Project Title: Improve Software Beta Sweep Process
Project sponsor: Steve
Project Green Belt: Milton
Every year when a new product is released, the Software Beta team must evaluate whether every existing KnowledgeBase entry applies to the new product. If yes, it is updated, a process known as “sweeping forward.” It was possible that customers might not find an article that was actually in the process of being approved for the new product, and the process was a major pain point for the Beta team. Multiply these minutes by 4000 articles per year, and it becomes very time consuming!
Measure and Analysis
The complex process required 4 different tools minimum, switching tools a minimum of 6 times, and took 17 steps. Each article took 6-1/2 minutes to “sweep forward.”
Milton concluded that the process was not designed with the employee/customer in mind and set about rectifying that. Focus groups revealed non-value-added steps, and that employees needed more specific guidelines. Milton collected and prioritized employee’s needs, and identified the ones that were critical-to-quality (CTQ). Essentially, the Beta team wanted a shorter cycle time, all the information in one place, a lower number of clicks to complete the tasks, and clearly defined expectations, goals and processes.
Improve and Control
How did such a complex process get created? The process seemed to accumulate steps and complexity over time and as different tools were used. It was “just the way it was,” and no one questioned this until the time required began to impact the time available to beta test new products. Milton learned that any time a process takes 17 pages to describe, it’s a signal to blow it away and start over!
The new process takes 2 mouse clicks (reduced from from 17) and requires only 2 tool switches (reduced from 6). Now 88% of the Beta team is satisfied with the process (improved from 0%), showing an improvement from 0 sigma to 2.57 sigma. Customers now have faster access to KnowledgeBase articles online.
A Six Sigma Green Belt worked with his sponsor to drill down to root causes of a problem that was causing employee dissatisfaction and costing the company significant wasted money. By developing a new process that addressed the causes he was able to quickly reduce the magnitude of the problem and improve cycle time and employee satisfaction. The result was a “double whammy” of greatly improved productivity. The control system he put in place with the process owner assured that the results would be maintained long-term.