, under the best circumstances, need a structured and disciplined environment in which to cooperate toward Internet success. Six Sigma quality can push the bar of operational excellence to a level of excellence never before imagined.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: A CASE IN NEED OF A SIX SIGMA FOCUS Internet-driven change is reshaping the paradigm of business transaction management. In an effort to adapt to that change, the IT organization is modifying its structure and approach to better align with client support. When delivering applications to the Internet (where the customer is approaching a seamless partnership with the business), client and customer expectations must be closely allied for maximum benefit. This case study will demonstrate the techniques used by one company to combine Six Sigma quality with the Internet development effort. As the case will demonstrate, not only did the client benefit, but the IT organization improved business processes by making a performance commitment to Six Sigma quality. The company began in 1993 as a supplier of medical equipment and realized substantial growth in a very short period of time.
In the companys vertical organizational model, a focus on the inside-out approach was driving most of the development initiatives. After reviewing a benchmarking analysis, the CEO realized that some of the competition began building a business-to-business Web infrastructure, hoping to solidify long-term commitments with premiere customers and the marketplace.
The CEO therefore asked the chief information officer (CIO) to get involved. The company soon adopted a launch and learn Internet development strategy. That method allowed the company to save a significant amount of time in the race to be one of the first in that market segment with an Internet site. Today, utilizing a business-to-business infrastructure, the new emphasis is on customer service and operational integration. The company had recently adopted the Six Sigma quality methodology. The chief operating officer (COO), after reviewing the monthly customer support desk complaint log, determined that too much time was spent taking development deliverables out of production.
The COO asked the quality audit team to assess the issues and report on the outcome. Four problem areas immediately surfaced because of a business as usual attitude that did not recognize the contribution that Six Sigma could make when applied to the Internet. The four problem areas were defined as follows. Problem Area One: Production Issue The development process was broken. Although deliverables correlated closely with scope definition, the error rate was unacceptably high. This situation was somewhat confusing, as the defects should have been detected during the system level testing initiative.
The quality team began the investigation by plotting a stability factor for the combined Web-site reliability against the last four quarters of time. The sigma measurement substantiated what everyone already knew to be true. The Web-site rework factor was excessive. Some deliverables were taken out of production, resulting in down time. This fractured Web effort cost money, tied up resources, and gave customers the wrong message.
The first objective was identified. The team had to find a way to increase release reliability and accuracy. Problem Area Two: Customer Dissatisfaction Customer dissatisfaction was at an all time high. The team plotted customer complaints against time, for the last four quarters. The results indicated that customer expectations were not being met, there were some customer retention issues during this period of time, and Web downtime was not proactively communicated to the customer base. The second objective was identified.
Accounting For Software Development Costs
The team had to improve customer satisfaction. Problem Area Three: Cycle Time Cycle time (CT) was considered to be an important metric and a long-term parameter of quality. CT was calculated as the time from the initial client request to the day of Web-page delivery. Since CT did not include fixes that were made after delivery, that estimate was made separately under the category of maintenance. The steps that make up a CT metric usually consist of both core activities and support activities.
This critical path calculation was based on core activities only and was quite erratic. A third objective was identified. The team had to find a way to reduce total cycle time.
Problem Area Four: Excessive Turnover Rate The high resource turnover rate might have adversely affected the transference of process knowledge. Not only were there many unnecessary handoffs, it took an average of six months for new resources to get a handle on development standards. That problem did not bode well for the long-term continuity of quality.
To complicate matters further, a decision was made to outsource the development effort. To balance that effort without losing additional quality in the transition was one of the greatest challenges of the IT organization.
A fourth objective was identified. Reduce rework in a virtual environment. THE WORKING MODEL An IT standard is defined as a reference of measurement that is used to compare work effectiveness against what is considered to be the preferred method of operation. A model is an idealized design to be imitated by workers who use standards to reach a desired outcome. In an effort to understand the IT development process on a high level and drive operational excellence, the quality team designed a standardized model for Internet development. The model mapped the software development life cycle for the Internet against the Six Sigma quality cycle: define, measure, analyze, improve, and control (DMAIC), and then aligned those cycles against the project management life cycle: initiate, planning, execution, control, and closeout. The model not only assisted the development team to focus on reducing development variation, but also gave the rest of the company an understanding of the IT involvement necessary for success.
Previously, the IT organization did not get involved with the Six Sigma cycle until the project team started the improve phase. That placed the IT development effort into a reacting mode.
By that time, decisions were already made regarding project scope, timelines, objectives, and budget. This model provided IT with the opportunity to get involved with the define phase of the project and carry full alignment with business strategy.
