Investing in software to support your Six Sigma initiatives is an effective way to ensure that you get the most out of the methodology. In addition, setting up a structure for improvement makes it simpler for people throughout the organization to participate in and effectively oversee continuous process improvement efforts.
Organizations that leverage Six Sigma software collect more opportunities for improvement, implement more solutions, and see a higher ROI for Six Sigma. Several solutions on the market were either developed as Six Sigma management tools or repurposed as such, so we thought it might be helpful to identify some of the most critical capabilities that you should look for when evaluating this type of technology.
While there are several Six Sigma software solutions on the market, they are not all the same. The best platforms for this type of improvement include:
Capture Opportunities for Improvement
The foundation of your Sigma program is the ability of every person in the organization to identify and record opportunities for improvement. This is central to the Six Sigma approach and should be at the heart of the solution you choose.
Cloud-based software that is available 24 x 7 and on any device is the most logical deployment option. It will allow people to report what they find wherever they are and for managers to respond to opportunities even if they don't happen to be in the office.
The solution should allow users to add any documents or images that might be relevant to the opportunity for improvement. In addition, it should create an audit trail that will store the details of what happens to each opportunity over time.
Streamlined Project Management
Once an opportunity for improvement is captured in the system, there should be a defined workflow for what happens next. For example, who will evaluate and prioritize the opportunity? How will the person who reported the opportunity know what is happening with it?
The best Six Sigma solutions have intelligent alerts and notifications so that the people who will assess and approve opportunities are notified immediately when a new one is entered. They can then assign related tasks to the right people and teams.
Once work on a Sigma project starts, additional alerts notify appropriate personnel when tasks are completed or due dates are missed. This accelerates the pace of improvement and helps to eliminate missed tasks or deadlines.
Six Sigma brings an evidence-based, scientific approach to business management. Each process is only changed after a ridged evaluation and pre-defined improvement cycles like PSDA or DMAIC. Therefore, it only makes sense to bring that same data analysis mindset to measuring the impact of the changes that are implemented.
Your Six Sigma software solution should help you report the impact of your improvement work in terms of cost reduction, increased revenue, improved customer satisfaction, reduced cycle time, or any other metrics that are important to your business. This will help justify the investment in Six Sigma programs, keep employees motivated, and drive executive engagement.
Six Sima software helps you apply the concept of measurement system analysis to impact reporting. Because the solution works consistently, you'll be confident that the impact you report is accurate.
Many Six Sigma techniques involve visualization with descriptive statistics. Value stream mapping, Kanban, A3, Kaizen boards, and others all help people instantly understand complex information in an instant. Look for Six Sigma software that takes visual business process management to the next level, giving users the ability to set up dashboards and reports that quickly tell them what they need to know.
Executives should be able to assess the health of Six Sigma in the organization quickly. Ideally, they will have access to activity and engagement reports by location, team, or department. Likewise, project managers should see the flow of work and recognize roadblocks immediately.
Control charts are an essential Six Sigma tool that should be available in your improvement platform. Control charts help leaders and teams visualize the outputs of a process over time, allowing them to see fluctuations in results that may or may not be a cause of concern. Typically they consist of a middle line and an under and lower control limit, often three sigmas from the mean. They provide the basis for statistical process analysis. The best Six Sigma software solutions make control charts available as part of management dashboards and reports.
Although there are many collaboration tools in the market, it is helpful to select one that is integrated into a larger improvement platform. Allowing folks from every team and department to work together in the same solution with the ability to store notes, track progress, and get access to assets is the best way to break down silos and ensure a smooth transition when work moves from one functional area to another.
Six Sigma requires a team effort. The approach pays off most when it becomes part of the culture and goes beyond any particular tool or technique to endow every employee with a strong sense that they are vital to the organization's success, and constant improvement is a fundamental responsibility of every single individual. Six Sigma software solutions with built-in improvement broadcasting capabilities help reinforce the importance of Kaizen. This type of recognition is also powerfully motivating and one of the things that employees consistently tell researchers they want more from employers.
Six Sigma can profoundly transform an organization for the better, but it doesn't always do so. Success requires executive support, investment in necessary tools and resources, and a willingness to embrace constant change. Six Sigma software doesn't guarantee results, but it puts the organization on the right footing to accelerate improvement, make intelligent decisions, and learn from past experience. Selecting one with solid capabilities in each area will help ensure that you get a solution and a partner that can smooth your path toward better business results in terms of the metrics you care about most.