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Using FMEA For Managing Information Technology (IT) Projects

Mar 2, 2008
If a bug or defect were found in a software after its release into the market, it would not only entail huge redevelopment costs for the company, but could also lead to the erosion of brand name and reputation.

This is why it has become necessary even for IT companies to use time-tested quality improvement techniques such as Six Sigma.

Six Sigma Tools for IT Companies

There are many Six Sigma tools that can be used for managing IT projects, but the tool that is most commonly utilized by IT companies is the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). This tool is used for unraveling potential fault lines within the product design, allowing developers to get a glimpse of things to come and consequently focus their efforts on eliminating the potential bugs or defects.

This tool is quite effective because it can be utilized for managing almost all types of IT projects including product development, product enhancement, and product maintenance.

How to Use FMEA

Using FMEA is not all that difficult, because all that needs to be done is to become as pessimistic as possible. IT companies that are using FMEA first need to identify all the different ways in which the selected product, service or process could go wrong. After identifying all the potential defects, the project team then tries to assess the probability of each defect, something that is referred to as "occurrence". The project team also assesses the overall impact of such defects, referred to as "severity" and the probability of finding appropriate solutions for such defects before the final delivery, referred to as "detention".

All the three parameters mentioned above are ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 after which the ranks are added up to get a "risk priority number" (RPN). RPN makes it easier for the project team to identify the most risky areas that need to be attended on a priority basis.

The next step in the FMEA process involves conducting brainstorming sessions so as to find the most appropriate solutions for the potential bugs or defects. At this stage, the project team members need to focus on developing alternatives rather than trying to meddle with the developed product, service or process, something that can create more problems.

The project team members also need to focus their efforts on developing executable solutions rather than wasting their energies on defining new possibilities that sound like mere wish lists. For devising effective solutions, the team can make use of FMEA process charts that can be updated to display the progress being made.

For the best results, it is recommended that FMEA be conducted at the beginning of every IT project and every three months thereafter. FMEA can be used at any stage, but it is always better to start early because early detection of potential bugs and defects is vital for a company planning to make it big in the highly competitive IT sector.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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