Sunday 15 March 2009

Six Sigma and Software Development

The software domain has its own set of tools, concepts and management processes, techniques to ensure quality and the success of a project.  Some of these are development methodologies like Agile development and others are process management techniques like CMM and its process areas. But, Six Sigma, its ideas and concepts did not evoke an interest in Software engineering domain as it did to the manufacturing doamin. In fact, software engineers and IT project managers are still confused as to how and where to apply this concept and related tools in software 'product' development. 

At the end of its life cycle software is a product that, is used by a user/client to realise their goal. Quality, reduced variation from user requirements, reducing cost, well informed decisions, increased customer satisfaction are all important to the IT software industry as it to the manufacturing industry. These are things that Six Sigma aims for and the way to do this is even better in Six Sigma. If so, then software engineering and management can adopt quite a lot if not all, from this strategy. The initial skepticism can be removed by replacing the terms client/user (in Software domain) with customer (Six Sigma), issues (Software) with defects/variations (Six Sigma) and Software/System with product.  The only hurdle in the case of softwares is tangibility.  Again, 'Changes' are common to software development processes. Also, it is most unwelcome and software engineering processes tend to be brittle when it comes to managing changes. This is because most of the process models such as CMM tend to keep processes prognosticative. So they are uncomfortable with Changes. This 'Change' is also core to Six Sigma and But, is addressed very effectively.  In short, Six Sigma should not be alien to Software Engineering companies which in turn can definitely reap great benefits by applying this strategy.