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Six Sigma in Software Development

In principle Six Sigma applies to all industries when looking at reducing variations and achieving Critical to Quality Objectives.

Many Six Sigma professionals agree with one point that Cost savings / Return on investment is definitely a major element when drawing the project charter.

In IT industries since the requirements are continuously changing and Agile methods are applied for development, it might be difficult to follow a rigorous DMAIC approach. However just with basic Seven QC tools and problem solving methods we can reduce the variations in the selected process be it on time delivery or lesser defects levels in the end product DMAIC will take the performance levels higher for the processes involved.

If we look at the defects, we need to quality them by defining defects as customer would look them. If we are able to keep customers happy by meeting basic requirements and building exciting requirements into the product we will achieve six sigma objectives. The delighted customer will increase business with his vendor and that leads to improved revenues. The customer may also refer to other companies about his vendor. If Service industries have these kind of long term perspective then six sigma can prove as beneficial as it is for manufacturing companies.

However if one looks at defect perspective of six sigma (3.4 DPMO) it is very difficult to achieve this Critical To Quality attribute in IT industries. When a software application / product is tested, and is ready to ship to the customer, the software vendor sometimes might feel it is better to leave few minor defects into the system. Because beyond a stage leaving a defect is less costly than testing it. In this case Cost is considered as CTQ and not the defect.

IT organizations can greatly benefit Six Sigma as a tool to improve their sigma levels of the processes and reduce variation rather than worrying about 3.4 DPMO.

Any thoughts are welcome.



2 Responses

  1. Hi Krshna,
    It was very interesting to read about some of the very practical things you have written about Six Sigma in Software Development. I have the following to add:-
    Six sigma does not mean only 3.4 DPMO, but even a process of continuously reducing defects is six sigma. Also I think one aspect where six sigma can help is productivity improvement, by identifying NVA and removing. This of course means a bit of Lean comes into the picture. Are you aware of any specific projects done in this space.
    I am a practicing MBB in the outsourcing space.


  2. Hi Sundareswaran,

    Thanks for sharing your valuable feedback. It feels nice to get a feedback from a MBB and more so with the similar view. I agree that productivity, reduction in rework and faster time to market are few areas that have ample scope of Six Sigma application. Lean and Muda technique for removing NVA’s are practised in few IT product companies too. Few report that even an improvement from say 1.5 sigma to 2 or 2.5 sigma results in good savings.

    BPO and product companies are best suited for Muda tecniques. SIPOC should be used to draw the processes and then Muda can be applied to make it more effcicient.

    However any kind of approach / tool can be good only if the Top management commits to Quality improvement.


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