Infrastructure
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1/27/2005
11:28 PM
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SmartAdvice: Look For Flexibility When Selecting Telecom And Data Carriers

Understand your immediate and near-term needs when choosing a carrier, The Advisory Council says. Also, Six Sigma uses proven techniques to improve quality and isn't just for manufacturing.

Question B: What is Six Sigma, and what role should it play in our IT organization?

Our advice: The term "Six Sigma" is oftentimes maligned and misunderstood. It is sometimes thought of as a management fad du jour. It is sometimes thought of as requiring bureaucracy and not being very cost effective. And, it is sometimes thought of as an all or nothing effort. It is, in fact, none of these.

Six Sigma is a careful, well-organized, and effective implementation of proven quality techniques that have been shown to deliver significant performance improvements. Six Sigma efforts target a quantum improvement in operational effectiveness.

Six Sigma isn't new. It combines some of the best tools, techniques, and practices of the past with more current management thinking and throwing in a dash of common sense. Many statistical Six Sigma tools such as Pareto charts, design of experiments, histograms, scatter diagrams, Chi-square analysis, and analysis of variance (ANOVA) have been around for a long time.

Six Sigma is a reference to a goal of reducing variation from a product or process. Sigma is the Greek letter statisticians use to represent standard deviation of a process. A Six Sigma quality level allows only 3.4 defects per million opportunities.

Six Sigma has its origins in manufacturing. For example, Motorola was one of the first manufacturing organizations to embrace and implement Six Sigma practices. However, it's a myth to believe that Six Sigma only works in manufacturing. It can work in the financial industry, for example, to reduce check-clearing cycle times that might be causing customer complaints.

Six Sigma isn't an all or nothing proposition. Organizations can realize significant operational improvement by moving from a four-sigma compliant company to a five-sigma compliant company. And, they can realize even more improvement by moving from a five-sigma compliant company toward the level of Six Sigma.


Related Links
American Society for Quality

International Quality Federation
How does one go about starting a Six Sigma initiative? First, an organization must realize that there are no shortcuts to achieving the long-term and lasting benefits offered by Six Sigma. There is no "Six Sigma Lite." Second, Six Sigma efforts should be initiated from the top, not somewhere in mid-management. Bob Galvin at Motorola and Jack Welch at GE had to firmly grasp the effectiveness of Six Sigma prior to it taking a foothold in those organizations. Third, and most important, Six Sigma efforts focus squarely on the customer. Efforts that ignore the customer do so at their own peril.

If you've come to terms with the three points cited immediately above, then you are further along in your thinking than some other organizations. And, you're ready to take some initial steps on your own Six Sigma project.

First, consider the use of Six Sigma Black Belts on your efforts. These certified professionals bring a chest of proven power tools and techniques grounded in experience.

Second, create a project charter, a cornerstone for any process-improvement effort. A project charter should clearly state the business problem, capture the customer's processes, identify what's important to them, and how they will measure success. Further, a project charter becomes a communications vehicle for management citing exactly what is to be accomplished.

With Six Sigma Black Belts onboard and a project charter in place, all the ensuing steps occur much more easily.

--John Sinclair

Jeremy Frank, TAC Expert, has more than 24 years of experience in telecommunications and related industries. He focuses on applying technology to enhance the business performance of both domestic and international service companies. He has managed technology-based initiatives in organizations ranging from business units of major corporations to startups.

John Sinclair, TAC Expert, has more than 26 years of experience spanning a variety of industries. His last 11 years have focused on process, project, and information management in consumer-goods and clinical-trials environments with experiences in document and content management, systems validation, FDA compliance issues, and 21 CFR-11 compliance legislation. His strengths include research and analysis and evaluating the business use of emerging technologies. He's certified as a Project Management Professional and is a graduate of the Society for Information Management's regional leadership program.

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