Indian IT buys into Six Sigma
India’s IT industry is respected globally for its focus on
quality. While SEI-CMM and other ISO standards are quite common, Six Sigma is
now becoming popular amongst Indian IT and ITeS companies. Some have already
started reaping the benefits of adopting Six Sigma, says Abhinav Singh
|Sambuddha Deb says that in most other standards it
is very difficult to measure quality as everyone has a different definition
of quality, but Six Sigma practices underline defects in a process, thereby
making it easy to improve upon by eliminating the defect from its root
In a business where there is little to
differentiate between competitors, quality is that key ingredient that can aid
in the differentiation process. Obviously, quality standards and certifications
have become a buzzword amongst Indian IT and ITeS companies. The goal of Six
Sigma is continuous process improvement. Indian companies are adopting it to
gain an edge over the others in the pack. Six Sigma’s adoption has resulted
in the improvement of business processes for many companies. While Six Sigma
adoption is still in a nascent stage and challenges remain, it is expected to
take off amongst Indian IT and ITeS companies in the years to come.
Six Sigma is popular with Indian IT and
ITeS players for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is
very clearly result-oriented. Of course, the fact that one of Indian software’s
biggest customers, General Electric (GE), is a big proponent of Six Sigma doesn’t
Many Indian IT and ITeS players believe
that Six Sigma is more result-oriented than other quality and improvement standards
and therefore it helps them streamline their processes, bringing about all-round
organisational improvement. As Six Sigma practices aim at quantifying each and
every process in numbers, it is easier to measure improvement. Sambuddha Deb,
chief quality officer, Wipro Technologies says, "In most other standards it
is very difficult to measure quality as everyone has a different definition
of quality. However, Six Sigma practices underline defects in a process, thereby
making it easy to improve upon it by eliminating the defect from its root."
After adopting Six Sigma, many organisations have found that their delivery
processes have become sustainable and continuous. For call centres in particular,
and IT companies in general, the prospect of improving HR processes using Six
Sigma is a big draw. Shwetank Sharad, head of quality at ICICI OneSource says,
"There are well defined roles in a Six Sigma practice, like a Master Black Belt,
Black Belt and a Green Belt. It aims at zero error in a process, thereby resulting
in overall improvement in a set-up."
Increased customer satisfaction
Several Indian IT and ITeS companies have
adopted Six Sigma in order to gain customer acceptability and improve client
satisfaction. It has helped them create and deliver value and demonstrate direct
savings to their customers. Some IT companies like TCS and iGATE Global Solutions
went in for Six Sigma as a result of their long-term relationship with General
Electric (GE) one of the pioneers in spreading and adopting the concept of Six
Sigma (Motorola was the other pioneer in Six Sigma). N G Subramanayam, vice
president of Bangalore Operations for TCS says, "Initially we took the help
of GE and Motorola in adopting Six Sigma. GE trained our core team, which then
spread the concept across TCS. After having adopted the Six Sigma practice in
1999 we have worked on nearly 300 projects using this practice."
|According to Krishnan Puthucode, SMEs find it difficult
to adopt Six Sigma because in most SMEs there are hardly 10 projects running
and they have hardly any aspect of repeatability in them
Continuous process of improvement
Indian IT and ITeS companies have adopted
Six Sigma across their organisations and have tried to incorporate most of the
processes running in their set-ups. As Six Sigma aims at continuous improvement
it has resulted in changing the complete mindset of employees as per its procedures.
The change in the overall mindset of the organisation has resulted in greater
efficiency and productivity as well as a reduction in cost and cycle time.
Adoption mainly amongst large IT & ITeS
The adoption of Six Sigma has been largely
confined to large IT and ITeS players in the country as they have a large number
of repeatable processes that can be improved over a given time period. They
also have a large number of projects that follow a similar process. Large IT
and ITeS companies also have multiple quality standards running across the organisation
and it is easier for them to integrate Six Sigma practices along with other
standards. Krishnan Puthucode, director and CEO, SEI Authorised Lead Assessor,
Software Quality says, "In some SMEs there are hardly 10 projects running and
they aren’t many repeat processes in them. In such cases it becomes very difficult
to adopt Six Sigma practices. Hence SMEs are struggling to adopt Six Sigma."
