How Six Sigma Enables Innovation
If a critical thoroughfare in a city was under a DMAIC process, it would be able to respond well or even avoid shutdowns from normal wear and tear, like potholes. But as a process, if it didn't undergo DFSS at design time taking traffic loads into account (and allowing for medians and adequate number of lanes), small accidents or peak traffic patterns at rush hours can bring the flow to a grinding halt, rendering the whole service useless.
There is a lot of room for exploration and research when it comes to applying DFSS to innovation in IT. As companies make a push for modernizing various elements of IT infrastructure, they know that it has to be done in a non-intrusive manner, but more importantly they also realize that such efforts have to be self-funded. That is where the two aspects of Six Sigma complement each other. DMAIC helps in realizing significant gains from support activities, which, in turn, can fund modernization activities where DFSS can help improve business alignment and agility.
To ensure that DFSS does improve IT's alignment with the business, IT management should take a closer look at the upstream ITIL activities of a service and the tools/techniques that DFSS offers to facilitate innovation and ideation. The set of tools/techniques for DFSS total to more than fifty statistical/analytical tools meant for different stages of 'DMADV,' and they include such artifacts as strategic plan, benchmarking, KANOs model, design of experiments, expected value analysis (EVA), Poka Yoke (a.k.a. mistake proofing), and so on. These are but a smidgeon of a sampling of the whole list, but, hopefully, they are enough to stimulate the interest and motivate IT shops to incorporate best practices of DFSS into their modernization efforts.
When a set of well-qualified application portfolios are being migrated to a service-oriented architecture (SOA), the discipline of DFSS, for example, would require that the eXtended Markup Language (XML) payloads be quantified to clearly demarcate the boundaries from one sigma to Six Sigma. These boundaries would then drive the design efforts to develop the appropriate application and infrastructure architecture (which perhaps would point to a proactive use of XML Gateway appliances as necessary) to meet the desired compliance and service level agreements for response time.
But, more importantly, using design of experiments of DFSS, IT would be able to ascertain during design time if, in fact, the appliances are helping in achieving the Six Sigma support, or are they only able to go as far as, say, three sigma. Based on those outcomes, IT and business can get into a cost-benefit analysis to determine the viability of pursuing Six Sigma goals for the given SLA.
Six Sigma/DFSS offers a discipline and a host of tools/techniques that can help IT to design systems that are resilient and are easy to manage. By providing tangible goals to chase, it ensures that innovation efforts are well grounded in reality and are constantly guided towards meeting business challenges.
Sreedhar Kajeepeta is CTO, Strategic Technology Services, with CSC.