Alson Kemp


6 Sigma vs. 4 Sigma (or Should The Web Be Sloppy?)

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You’ve probably heard of Six Sigma, the quality management philosophy/practice started at Motorola. Great way to identify problem areas of product design, development and production. Sets a goal of having 99.9997% efficiency in the product life cycle.

We have a fairly traditional SDLC process for our web site development and I’ve been thinking about what the “right” process is for our development efforts. While poking around, I’ve seen a few blog posts about applying six sigma to web marketing or software development.

Got me thinking: should 6 sigma be applied to web software development? Maybe 4 sigma would be better?

Really, do I want NetFlix to provide me with 99.9997% quality in their website? Well, they better handle credit cards with 99.9997% accuracy, but I would prefer that they provide very good quality on their website and focus on rolling out new and improved features. I wouldn’t be too irked if their recommendation engine got better and, in return, I saw an occasional visual flaw or 404. Considering that most web flaws are quickly spotted and easily fixed, it makes some sense to “release early, release often”: don’t overinvest in quality when fixing the issue costs little in terms of time, money or reputation, especially when the benefit of additional features to the user is great.

What about Microsoft Windows? Unlike a web application, I have to install this bit of software and, unlike a web application, it’s not easily updated.

So I’ll vote for Four Sigma quality levels on non-critical areas of consumer websites. 99.379% quality in features is pretty good and I won’t lose sleep over the 0.621% of features that have some issues… But we’ll commit to fix them ASAP.

Written by alson

September 1st, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Management,Programming

Tagged with ,

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