Six Sigma

Six Sigma has received much attention worldwide as a management strategy that is said to have brought about huge improvements and financial gains for such big-name companies as Allied Signal, General Electric (GE) and Motorola.

If you want to give your business the chance to attain the same resounding success, Six Sigma could be the method that will steer you towards that direction.

What is Six Sigma?

So what really is it? Six Sigma is a business management tool that was developed using the most effective quality improvement techniques from the last six decades. Basing its approach on discipline, verifiable data, and statistical calculations, Six Sigma aims to identify the causes of defects and eliminate them, thereby resulting in near-perfect products that meet or exceed customer’s satisfaction.

The core concept behind the Six Sigma method is that if an organisation can quantify the number of “defects” there are in a particular process, improvement activities can be implemented to eliminate them, and get as close to a “zero defects” scenario as possible. Defect here is defined as any process output that fails to meet customer specifications.

Six Sigma is also unique from other programs in that it calls for the creation of a special infrastructure of people within the organisation (“Champions“, “Black Belts“, “Green Belts“) who are to be expert in the methods.

Six Sigma Methodologies

When implementing Six Sigma projects, two methodologies are often employed. Although each method uses five phases each, these two are distinguished from each other using 5-letter acronyms and their specific uses.

DMAIC ? is the project methodology used to improve processes and maximise productivity of current business practices. The 5 letters stand for:

  • D ? Define (the problem)
  • M ? Measure (the main factors of the existing process)
  • A ??Analyse?(the information gathered to deter mine the causes of defects)
  • I ? Improve (the current process based on the analysis)
  • C ? Control (all succeeding processes so as to minimise additional defects)

DMADV – is the method most suitable if your business is looking to create new products or designs. The acronym stands for:

  • D ? Define (product goals as the consumer market demands)
  • M ? Measure (and identify product capabilities and risks)
  • A ??Analyse?(to create the best possible design)
  • D ? Design (the product or process details)
  • V ? Verify (the design)

How does Six Sigma differ from other quality programs?

If you think that Six Sigma is just another one of those business strategies that produce more hype than actual results, think again. Six Sigma uses three key concepts that sets it apart from other business management methods.

  • It is strictly a data-driven approach, where assumptions and guesswork do not figure in the decision making.
  • It focuses on achieving quantifiable financial results ? the bottom line ($) ? as much as giving emphasis on customer satisfaction.
  • It requires strong management leadership, while at the same time creating a role for every individual in the organisation.

Is Six Sigma right for your business?

While many other organisations such as Sony, Nokia, American Express, Xerox, Boeing, Kodak, Sun Micro-systems and many other blue chip companies have followed suit in adopting Six Sigma, the truth is, any company — whether you have a large manufacturing corporation, or a small business specialising in customer service.

Certainly, there is a lot more to Six Sigma than what you can probably absorb in one sitting or reading.

With our wide range of business management consultancy services, we can help you understand the Six Sigma method in the context of your business. We can also help you establish your improvement goals, set up your program, and train your own team of “champions” who can lead in implementing your Six Sigma goals.

Find out more about our Quality Assurance services in the following pages:

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IT Systems Implementation

Are you ready to find out how your newly accepted IT system fares in the real world? Although a rigorous Acceptance testing process can spot a wide spectrum of flaws in a newly constructed IT system, there is no way it can identify all possible defects. The moment the IT system is delivered into the hands of actual end users and other stakeholders, it is effectively stepping out of a controlled and secure environment.

Thus, it is during this phase wherein issues having direct impact on the business can arise.

It is our duty to ensure that the Systems Implementation phase is carried out as thoroughly, professionally, and efficiently as possible.

Thoroughly, because we need to include all relevant data and other deliverables, eliminate hard-to-detect miscalculated results, and substantially reduce the probability of business and mission critical issues popping up in the future;

Professionally, because it is the best way to address the sensitive process of turning over a new system to users who have gotten used to the old one;

And efficiently, because we want to minimise the duration over which all stakeholders have to adapt to the new system and allow them to move on to the process of growing the business.

Preparation

Louis Pasteur once said, “Luck favours the mind that is prepared.”

While we certainly won’t leave anything to chance, we do put substantial weight on the Preparation stage of Systems Implementation. We’re so confident with the strategies we employ in Preparation, that we can assure you of an utterly seamless Deployment and Transition phase.

