Running Efficient Software Projects using Six Sigma

Applying Six Sigma to software projects is not quite the same as applying it to product or process quality improvement in manufacturing. However, there is a misconception that it applies doesn’t apply to software projects. The truth is that the techniques and tools of Six Sigma can help software companies.

Of course, software projects are different and this has to be taken into account for successful implementation. There are many differences between software and manufacturing.

Software projects are non-repetitive; they involve unique input and output, cognition, visualization and external factors like skills and knowledge of employees. Despite these differences, when Six Sigma is adopted by software companies, it results in fewer defects, faster delivery and increased customer satisfaction.

Another factor that can affect Six Sigma implement is the training of those who implement it. Peter Peterka, Managing Partner of Global Six Sigma, has many years of experience in applying Lean Six Sigma and the company offers Master Black Belt and various other training programs to make sure individuals are fully equipped to apply Six Sigma in companies, including software companies.

Assess and characterize an organization

Many software projects fail because of poor requirements due to stakeholders not being represented or participating late in defining requirements. A Six Sigma approach solves this problem.

When identifying a proper path for Six Sigma implementation, it helps to ask the following questions. What is the history of an organization, its age and its culture? Is leadership on board? What is the maturity of process and measurement systems? What needs to be accomplished and by when?

Proper use of Six Sigma tools

Six Sigma uses a DMAIC model (define, measure, analyze, improve and control). Each phase has a clearly defined input and output and a number of quality tools are used in each step. This can be used from the gathering phase of a software project to ensure that the right problem is being solved.

Clearly identifying the customer’s requirements has an impact on the proposed solution. When Six Sigma tools are properly used, they help in focusing on the high-value system components.  

Evaluating processes

Software companies are able to evaluate processes such as unit testing and integration testing as well as code and design reviews. Using Six Sigma tools and techniques, they can find variations or causes of defects and prevent them. This ensures that every stage of software development runs efficiently.

By introducing intervals of analysis into every phase of project activity, it is possible to quickly zero in on issues affecting the development of the software.

Every phase from concept, acquiring resources, systems specification, development and testing to rollout and maintenance goes through interval analysis or tollgates to make sure problems are caught early and that every aspect of a project comes under scrutiny.

Cost misunderstandings

Some software companies are under the misconception that using Six Sigma is very expensive. As it focuses on quality right from the start of a project, the cost to improve quality is minimal. When waiting right up to the testing phase to find defects, the cost to company to fix them can be very high.

Software companies who have used the Six Sigma approach find that it works well when applied correctly and the pricing is not a deciding factor then. Misconceptions and negative opinions about its application in software projects are often based on misunderstandings of a Six Sigma approach.

Software companies are choosing to use Six Sigma, especially for mission-critical and complex projects, finding it has an impact on their bottom line. It reduces the rate of defects and poor quality, improves processes, reduces customer complaints and enhances market share.

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