Integrating Six Sigma practices with other
Indian IT and ITeS companies adopting Six
Sigma already have a quality standard like a CMM Level 5 certification or an
ISO certification. It is easier to integrate Six Sigma practices when there
are also practices like CMM or ISO running in a set-up. Some organisations like
Wipro, TCS and iGATE Global Solutions in the IT field and EXL Services and 24/7
Customer in ITeS already had other quality programmes running successfully before
they went in for Six Sigma. Ravi Venkatesam, VP-Operations, Technical Support
Practice 24/7 Customer says, "We already had a ISO-9001 certification, and a
COPC. When the Six Sigma adoption idea was mooted the management readily accepted
it, thereby paving the way for overall adoption across the organisation."
|Shwetank Sharad says that there are well defined roles
in a Six Sigma practice, like a Master Black Belt, Black Belt and a Green
Challenges faced while adopting Six Sigma
Customising Six Sigma: Customising Six
Sigma to an organisation’s requirements is a big challenge. The whole mental
attitude of the organisation has to change in order to adopt Six Sigma and realise
its benefits. Vikas Bhalla, vice president, Quality & Process Excellence,
EXL Services says, "Quick adoption of Six Sigma depends on how mature an organisation
is and where it is headed. During the initial stage of adoption strategic directions
are not very clear as to how to go about adopting the practice but once they
are clear Six Sigma can be customised and adopted throughout the organisation
across departments. Freshers in an organisation are more open to the Six Sigma
practice." Besides this it is important to train people to adapt to change and
new practices. Considerable resources have to be pumped into training employees
on Six Sigma. K L Murughan, deputy general manager iGATE Global Solutions says,
"Applying Six Sigma in the software development process is very challenging,
as it is important to identify and quantify each and every project in terms
of the number of defects."
For TCS it was the enormous size of the
company and partly because it was taken up as a global initiative that it was
a challenge to adopt the practice initially. N G Subramanayam of TCS says, "After
adoption of the Six Sigma practice it is easier for us to deal with companies
like GE but dealing with other companies that are not very comfortable with
the Six Sigma concept it is very challenging for us."
areas for improvement: It is equally challenging for companies to identify
projects and areas that need immediate improvement. Deb of Wipro Technologies
says, "We have set up a mechanism to identify projects upon which we can improve
immediately. However, as business priorities change every year we ensure that
the same holds true for the parameters for selecting the right project that
can reap the maximum benefit if Six Sigma is applied to it." It is also challenging
to identify projects and pain areas in those areas where Six Sigma has never
been adopted before, like some areas in the sales and marketing operations.
|According to Vikas Bhalla, quick adoption of Six Sigma
depends on how mature an organisation is and where it is headed
measuring every process: Since Six Sigma is heavily dependent on numbers
to underline the number of defects it becomes difficult to measure each and
every process mathematically and statistically. Puthucode of SQC says, "It is
easier to measure each and every process in a production environment but when
it comes to software there is this problem of lack of repeatability. A lot of
dedication is required, especially while measuring people processes, as it means
a complete change in the attitude of the employees." However some companies
like Wipro Technologies have created a data driven system and have made it mandatory
to collect data for each of the processes running on Six Sigma. This system
solved the problem of statistically measuring processes running on Six Sigma
for Wipro Technologies. Ramaswami K, Viswanathan, consultant at QAI India says,
"When it comes to measuring Six Sigma it can be applied in any field of operation
from manufacturing to software design, from sales and marketing to customer
service, from financial back offices to call centres. The difference in IT organisations
is that it may be applicable for ‘product design’ oriented projects while ITeS
may use process improvement projects."
assessing body: The absence of any assessing body to monitor the applicability
of the Six Sigma process is also a major challenge which Indian IT and ITeS
companies face. The lack of good consultants in the space who can assess and
monitor the adoption of the Six Sigma practice has compelled companies to go
in for self-assessment of the practice, which at times may not be accurate.
The road ahead
With Indian IT and ITeS companies concentrating
their energies to tap global markets and compete with MNCs most of them have
adopted some quality standard or the other. But how far they go about adopting
Six Sigma, which is a highly complex standard, is yet to be seen. So far Indian
players have been effectively playing the cost game but it is equally important
for them to adhere to world-class quality standards like Six Sigma to achieve
perfection and excellence in their work. There are promising days ahead for
Six Sigma in India.
