All Together Now: CMM, CRM, ERP and Six Sigma

CIOs who haven’t yet gotten the Six Sigma religion might find themselves slightly irritated by devotees’ talk of measurement-based decision making, increased quality, improved processes and so on.

After all, Six Sigma doesn’t hold the patent on those very common corporate goals?shall we all just pitch out our existing quality, valuation and process-improvement programs?

No need, say Six Sigma boosters. While Six Sigma is clearly an alternative to broad-based quality initiatives such as Total Quality Management, proponents say it works just fine with extant project management software, CRM, Balanced Scorecard and other operational and valuation methodologies?if (and it’s a big if) those methods and measures are customer-centric.

"It’s important to think of Six Sigma not as a replacement for other kinds of process improvement. You’re not throwing those out. You’re focusing more intently on the customer and the customer’s experience of working with IT," says Matt Light, a research director at Gartner.

Chase Financial Services, for example, uses Carnegie Mellon’s Capability Maturity Model (CMM) to improve the predictability and quality of its software development and integration processes. That program fits in perfectly with Six Sigma, says Chase Financial Services Executive Vice President and CIO Charles P. Costa.

Another up-and-coming service-oriented quality program, the IT Infrastructure Library, which originated with the British government, covers much of the same ground as Six Sigma but in theory could still be used in tandem with Six Sigma, says Light.

Any company’s existing project management and portfolio management programs should complement Six Sigma’s quality and customer goals?and indeed, many PM vendors have begun including Six Sigma tools in their software offerings.

As for CRM, ERP and other three-letter, multiyear customer initiatives, Sun Microsystems is one company that’s wrung significant improvements from its customer relationship management system by applying Six Sigma principles. "We have already made huge performance and process advances in our CRM system," says Junaid Mohiuddin, program manager and black belt for worldwide CRM in Sun’s Global Sales Operations. "When disciplined Sigma is applied to ERP rollouts or infrastructure improvements, you increase your chances of success by many factors." -T.M.

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