Using Six Sigma Techniques in the Information Technology Organization:
Supporting the Drive for Responsiveness in the Overall Business Organization Strategy
Fred M. Moseley
Dr. John A. Scigliano
November 27, 2007
Abstract of Paper
In order to maintain peak efficiency, all organizations within the company must be a part of the
corporate planning strategy. In the information technology (IT) organization, the chief operating
officer (CIO) often has difficulty relating to his C-level peers. The underlying rationale is that
the CIO is not seen as an experienced business manager, rather as a senior engineer. This results
in the CIO being left out of corporate planning decisions. Using the Six Sigma statistical model
in the IT organization, the CIO is afforded an opportunity to become a vital member of the
corporation’s decision making process (i.e. project scope, objectives, budget). Ultimately,
resulting in a win-win for all stakeholders involved in the business organization strategy.
There were no comments on Del-A.
Table of Contents
Abstract of Paper 2
Statement of the Problem 4
What is Six Sigma? 5
Applying Six Sigma to the Information Technology Organization 5
The DMAIC and Information Technology 5
Changing the C-level Paradigm towards Information Technology 6
Maintaining Six Sigma 6
Reference List 7
Statement of the Problem
Corporations today are creatively looking for ways to bring their information technology (IT)
organization in line with the overall business strategy of the corporation; they are finding this to
be no easy task. Both mid-level and senior executive (C-level) management are becoming
increasingly aware of Six Sigma processes as they relate to improving the overall business
processes. However, in aligning their IT infrastructure with their overall business goals, the
chief information officer (CIO) is finding it increasingly difficult to understand just how Six
Sigma applies to their departments; especially in regards to IT. In fact, “few executives have
made the connection of applying real quality approaches [by means of] applying technology to
the enterprise” (Carlini, 2002). Although today’s “CIO comprehends the potential impact of
technology and the power of innovation more than any other C-level executive in their
organization” (Aral, 2006), an aggravating situation still remains; many CIOs have little or no
business school (MBA) background. This dilemma severely limits the CIO’s understanding of
Six Sigma’s benefits to their organization.
What is Six Sigma?
Six Sigma is a disciplined approach to improving a process method within a company by
reducing and eliminating defects in a process. The ultimate goal of Six Sigma is to produce, as
close as possible, a “defect-free process” (Siviy, 2007). Six Sigma is defined as 3.4 or fewer
defective parts per million (99.99966). To accomplish this goal, Six Sigma uses a model called a
DMAIC (pronounced Duh-may-ick) to standardize the steps required to improve a process. The
DMAIC uses various statistical and analytical tools required to define the current process,
measure the output of the process, analyze the data, improve the process, and put controls in
place to maintain Six Sigma (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, & Control).
Applying Six Sigma to the Information Technology Organization
Every task undertaken in an IT organization necessitates a process. Typically, these processes all
have inherent inconsistencies. By collecting and analyzing data, the organization can better
understand the inconsistencies in their processes; so that they might make better process
improvement decisions (Siviy, 2007). Therefore, this brings the IT organization well within the
realm of Six Sigma. Cummins, an engine manufacturer in Columbus, Indiana, currently requires
all IT employees to be Six Sigma Green Belt certified. If they aren’t certified, they aren’t
eligible for promotion and they can’t change jobs (Duffy-Marsan, 2007).
Duffy-Marsan maintains, “Any place that you are doing transactional work or support, you have
a ton of data” (2007). For this reason, Six Sigma is a useful tool for reducing project costs and
improving overall production quality. Furthermore, according to Duffy-Marsan, the easiest
projects to undertake initially are cost-reduction projects. For example, Cummings was spending
a lot of money on external resources, so they set about to improve their outsourcing process. As
a result of improving the project resource tracking process, more projects are now delivered on
time; at a considerable cost savings to Cummings (Duffy-Marsan, 2007).
