Note: Bear in mind that in every step or phase of the project implementation, everything should be “documented.” This means printing out and keeping a copy of the minutes of the meeting, and all data should be kept and stored as well as the results of the implementation. Everything can be compiled into a single document, which can act as a reference for future Six Sigma projects.
Step 1: Formation of the Six Sigma Team
Before going through the DMAIC Six Sigma methods, a team is needed. Ideally, this should be a cross-functional team consisting of the following members and job descriptions:
SEO expert/specialist/team leader. This person is the overall team leader of the Six Sigma project. His responsibility includes keeping the project schedule on track and coordinating with members to get the project’s tasks done. His main contribution to the team is expertise in SEO, formulating SEO strategies and getting ranked in major search engines by optimizing both the content and the offsite factors (e.g. back links). It is recommended that he/she be extremely good at mathematics/statistics; if not, then a statistician is needed (not required) as part of the team for the data analysis phase.
Web Developer. This person implements the corrective action pertaining to changes that must be made to the website. This includes coding work, changes in website template, adding content, etc. His/her main contribution to the team is expertise in the area of the website’s server and software, in addition to the server side scripting language used by the website. This will ensure that corrective actions are realistic and can be implemented.
Website business/Ecommerce manager. Usually this is the website owner/representative that is actually investing the money to run the business, and is a non-technical person. However, the ecommerce manager/business manager can provide current financial figures and sets financial objectives that are to be reviewed by the overall team members to see if they are realistic or not. Other roles include approving the budget needed for the implementation of the Six Sigma project.
Marketing Head. This person is in charge of the overall website marketing work and works closely with the SEO in charge. Promotions can be offline or online. The marketing head’s contribution to the team is to ensure that the marketing strategies formulated as part of the corrective action are within the scope of their existing marketing work, as well as to suggest or confirm whether the strategy is indeed valid or realistic.
Statistician. This person’s main job is to analyze the data and provide meaningful observations with the help of the other team members. Members of the team can rely on the statistician’s expertise to analyze difficult data that is beyond the skill of the other team members. Usually this job can be done by an SEO expert; however, a statistician is helpful if any of the team members admits that they lack expertise in this area.
The team leader will initiate the meeting; the following should be the agenda:
- Reviewing and confirming the commitment of each team member.
- Formulation of the Six Sigma main project schedule.
- Agreement to the periodic meeting schedule.
Now that the first team meeting has been completed, it is time to proceed to the first phase of the Six Sigma project. This is the definition phase, when the second team meeting will be held.
Step 3: Definition phase
The website business manager will be the one to quantify the problem, because they have the data and sources. The rest of the team will support and help the website business manager to come up with an objective and quantitative definition of the problem.
There can be many problems faced by the website, but Six Sigma particularly deals with ONE MAIN PROBLEM and ONE PROJECT at a time. This will ensure that the team will divert all resources (time, money, knowledge) to solving the most important problem and will not be distracted or lose track trying to sort through several unimportant issues at once.
Of course the website business manager knows which problems cost the business a lot, so before presenting any data in the definition phase, it is highly recommended that this person do research in advance to prioritize the main problems first. It is highly recommended that the first project start solving the biggest problem of the website.
The main objective of this meeting is to define the problem in one clear statement.
Below is the checklist for the definition phase:
- Does the problem contain a certain financial performance indicator affecting the website? Is it quantified? This is the single factor that dictates the financial success of the website. Examples of financial indicators include the average website profit per month, average sales per month, monthly advertising revenue of the website, or Google AdSense monthly revenue.
- Does it imply a problem and is it supported by other non-financial related indicators? A problem will result if the financial indicator is well below expectations; however, it is not enough to say, “The website is earning $100 per month in sales.” It should imply that this is indeed a problem, so this is a more objective and complete definition: “The website is earning $100 per month in sales, with the conversion rate of 0.2% and monthly unique visitors of 10,000. The conversion rate is poor, affecting the monthly sales.”
- Does it include a project objective? This is the target which the team needs to set very carefully; it can take time. This needs overall team coordination and should be done on the white board with other members attending. A realistic objective is important, as this measures the success of the project.
Below is the screenshot of the Project Definition phase (also showing the members of the team and its role):
The main objectives of the measurement phase are to put in place a data collection plan and a performance baseline. With a data collection plan, a schedule and means of collecting data will be planned. This will be integrated into the main Six Sigma project schedule performed above.
With a performance baseline, the existing/current data for key performance indicators is measured. For example, three months before the Six Sigma project is initiated, the trend of sales per month data will be gathered. Other important indicators, such as monthly conversion rate, are also helpful.
You can check some supplemental resources for more information on this phase.
The purpose of getting the performance baseline data is to compare it with the results after the project’s corrective actions has been implemented. This will be helpful to confirm whether the project’s objective has been attained.
Step 5: Analysis phase
Generating the list of possible causes can be done by a team brainstorming process. The team leader will facilitate the session, and it is very important to put all the possible causes in a “cause and effect diagram.” This is a helpful visual tool that shows all possible causes as well as the interacting causes that contribute to the main problem. If the team can connect online during this brainstorming session and examine the website in detail with the use of a projector, it will be a very efficient approach as lots of great ideas can be generated by the team during this examination.
The above diagram shows that the main problem (colored pink) is the overall effect of those possible causes contributing to it. Yellow indicates the first degree causes, while what exacerbates those problems can be shown as second degree causes. Illustrating a sample of the screenshot above in a Why-Why analysis:
First Why: Why is the website only earning $100 a month…?
Answer: The website has a poor conversion rate. (This is the first degree cause)
Second why: Why is the conversion rate poor?
Answer: The landing page lacks information to convince buyers. (This is the second degree cause).
The team can even explore further by asking “Why does the landing page lack information to convince buyers?” and the answer, based on the cause and effect diagram is:
“Content is not optimized for visitors, no periodic updating of content.”
Of course the above screenshot is just an example and is NOT an actual result of a real brainstorm session. It is expected that the real “cause and effect diagram” is more complicated.
It is also suggested that you use any of the seven QC tools to present and analyze the data:
- Check sheet
- Pareto chart
- Cause and effect diagram
- Scatter diagram
- Control chart
Modern analytics software (like Google Analytics) can be integrated to use the tools above, and allows data to be exported to an Excel sheet, so the statistician can work on it, and other team members can easily interpret the analysis. While a detailed discussion is outside the scope of this article, there are other resources you can use to learn more about this topic.
The statistician can guide through the analysis in detail.
The improvement phase is where the team generates the list of possible solutions based on the analysis of the results where the root cause is confirmed. Again, a full discussion is beyond the scope of this article, but you can easily find more information on this topic.
The tools used in the control phase are the existing analytics tools used in the measurement phase. A good tool to monitor the results is Google Analytics, which substitutes for the statistical process control in manufacturing processes.
Statistical process control, however, has control limits, whereas there are no specification limits in Google Analytics charts. But performance baseline/reference data gathered in the measurement phase can serve as a basis to formulate some limits for quality control purposes.
This is only a snapshot of the Six Sigma-based project. In the next part, you will read a case study example of a Six Sigma project.