Lean Six Sigma and Your IT Department

Six Sigma Can Help Your Business

Six Sigma has been a proven success time and again in the business world. From manufacturing processes to logistics and retail—the Six Sigma process improvement methodology has worked to help numerous companies improve efficiencies, reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction.

For IT departments, however, Six Sigma has not been as widely accepted as a viable process improvement solution for technology related initiatives. Some of this could be attributed to the inherent complexities with IT operations, or because of the diversity of systems and the web of interconnectivity that is involved, IT leaders may not have even considered Six Sigma as an option. After all, Six Sigma generally operates in a linear fashion – start process, go to next step, stop process, measure results – and IT does not operate that way for most operations, now does it?

The truth is: Six Sigma can apply to IT operations and processes in much the same way that it is used in manufacturing or logistics. This process improvement approach can incorporate a myriad of variables and systems to improve service levels overall for IT.

What about Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma is a synergized managerial concept of Lean enterprise and Six Sigma, which results in the elimination of the seven kinds of wastes: Defects, Overproduction, Transportation, Waiting, Inventory, Motion and Over-Processing.

Lean Six Sigma also utilizes the DMAIC phases similar to that of Six Sigma, and the training for Lean Six Sigma is also provided through the belt based training system similar to that of Six Sigma: White Belts, Yellow Belts, Green Belts, Black Belts and Master Black Belts.

Some options within Six Sigma that can be applied to IT

  • DMAIC Model: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control – can help IT to document specific service processes and their interoperability with other applications or systems.
  • FMEA: Failure Modes and Effects Analysis focuses on identifying potential failures or defects within a process and then creating risk mitigation solutions for the problems.
  • Process Sigma Value: By utilizing a mathematical formula to measure IT process quality, leaders can evaluate their existing service capabilities in comparison to business expectations.
  • Pareto Analysis: Pareto’s simple 80/20 rule can be applied to many IT initiatives: 80% of the results come from 20% of the efforts. With a pareto-based ranking system, IT managers can review the contribution of pending projects and initiatives and determine which will deliver the most value to the business.
  • Control Charts: These measurements determine whether given IT services or processes fall within an acceptable performance range. These charts can be used on an ongoing basis to continuously monitor and improve processes.

Clearly, the Six Sigma approach is as applicable to IT as it is to any other business process. From network infrastructure to ERP to E-Business interfaces and software applications, the Six Sigma approach can be used by project managers as well as IT department managers to improve their service levels, reduce system downtime and optimize their processes.

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