Systems and Software for Six Sigma Projects: Review of SixSigma Guide Software

Six Sigma is a quality improvement methodology that organizations in many different fields utilize to improve their organization’s processes and performance.

A systematic way for keeping track of Six Sigma projects is essential to being able to effectively use Six Sigma to improve the processes and performance of the organization. It is also important that this system is standardized throughout the organization and that all employees who will be using it are trained on how to correctly use it.

A good system will include a way to decide if the problem identified is enough a problem to be addressed in a Six Sigma project, before proceeding to conducting a Six Sigma project. In addition there should be a way to track both the impact of the problem and solution on the customer (voice of the customer) as well as on the business (voice of the business). It is important to document attributes of the data that is to be collected, such as if it is ordinal scale or nominal scale, to make it easier to keep track of which types of statistical analysis are appropriate to apply to the data.

One way to have a good system for Six Sigma projects could be to use a software program specifically designed for this, such as SixSigma Guide. SixSigma Guide is a software guide designed specifically for Six Sigma Projects.

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The homepage for SoftLogic, with SixSigma guide on the far right and two other software programs on the left and middle.

About SixSigma Guide:

  • It was created by Dr. Reiner Hutwelker
    • He is a business consultant,
    • Master Black Belt in Six Sigma,
    • and an adjunct professor at Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaften München and Management Center Innsbruck in Eresing, Germany.
  • More details about the software can be found here (orginal website is in German-will need to have your browser translate it): http://www.softlogik.de/p_sigmaGuide_description_de.html
  • There is a trial version of this software available at http://www.softlogik.de/p_service_download_de.html
  • Note: this software tool does not provide the statistical analytic capabilities needed in most Six Sigma projects, so a statistical software program like R, SAS, Minitab, or Stata can be used for statistical analysis of the data in conjunction with this software tool

Review of SixSigma Guide:

  • This software is a useful and practical tool, although it may not be the right fit for every organization. It was clearly developed by a Master Black Belt in Six Sigma who used his many years of practical experience in conducting Six Sigma projects as well as in educating future Six Sigma quality improvement professionals. This software is relatively easy to learn how to use for people who are familiar with other software like Microsoft Excel. One of the best things about it is that it walks the user, step by step through the whole Six Sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) cycle. Instead of having all these steps and sub-steps saved in different spreadsheets in folders on a shared drive, with this software, everything can be kept track of in one place.
  • While it is functional and relatively user friendly, I feel that in order to be more marketable the design of the user interface might need to be enhanced. While it is perfectly functional, people have become used to seeing beautifully designed software programs. Large organizations may also wish to be able to customize it with their logos and branding when implementing it across the organization.
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A screenshot of the download page to download the SixSigma Guide software. The option to download the free trial is listed first. Both English and German slides with examples of using the software for a Six Sigma project are linked below the download link.

Another way could be to use a combination of different types of software the organization is currently using, such as Microsoft Excel or Google Docs, combined with a file sharing system, such as a server or cloud based storage solution, such as DropBox, so that all stakeholders who need access to the projects can easily access it.

Whichever systems and software you choose to use, it is essential that it there is a systematic and standardized way of conducting and keeping track of Six Sigma projects across your organization.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you used SixSigma Guide software or a similar software for Six Sigma projects? What do you think about it?

Disclaimer: This is an independent review of software, I am not sponsored in anyway by any of the software companies or individuals listed or reviewed in this article. None of the links are affiliate links. I am just sharing my thoughts about software that could be useful for Six Sigma projects. I learned of this software while taking an online course on Six Sigma, from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany and edX.org, in which Dr. Hutwelker was a guest lecturer.

Jillian Regan, MPH is a consultant at Rillian. She enjoys quality  improvement using data to improve processes within the organization, so that the organization can better serve its clients, customers, patients, or others. Connect with her by email at Jillian.Regan@RillianConsulting.com or Twitter (@JillianReganMPH) or LinkedIn

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Ways to Break Down Data Silos Within and Across Organizations

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Silos in Harrisonburg, VA. Photo: © Jillian Regan 2011

In the information age, organizations and departments within organizations often encounter the problem of data existing in silos, where one department or organization cannot easily access data that they need for a project from another department or organization. This can lead to inefficiencies, such as having to stop a project and use time and resources just to retrieve the data needed before the project could continue.