By this we mean that issues that may arise during Deployment and Transition will be handled smoothly and efficiently because your people will know exactly what to do.

Here’s how we will prepare your organisation for Deployment:

  • Identify all key players for the Systems Implementation phase and orient them on their specific roles. We’ll make sure they know what possible hitches may come their way and how to deal with them.
  • Identify all end users and their corresponding functions, then assign appropriate access rights.
  • Draw multi-layered contingency plans to capture and address each possible concern that may crop up during Deployment.
  • Prepare a systematic step-by-step procedure and checklist for the entire Deployment stage. Both of them should have been copied from a similar procedure and checklist used in the Acceptance testing phase.
  • Make all stakeholders understand the conditions required before Deployment can commence.
  • Set the appropriate environment so that all stakeholders know what to expect and when to expect them the moment Deployment commences.
  • Prepare Technical Services and Technical Support personnel for the gruelling mission ahead.
  • Make sure all communication processes are well coordinated so that everyone affected will know who to contact and how to get in touch with them when a problem arises.
  • Plan and schedule training sessions so that they can be conducted “just in time”. Training sessions conducted way ahead of Deployment are often useless because the trainees tend to forget about what they learned when the time comes to apply them. Similarly, training sessions conducted way after Deployment also become useless because trainees are seldom able to internalise instructions delivered during crash courses.

Deployment

There are two sets of issues to keep an eye on during Deployment:

  1. Issues directly related to the technology itself, e.g. application functionality and data integrity, and
  2. Issues emanating from the end users, i.e., their unwillingness to use the new system. One reason may be because they find the interface and procedures too confusing. Another would be due to other inconveniences that come with adapting to a new set of procedures.

Despite all the meticulous scrutiny employed during Acceptance testing, there are just some problems that are made obvious only during Deployment. Issues belonging to the first set are dealt with easily because of the plans and procedures we put in place during the Preparation stage. As an added measure, our team will be on hand to make sure contingency plans are executed accordingly.

While the second set of issues is often neglected by many IT consultancy companies, we choose to meet it head on.

We fully understand that end users are most sensitive to the major changes that accompany a new system. It is precisely for this reason why our training activities during Deployment are designed not only to educate them but also to make them fully appreciate the necessity of both the new system and the familiarisation phase they will need to go through.

The faster we can bring your end users to accept the new system, the faster they can refocus on your company’s business objectives.

Here’s what we’ll do to guarantee the smoothest Deployment process you’ve ever experienced.

  • Employ the procedure and checklist formulated during the Preparation stage.
  • Ensure all end users are well acquainted with any additional tasks they would need to perform (e.g. filling up manual logs).
  • Assess which legacy systems can still be used alongside the new technology and which ones have to be retired.
  • Supervise the installation and optimal configuration of all supporting hardware and software to make sure the likelihood of errors originating from them are brought to near-zero levels.
  • Supervise the installation and optimal configuration of the products themselves.
  • Carry out data migration tasks if necessary.
  • Organise and oversee parallel runs to check for data and report inconsistencies.
  • Conduct training sessions in a professional and well-timed manner to eliminate end-users’ feelings of agitation and to take advantage of memory absorption and retention duration as with regards to their assigned duties and responsibilities.

Transition

Do you often feel uneasy whenever the reins to a newly purchased IT system are handed over to you? Perhaps there are some issues that you feel haven’t been fully settled but, at the same time, find it too late to back out, having already invested so much time and resources.

Alright, so maybe the thought of “backing up” never crossed your mind. However, the concern of being “not yet ready” is raised by many organisations towards the tail end of most Deployment stages. This usually drags the Deployment stage into a never-ending process.

Our team of highly experienced specialists will make sure you reach this point with utmost confidence to proceed on your own.

To wrap up our comprehensive IT Systems Implementation offering, we’ll take charge of the following:

  • Verify that all deliverables, including training materials and other technical documentation, are accomplished and expected outcomes are realised.
  • Make sure all technical documentation are placed in a secure and accessible location.
  • Institute best practices to ensure the IT system becomes fully utilised and to reduce its exposure to avoidable risks.
  • Establish open communication lines with the Technical Support team to enable quick resolution of issues.
  • Ensure complete knowledge transfer has been fully achieved so that your people will spend less time calling Technical Support and more on operations contributory to business growth.
Solutions to Password Overload

If only technologists had their way, passwords and PINs would have long been replaced with more innovative (and admittedly, better) security solutions. But such is not the case. Those alternative solutions, which include biometrics, smart cards, and password fobs, effective as they may be, are just way too expensive to implement.

