The C.A.S.E. for Six Sigma

by Joy Blackwell

Six Sigma
Six Sigma plus i-CASE equals Lean software process.  The Lean principle of Six Sigma emphasizes speed and efficiency.  It removes redundancy and waste in the process of meeting requirements.  As much as possible, automation is utilized and all process measurement data capture and documentation are built into the process itself.  An integrated Computer-Aided Software Engineering (i-CASE) technology, such as CA Gen, embodies such principle in the software process.

The very reasons many IT organizations used to reject i-CASE technology are precisely its strengths.  Some IT professionals found its model-based approach too restrictive.  However, experienced software process and quality professionals on successful projects were able to see the technology in its true light.  Of course, IT developers spent way too much time and effort dealing with over-complex underlying technical platform details.  On the other hand, the i-CASE tool facilitated exactly what businesses required and not a great deal more.  It allowed rapid development of stable and reliable transaction processing systems based on appropriately modeled business requirements.

Maintained consistently, the model-based approach using i-CASE technology is the ‘leanest’ software development process, i.e. the shortest distance between requirements and running application.  There are many different software development methodologies (Waterfall, Extreme, Iterative, etc.) but really the same few measurable fundamental activities (Requirements, Analysis, Design, Construction, Integration, Release).   A model-based i-CASE tool can support all these activities regardless of the methodology used for a given project.

The process or methodology must be selected based on how well it fits a given project scope.  Sometimes an agile incremental prototyping approach is more appropriate because of the difficulty experienced by users in visualizing requirements.  It helps uncover novel and/or poorly understood needs.   More structured methodologies emphasizing documented high-level integrated business models over iteration may be more useful for larger projects with well-preserved/understood requirements.

Six Sigma is about process measurement precision and accuracy, leading to fact-driven business decisions.  Integrated CASE technology provides the Lean in the software development process.  It provides speed using its model-based code generation, further accelerated by its ability to reuse design patterns.  It provides efficiency by linking the code directly to the modeled business requirements.  The key is in defining the model structure and size of scoping objects for each fundamental activity throughout the application lifecycle.  Consistency in Requirements modeling standards helps maintain, not only the speed but especially the efficiency of the process, measured or not.  The most common pitfall in CASE implementation is the focus on the speed of the Construction activity only.

Whether to apply Six Sigma measures at the methodology or at the fundamental activity level or both depends on the goals of the organization.  Also, Six Sigma statistical measure is not for everything.  Know when the analytical measure applies.  Remember: Discipline with Common Sense = Quality; Discipline without Common Sense = Mindless Bureaucracy.

For help in optimizing your i-CASE tool investment in support of a Lean Six Sigma software process, please contact us at 402-391-9200.