Keep in Mind the Goals for the Data Project

It is important to keep in mind the organization’s problem or goal which the data project needs to measure or address.(1)  Focus on that first instead of seeing what data may already be available. While it could be more time and resource intensive, the goal of the project may require new data to be collected because there is not existing data that meets the needs of the project.

Support from the Top and From All Involved

The executive team should be supporting and leading the effort as well as involving the managers of each department.(1) Also, staff involved in all levels of data collection, data entry, and data analysis should be aware of and involved to some degree in the organization’s effort to reduce data silos. Other staff who may not be directly involved in inputting the data should also be made aware of and engaged to some degree in the process of reducing data silos.

Make a New Framework for Data Collection

After breaking down silos, or when collecting new data, make a plan or framework for how the data can be integrated for all the stakeholders so that new data silos are not created.(2) For example instead of separate data files being stored on separate computers, have a shared drive that can be accessed by those who need access to that data across departments or organizations. (3)

Training and Relationship Building

Enhancing knowledge of other’s data needs and increasing trust between people from different departments or organizations is key to breaking down data silos and improving data sharing.

Workshops and learning lunch events are one way to do this. These bring people together to learn about what other departments, organizations, or projects needs, as well as create an atmosphere where people can connect with one another and improve their working relationships. (3)

Documentation is Key

Keep track of data sources, i.e. where the data came from. This is vital to understanding the data. This will also make it easier to know where to go to get updated data as needed. It is also essential to do when having teams of people working on the data project, so that everyone will be on the same page.

Have a system for keeping track of the person or persons to reach out to for specific data and their contact information who may be in a different department, on a different team, or from another organization.

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Silos on a farm in Virginia Photo © Jillian Regan 2011

Examples of Breaking Down Data Silos:

Breaking Down Data Silos Across Different Research Topic Areas

A recent study included a collaboration with multiple sectors: researchers, a children’s hospital, and a police department to use sources of data–spatial video and geographic information systems (GIS)–that was able to provide insights into two different research topic areas–active school transport (AST) and child injury research– in which the data was usually siloed in different research projects.(4)

State Government Initiative for Open Data Portal

The state government of Virginia (in the United States) has an initiative of creating an open data portal, Data VA, of non-sensitive, public information that is made freely available for public use in an easily readable format.(5) At Datapalooza 2017, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Bill Hazel, spoke about the need for the different sectors of state government to need to go horizontally across sectors in order to best be able to serve people because no one person whom they serve only fits into only one of the sectors. (6) He also spoke about the need for ethical use of data for a public purpose.

data silos analyst analysis consultant consulting virginia
Silos in Harrisonburg, VA. Photo © Jillian Regan 2011

Conclusion

Breaking down data silos can allow organizations or departments within organizations to access data that will provide valuable insights into their organizations. This article presented a few ways in which to do this.

I’d love to hear from you about your ideas! Has your organization or department had success in breaking down data silos? What are some of the ways in which they were able to do this?



Sources:

  1. Wilder-James, E. Breaking Down Data Silos. Harvard Business Review. December 5, 2016. https://hbr.org/2016/12/breaking-down-data-silos
  2. Goh, G. The Danger of Data Silos, Part 3: How To Bring Them Down. Bedrock Data Blog. 2017. https://www.bedrockdata.com/blog/the-danger-of-data-silos-part-3-how-to-bring-them-down
  3. 5 Ways To Avoid Project Data Silos. Ten Six Consulting. June 4, 2014. https://tensix.com/2014/06/5-ways-to-avoid-project-data-silos/
  4. Schuch L, Curtis JW, Curtis A, Hudson C, Wuensch H, Sampsell M, Wiles E, Infantino M4, Davis AJ. Breaking Out of Surveillance Silos: Integrative Geospatial Data Collection for Child Injury Risk and Active School Transport. J Urban Health. 2016 Feb;93(1):36-52. doi: 10.1007/s11524-015-0006-9. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4794455/
  5. Data VA: Virginia Open Data Source Portal. 2017. https://data.virginia.gov/
  6. Hazel, B. Introduction to UVA Data Science Research Highlights Presentations at Datapalooza 2017. November 10, 2017; Charlottesville, VA.