The improved process allowed a cross-functional focus on user requirements from the start of the Six Sigma life cycle and effectively enabled IT to meet or exceed customer expectations with every deliverable. WEB ENABLING PROCESS CAPABILITY A business process can be described as a series of steps that bring a key service-based transaction to a state of closure. If a companys Web pages are not correlated with business strategy, the resulting image becomes jumbled with mixed messages, the development work becomes burdensome, and the organizational culture tends to stray away from true customer service. Alignment begins with the mapping of core business processes and subprocesses to the voice of the customer. A business process matrix (BPM) assists with that correlation by arranging the most critical processes with the user experience. The BPM brings together prioritized projects with a companys mission statement, strategy, and with the totality of customer events. The BPM shown below builds upon the house of quality concept by breaking the user experience down into core process steps.
Web-enabled projects, shown on the left, are driven toward those transactions that enhance the user experience. Motorm4x mods. There is also an element of interruption in every development initiative (bug fixes, quick turnaround items, and so on) that has to be monitored. Interruption is not planned and takes up valuable resource time. The resources who receive those requests become interrupt driven, with more critical projects suffering from time constraints and budget overruns.
To avoid that pitfall, those quick hits should be directed to dedicated resources that keep their fingers on the pulse of development quality (termed as issue resolution planning). Issue resolution planning enables an Internet development manager to focus resources on critical workload. This provides immediate feedback to the executive staff of the available resources, team assignments, skill-set inadequacies, and resource constraints.
The result is more control, greater success, and better alignment with customer requirements. THE SIX SIGMA DMAIC MODEL: DEFINE, MEASURE, ANALYZE, IMPROVE, AND CONTROL Define Define is the first step in the DMAIC cycle, and as shown in the Internet development model maps to project selection and initiation. Since the project was already approved and launched by the COO, executive buy-in was strong. The CIO was selected as project sponsor, and a Six Sigma Quality Black Belt with an IT background was assigned to the project. The project team consisted of those individuals who exhibited an understanding of the scope and were passionate about seeing the project to a successful completion. Once the team was identified, a roles and responsibilities matrix was started.
An initial agreement was reached on project parameters. Surveys were conducted.
Information was correlated against customer requirements and internal processes that touched the customer. High-level requirements were aligned with business strategy, and a high-level scope document was placed into an intranet file. Stakeholders signed the scope definition document. A dashboard was created to focus the team on project objectives. The dashboard was placed on the Intranet for round-the-clock communication to the executive staff. It was determined that the scope baseline would be frozen at some point, and future changes would have to be handled through a rigorous change control process.
That change process would include all project factors, from requirements to objectives, down into the code base. Project objectives were specific, measurable, understandable, as well as acceptable to all team members and stakeholders.
Many recent inquiries and discussions have focused on the SIPOC diagram – a tool used in the Six Sigma methodology. Because of the interest level, a further explanation is presented here along with a sample and template for your use. A SIPOC diagram is a tool used by a team to identify all relevant elements of a process improvement project before work begins. It helps define a complex project that may not be well scoped, and is typically employed at the Measure phase of the Six Sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology. It is similar and related to process mapping and ‘in/out of scope’ tools, but provides additional detail. The tool name prompts the team to consider the suppliers (the ‘s’ in SIPOC) of your process, the inputs (the ‘i’) to the process, the process (the ‘p’) your team is improving, the outputs (the ‘o’) of the process, and the customers (the ‘c’) that receive the process outputs.
In some cases, requirements of the customers can be appended to the end of the SIPOC for further detail. The SIPOC tool is particularly useful when it is not clear:. Who supplies inputs to the process?. What specifications are placed on the inputs?. Who are the true customers of the process?. What are the requirements of the customers?
Sample SIPOC Diagram A SIPOC diagram is a tool used by a team to identify all relevant elements of a process improvement project before work begins. It helps define a complex project that may not be well scoped, and is typically employed at the Measure phase of the Six Sigma DMAIC methodology. Steps to Complete the SIPOC Diagram SIPOC diagrams are very easy to complete. Here are the steps you should follow: 1. Create an area that will allow the team to post additions to the SIPOC diagram. This could be a transparancy (to be projected by an overhead) made of the provided template, flip charts with headings (S-I-P-O-C) written on each, or headings written on post-it notes posted to a wall. Begin with the process.
Map it in four to five high level steps. Identify the outputs of this process.
Identify the customers that will receive the outputs of this process. Identify the inputs required for the process to function properly. Identify the suppliers of the inputs that are required by the process. Optional: Identify the preliminary requirements of the customers.
This will be verified during a later step of the Six Sigma measurement phase. Discuss with project sponsor, Champion and other involved stakeholders for verification. SIPOC Templates The following SIPOC templates are for immediate download and use. The Adobe Acrobat version allows you to print and input your SIPOC information by hand, perhaps by overhead.
Work Breakdown Structure For Software Development
The Microsoft PowerPoint version allows you to input your SIPOC information and print.