So although passwords and PINs may not be here to stay, they certainly won’t be going away soon either.

Why keeping passwords in memory is no longer possible

A couple of decades ago, it would have been nearly impossible to crack an eight-character password using brute force. Today, however, advancements in computing power are rendering the typical passwords of the past easily decipherable, forcing us to come up with passwords that are not only much longer, but also much more complex and hence difficult to recall.

For instance, memorable words like your favourite character (e.g. ‘skywalker’) may have been acceptable then, but not anymore. Today?s security systems will encourage you to insert numbers or even other keyboard characters as a means to once again counter brute force. Hence, ‘sk5%ywa936lker@#’ may be more acceptable.

Remembering that one alone can be pretty daunting.

To further complicate matters, the number of applications that require passwords for access is much greater than before even for a single end user. Ordinary end users have to keep track of passwords for their email account, network login, workstation login, online services, and so on.

The burden is even greater for your IT admins, who have to remember a larger collection of passwords that protect business critical systems and applications. Clearly, the team in charge of your IT security will need a way to manage all these passwords.

Password management solutions

Existing password management solutions typically come in the form of software applications that store passwords. Basically, all you need to remember are your login details for the app a.k.a. the ?master password?. Once you’ve gained access inside, you can then retrieve any password you stored there.

Some of these apps are installed in portable devices like Pocket PCs, PDAs, or smartphones, which you would normally take along with you. For as long as the device stays with you, your passwords will be in safe hands. What’s more, you can retrieve them anywhere you go.

But obviously, there’s a problem. What if the device gets misplaced or stolen? Although the person who ends up with your device may not be able to gain access into the app and your passwords, neither will you. A better solution would therefore be an app that can be accessed anywhere but is not susceptible to getting lost.

Web-based password manager

A web-based password manager fits the bill. You don’t have to take it with you, but still you can access it almost anywhere. A typical web-based password manager will have all your passwords stored in a centralised, highly secure location.

If you want, you can even use your mobile password manager along with the web-based one. Ideally, your web-based password manager would have a copy of all the end-user passwords as well as the master passwords of your organisation.

With an easy to access but highly-secure web-based password manager, you no longer have to come up with passwords that (ironically) are supposed to be easy to remember but hard to crack at the the same time.

Furthermore, password managers are ideal for keeping passwords that have to be changed every-now-and-then; a requirement that’s becoming all too common in organisations bent on enforcing more stringent controls.

ISO in Energy management

Every industry has its own set levels of quality that are considered acceptable or desirable. Energy performance like any other field is governed by some set standards. These differ across regions but international standards do exist.

ISO 50001 is the international energy standard applicable to both large and small organisations irrespective of geographical, cultural or social conditions. It outlines the best energy management practices that are considered to be the best by specifying that an organisation must integrate an energy management system and institute an energy policy, objectives, targets, and action plans taking into account legal requirements and information related to significant energy use. The energy standard is applicable to organisations.

What’s the importance of attaining energy certification?

ISO certification in any industry is a demonstration of quality or that a service or product meets the expected service standards. In energy management, ISO certification is a demonstration that an organisation or company has implemented sustainable energy management systems, completed a baseline of energy use and, is committed to continuously improve its energy performance. In addition, ISO certification assists organisations in the following ways:

? Organisations are able to optimise the existing energy-consuming assets

? Offers guidance on bench-marking, measuring, documenting, and reporting energy intensity improvements and their projected impact on reducing GHG emissions

? Creates transparency and facilitates communication on the management of energy resources

? Promotes energy management best practices and reinforces good energy management behaviours

? Assists facilities in evaluating and prioritising the implementation of new energy-efficient technologies

? Provides a framework for promoting energy efficiency throughout the supply chain

? Facilitates energy management improvements in the context of GHG emission reduction projects: The reduction of carbon emissions means therefore an organisation is able to meet government carbon reduction targets by demonstrating environmental credentials. The accruing benefits are many, ranging from increased investor confidence to more tender opportunities

Energy management software plays a vital role in helping organisations comply with energy standards through improved performance across the various functions in an organisation.

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