The organisation charters a diagnostic assessment. The aim of the diagnostic
assessment is to assess the organisational SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses,
Opportunities and Threats). From this it finds the best opportunities
to apply Six Sigma and calculates the potential benefits Six Sigma can
bring inboth financial savings and other non-quantifiable benefits;
also finds out what is the roadmap for the deployment of Six Sigmathe
who/what/when action plan. Another key benefit of this step is that the
organisation gets to know the most promising Six Sigma projects they must
embark on immediately. This assessment typically is done by a senior QAI
consultant and takes 1 week for a 300-member group/location.
Based on the above assessment, the organisation appoints a champion for
Six Sigma deployment. The champion reports to the CEO, who in turn acts
as the sponsor.
The champion selects Black Belt and Green Belt participants, who in turn
go through training and Six Sigma project execution.
The training lasts five days for Green Belts and 20 days for Black Belts.
These methodologies have five clear phases or milestones to go through.
The Six Sigma training teaches the participants more than 80-120 toolsstatistical,
quantitative and qualitative in nature. The training covers the DMAIC
and DMADV (Also known as DFSS or design for Six Sigma) methodologies of
Six Sigma. DMAIC is a Process Improvement Methodology while DMADV is a
product or Process Design Methodology. These five steps are Define, Measure,
Analyse, and Improve Control for DMAIC and Define, Measure, Analyse, Design,
Verify for DFSS.
The training for Black Belts is spread across four to six months: one
week of training, (first week for D&M phases, second for A phase,
third for I phase, fourth for C phase respectively) followed by a four-week
gap. During this gap the team performs the tasks they are supposed to
do; and creates the deliverables for that particular phase.
During this training, the participants form Six Sigma project teams. These
teams are led by Black Belts with two to three Green Belts as team members.
During the define phase, The team writes Project Charters
which enumerate the business case of their Six Sigma project, when they
intend to complete it, and what benefits the organisation can achieve.
During the measure phase, the team converts the business problem into
a statistical problem. That is, the team collects data on the Project
Y or CTQ (Critical to Quality) parameter they are targeting for improvement.
The team computes the Z or Sigma Level for the CTQ.
During the analyse phase, the team brainstorms for causal factors (Xs)
for the effecti.e. the Project Y. The team uses several statistical
tools to come up with a mathematical / statistical equation which links
the Y with the Xs as Y=F (x).
During the improve phase, based on the results of analysis of Y=F (x)
equations the team could fit, the team suggests improvement plans; i.e.
the team converts the statistical or mathematical solution into a practical
solution. The best possible solution is chosen for piloting. The team
proves that the situation has improved by collecting and measuring the
Sigma value once more.
During control phase, the team optimises the process and goes ahead to
implement the new process (Standard Operating procedures) on a large scale,
organisation-wide. Control and sustenance mechanisms are put in place.
By the end of approximately four to six months the organisation completes
several projects it had undertaken. The champion is involved in each phase
of the projectD, M, A, I and Cto monitor the progress of each
project. Learnings from these projects are collated and evaluated. Financial
benefits are calculated. The teams get certified as green Belts and Black
Belts upon writing a certification exam and successfully completing these
projects. Learning experience from the projects is spread across the organisation.
The organisation gets ready for the next round of projects.
Source: QAI India
- Sigma is a statistical unit of measurement reflective of
- Process capability.
- Process performance, i.e. variation.
- The higher the Sigma value, the lesser the chance of a defect.
- Six Sigma levelA process produces less than 3.4 defects in
a million opportunities.
- Five Sigma level233 defects in a million opportunities.
- Four Sigma level6,210 defects in a million opportunities.
- Three Sigma level66,807 defects in a million opportunities.
- Two Sigma level3,08,537 defects in a million opportunities.
- One Sigma level6,97,672 defects in a million opportunities.
There are three levels (or Belts) of Six Sigma practitioners based upon
the level of competence in understanding and applying related tools.
- Green Belt Basic analytical tools; works on less complex projects.
- Black Belt Emphasis on application and analysis; works on
projects with help from Green Belts.
- Master Black Belt Understands application and statistical
theory behind application; trains other belts; leads project reviews.