As a business tool, Six Sigma makes it easier for the IT organization to “better focus on
understanding and managing customer requirements.” Within the IT organization, customer
requirements can range from basic help desk issues (i.e. E-mail, LAN connectivity, OS
questions) to major organizational changes; such as network equipment and vital software
upgrades. Because there are such a wide range of requirements, it is vital to an IT organization
that they “align [their] key processes to achieve those requirements.” Six Sigma uses various
data analysis tools to “minimize variation in those processes” while “driving rapid and
sustainable improvement to the [organization’s] business processes” (Harrington & McNellis,
2001). While there is certainly no requirement that every IT project has to become a Six Sigma
project, every IT project can make good use of Six Sigma tools.
The DMAIC and Information Technology
As mentioned previously, the DMAIC uses various statistical and analytical tools to define the
process, measure the output, analyze the output data, improve the process, and maintain Six
Sigma through process control. The IT project includes planning, design, implementation, and
asset life cycle; to name a few. Each of these project phases is ideal for implementing a Six
Sigma method. In addition, each phase of the DMAIC has a crucial contribution to the project’s
overall success. For example, if an opportunity has specifically been identified by management
as critical to operations, then the Six Sigma project team should consider the voice of the
customer (VOC) process. The VOC, as part of the define phase, is utilized to determine the most
critical aspects of the project; those most important to the primary stakeholders (customer).
Through direct discussion, interviews, surveys, focus groups, customer specifications,
observation, warranty data, field reports, and complaint logs, the project team determines what is
most critical to the customer. Collected data may then be used to identify the required quality
attributes (or materials) to be incorporated in the overall process. Once identified, these are then
integrated into the overall Six Sigma IT project (Aral, 2006).
Changing the C-level Paradigm towards Information Technology
Historically, the IT organization hasn’t gotten involved in the Six Sigma process until late in the
project; typically during the improve phase of the DMAIC. By and large this leads to panic
among the IT managers because they haven’t been a part of the input process with regard to
project scope, timelines, objectives, or budget requirements (Harrington & McNellis, 2001). The
key to a successful Six Sigma IT initiative is making certain that the DMAIC processes align
with the overall project management goals of the corporation. This includes IT; the senior IT
management must be involved. Therefore, buy-in from the organization’s senior management is
critical. Why? Because, in most cases, C-level and/or mid-level management will be the
project’s stakeholder. Once committed, they become the project champion. The project
champion is responsible for making certain the project team has everything required for success
(i.e. time, money, resources).
Maintaining Six Sigma
Throughout the early stages of a project (define, measure, and analyze phases), a baseline of the
processes (as they currently exist) are created. Once in the improve phase, however, the project
team begins to implement an approach designed to make the current process (if any) better.
Once these improvements have been implemented, the control phase is then put into action to
make certain the IT organization does not “revert [back] to the error-riddled baseline”
(Harrington & McNellis, 2001). Simply stated, the controls maintain the project improvements
for as long as they’re required. If necessary, these improvements will be enhanced further as the
need arises. The control phase of the Six Sigma process is a significant aspect to both the
ultimate success of the Six Sigma project and to the success of the organization’s end product.
Many opportunities will surface within IT organizations which present themselves for
improvement to the current business processes. As the role of the CIO changes, so do the IT
organizations they lead. While many CIOs do not have formal training as MBAs, they still have
an opportunity to influence and challenge their C-level peers in organizational processes; as they
pertain to the IT organization. Using (and understanding) Six Sigma techniques, the CIO levels
the playing field; while striving for a defect free-process. Furthermore, as the IT organization
begins to better understand the leveraging power of Six Sigma, they increase their buy-in as an
organization within the corporate infrastructure. Once the CIO has corporate backing for a Six
Sigma project, they may now champion any useful project in their organization. The payoff is a
greater contribution to the overall development of the project scope, timelines, corporate
objectives, and valuable budget requirements for the IT organization. The CIO becomes a vital
member of the corporate team; a player, not one who merely watches from the sidelines.
Aral, S. & Weill P. (2006, Winter). Generating premium returns on your IT investments. MIT
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Harrington, H., & & McNellis, T. (2001). Six sigma for internet application development.
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Siviy, J. (2007, January 11). Six sigma: Software technology roadmap. Prepared for the Software
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