Sigma Application to Software Quality Term Paper

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"More to the point," another authority advises, "the objective of a PMO is to establish the procedures, processes, and standards that lead to a Center of Excellence -- not so much for itself as for the projects and organization it supports" (Pohlman, 2002, cited in Thorn, 2003, p. 48).

In this regard, Thorn points out that there are three basic approaches that can be used to establish a PMO to help facilitate the integration of Six Sigma or other management techniques with the CMM:

Project Repository -- The PMO serves as the primary source of information on project methodology and standards. It assumes, rightly or wrongly, that the organization has established and follows a cohesive set of tools for project design, management, and reporting. Often a first step in establishing the idea of consolidating or sharing management practices, it still falls short, both in direct project oversight and as a Center of Excellence;

Project Coach Model -- The PMO extends its repository role by moving to share project management and control practices across business functions through monitoring, if not controlling, project communications. This model is usually a permanent structure with dedicated staff and some degree of responsibility for direct management and control over project initiation, execution, and implementation;

Enterprise Program Office -- Representing the highest level of development and status, this model concentrates project management within a PMO with direct oversight and responsibility for all projects with regard to scope, schedule, and cost of projects regardless of where they originate in the organization. This model also assumes a fully developed governance process with well-defined metrics, as discussed (Thorn, 2003).

By all accounts, though, the foregoing are first steps and a commitment to follow through on these initiatives is needed from top management and all affected stakeholders. For example, according to Cook and Semouchtchak (2004), "Commitment to standardizing the software development process is required. Only 24% of organizations implementing the Capability Maturity Model have reached level 3, and only about 6% have achieved level 5" (p. 12). Furthermore, Thorn emphasizes that the project management office should not be considered to assume all responsibility for the initiative, but rather serves as a clearinghouse for feedback from stakeholders and a coordinating agency to help determine how best to approach the fix to the problem. Many authorities suggest that this is an essential ingredient in any successful CMM initiative:

Even though the CMM metrics are qualitative, feedback from the appraisal process appears to aid organizational learning. For example, software developers working under contract to the U.S. Air Force were more likely to meet schedules and stay within budgets as they moved from lower to higher levels of maturity. Similarly, as maturity levels improved in a software development laboratory of a Fortune 100 company, software quality improved also (although costs remain unchanged) (emphasis added). (Meyer, 2002, p. 149)

From Thorn's perspective, "Regardless of the PMO model used, it is critical to always keep in mind that the PMO is nothing more than a tool for the efficient and effective achievement of overall organizational goals and individual project objectives. This obligation, in turn, leads to the fundamental requirement for congruency between those goals and objectives" (2003, p. 48). Consequently, any PMO established to help integrate Six Sigma techniques with a CMM approach must take into account these requirements and ensure that the projects for which it is responsible continue to be focused on business-oriented outcomes rather than project- centric endeavors (Thorn, 2003).


The research showed that the Six Sigma and Capability Maturity Models are similar yet different approaches designed to help organizations of all types improve their operations, processes and software in a continual fashion by identifying opportunities for improvement and tracking any steps taken to resolve them. In the case of integrating Six Sigma techniques with the approach provided by the Capability Maturity Model, the research also showed that a project management office that serves as a central clearinghouse for feedback and provides the framework in which all affected stakeholders can voice their concerns and opinions can be used to good effect to integrate these management techniques. In the final analysis, though, because every setting is unique, it is important for managers to draw on the best of what each of these approaches has to offer and to concentrate on business outcomes rather than isolated project initiatives.


Bertels, T. (2003). Rath & Strong's Six Sigma leadership handbook. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Cook, J., & Semouchtchak, V. (2004). Lean object-oriented software development. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 69(2), 12.

Hahn, G.I., Hill, W.J., Hoerl, R.W., & Zinkgraf, S.A. (1999). The impact of Six Sigma improvement -- A glimpse into the future of statistics. The American Statistician, 53(3),

Mccabe, P.T. (2004). Contemporary ergonomics 2004. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Meyer, M.W. (2002). Rethinking performance measurement: Beyond the balanced scorecard. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.…[continue]

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