Actual definition and competencies for each belt can vary by organisation
and training institutions
Bill Smith, an engineer and a scientist at Motorola came up with the
concept of Six Sigma in 1986. He introduced it with an aim to standardise
the way defects are counted. The roots of Six Sigma as a measurement standard
can be traced back to Carl Frederick Gauss (1777-1885) who introduced
the concept of the normal curve. Six Sigma as a measurement standard in
product variation can be traced back to the 1920s when Walter Shewhart
showed that three Sigma from the mean is the point where a process requires
Six Sigma provided Motorola the key to addressing quality concerns throughout
the organisation, from manufacturing to support functions. Under the chairmanship
of Bob Galvin, in the mid 1980s Motorola engineers decided that the traditional
quality levels measuring defects in thousands of opportunities didnt
provide enough granularity. Instead, they wanted to measure the defects
per million opportunities. Motorola developed this new standard and created
the methodology. Six Sigma helped Motorola realise powerful bottom line
results; it documented more than $16 billion in savings as a result of
its Six Sigma efforts. The application of Six Sigma also contributed to
Motorola winning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality award in 1988.
Since then, hundreds of companies around the world have adopted Six Sigma
as a way of doing business. Six Sigma has evolved into something thats
more than a quality system like Total Quality Management or ISO. Its
also a way of doing business. Since then Six Sigma has been adopted by
organisations such as General Electric, Allied Signal and Citibank. In
India, TCS for instance has taken the help of the Motorola University
to adopt the Six Sigma concept.
||One of the earliest
Indian IT companies to adopt Six Sigma in India in 1996. Has put in
substantial effort into it as no management review can start without
the Six Sigma practice. Has covered almost 35 percent of its employees
under the Six Sigma initiative. Has successfully undertaken around
2,000 projects on Six Sigma so far. It also has a Six Sigma consulting
practice running. It has 15 Master Black Belts, 160 Black Belts and
800 Green Belts.
||Has become a lot more efficient,
improved its overall productivity and reduced cycle time. Baseline
productivity has improved.
|Tata Consultancy Services
||Started the Six Sigma initiative
in 1999 due to its close relationship with GE, which was one of the
early adopters and propagators of the Six Sigma practice in the world.
TCS has spread the practice across the organisation worldwide. Even
today GE reviews some of its projects. In 2003 GE and TCS started
their own Six Sigma self-assessment certification. Has carried out
about 300 projects using Six Sigma practice. It has 15 Master Black
Belts, 190 Black Belts and 700 Green Belts.
||Has resulted in more business for
the company, even from the existing customers. Has also resulted in
the enhancement of the process capability baseline.
|iGATE Global Solutions
||Started the Six Sigma practice
in early 2002. iGATE decided to go in for Six Sigma as GE is one of
its major customers. It has executed around 150 projects using Six
Sigma practice. The company has 3 Master Black Belts, 32 Black Belts
and 85 Green Belts.
||Has helped it develop an analytical
approach in problem solving and for fine-tuning delivery processes.
|EXL Services (BPO)
||Started the Six Sigma initiative
in 2001 and spread it across the organisation. Its Process Excellence
programme based on Six Sigma influences each stage of the client process,
to offer quality service delivery geared towards the creation of an
exceptional customer experience. It is a continuous programme, which
has led to improved customer satisfaction, and long-term competitive
advantage, focusing on cost, speed and accuracy. EXL has 2 Master
Black Belts, 15 Black Belts and 30 Green Belts.
||Has made its quality management
processes more robust.
After adopting to Six Sigma the company has been successful in exceeding
its client service agreements. It has also been able to demonstrate
direct savings to its clients.
|ICICI OneSource (BPO)
||Launched the Six Sigma initiative
in Jan 2003, has now spread it across processes in the organisation.
Has 1 Master Black Belt.
||Has been able to influence its
clients and has acted as a value accelerator to its services.
| 24/7 Customer (BPO)
|| Initiated the process in 2001
and has 1 Master Black Belt and 20 Black Belts who are working for
continuous improvement throughout the organisation. The company has
worked on close to 20 projects on Six Sigma.
Six Sigma has changed the employee mindset and has inculcated a
sense of discipline amongst them. It has also helped the organisation
in getting better business for the company.