Six Sigma is a mantra that many successful organizations worldwide count on to enhance their existing business processes. More companies than ever now use Six Sigma principles to streamline complex software development processes and identify flaws and defects before they reach the end user. That’s why earning certification for a Six Sigma Black Belt is essential. Software riddled with issues can not only ruin your reputation, but also lead to losses.

7 Six Sigma Principles for Optimal Software Development

At the same time, clients and management both expect IT teams to complete the development process quickly. As long as you can pursue your development journey while still staying focused on quality, you can meet these strict deadlines and keep everyone happy. Luckily, you can always rely on these seven Six Sigma principles to optimize the software development process.

Six Sigma Black Belt Principle #1: Eliminate Waste

As you earn your Six Sigma Black Belt certification, you will learn that anything that doesn’t add value to the end user is considered wasteful. Focusing on features that provide little to no benefit will waste your time, money, and productivity. Ideally, the first step to eliminating waste is to define the value you want to provide through the software.

You can easily use tools that facilitate value stream mapping to define value, after which it will be easier to identify the waste. For instance, unclear requirements, unnecessary code, and additional processes and features may be unnecessary to your end user. Waste could also arise from adding phases in the software development lifecycle that will do little to help with the end goal.

Six Sigma Black Belt Principle #2: Create Knowledge

Developers often require a wide range of skills to ensure that the final product provides optimal value to the business and end user. Besides accumulating knowledge, teams need to be able to easily share the knowledge, such as through reviews at the end of the iteration. Knowledge can be both technical and non-technical. For instance, knowing what the end user wants might not necessarily be communicated in technical terms. 

The trick is to ensure that the team is continuously accumulating knowledge. You can promote learning through training, adequate code comments, code reviews, project documentation, pair programming, and sharing sessions. Since it takes a lot of time and investment to promote this knowledge accumulation, it makes sense to work overtime to retain your software development team.

Six Sigma Black Belt Principle #3: Build Quality In

While letting technical debt accumulate might seem harmless, having too much could come to bite you. Excessive technical debt could overwhelm your development team and lead to defects that reach the end user. The trick is to design the software with quality as part of the process.

Six Sigma Black Belt Principle #3: Build Quality In

You immediately notice a flaw and begin work on resolving it, unless it is necessary to stall it until later. Even better, you can use the 80/20 rule to pay off technical debt. Taking quality assurance seriously ensures that you will identify fewer bugs during the testing phase.

Six Sigma Black Belt Principle #4: Empower the Team

Successful software development heavily relies on the human factor. Given that the development process requires mental work, it only makes sense to take care of your workforce accordingly. Everyone should be acknowledged for their contributions, and celebrating wins can be quite beneficial for the team.

If something goes wrong, avoid blaming team members and look for processes and challenges that might have contributed to the issue. Most importantly, create an environment where your team can thrive. For instance, you can give them some form of autonomy by allowing them to choose their preferred approaches and tools to improve their tasks.

Six Sigma Black Belt Principle #5: Embrace Fast Delivery

The faster you can get the product to the customer, the quicker you can get their feedback. There have been cases where product developments took months to build, but ended up being utterly useless. Create even and stable workflows for your team to ensure a quick delivery. Set deadlines for dealing with bugs and embrace practices that help improve accountability.

Six Sigma Black Belt Principle #6: Delay Crucial Decisions

Making crucial decisions with little to no knowledge about the possible outcomes can wreak havoc on the project. If a decision is irreversible or could substantially affect the final product, you should wait before making the decision. Delaying such decisions allows you enough time to gather more data and monitor processes to identify the best way forward.

Delaying also helps limit your team’s chances of being overwhelmed with the many changes that can occur due to poor decision-making. If this becomes the case, the team could easily forget the project’s primary purpose. These delays could also affect your software launch schedule.

Six Sigma Black Belt Principle #7: Optimize the Whole Project

Every project has multiple parts that demand attention. While optimizing these intricate parts of the software can be ideal, it can lead to you losing sight of the entire goal. In some cases, you can have individually optimized software features that don’t work together well enough to optimize the full software.

Six Sigma Black Belt Principle #7: Optimize the Whole Project

That might result in you having to revisit the sub-optimizations you made to ensure that they work well with all other software parts. Alternatively, you could leave the project as-is, which means presenting the end user with a sub-par product. As you optimize the software, you should look for a balance between individual and holistic optimizations. 

Focus on a specific feature while thinking about how it will help improve the software’s overall functionality. That is where value stream mapping comes into place. Ensuring that your entire team understands the goal you have for the final product will allow you to embrace sub-optimization and optimization practices that make achieving these goals easy.

Communication Is Key

Excellent communication is necessary for an optimized software development journey. Team members need to understand the value required to deliver to the end-user. You also need to ensure they know who is responsible for what part of the development journey. The more unified communication is between team members, the faster the development process will be, with fewer hiccups.  

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