While a number of analysts have commented on the success of the Epicor/Activant merger, a recent post by Cindy Jutras of Mint Jutras speaks to how Epicor has brought Lean Six Sigma and Agile development to the software industry, with notable results in terms of product quality and customer satisfaction. When Jutras tweeted this point while covering the recent Epicor Insights global customer conference, responses indicated to her that “Six Sigma in particular is often under-appreciated and misunderstood, especially outside the world of manufacturing.”
Lean Six Sigma is a synergized managerial concept of Lean and Six Sigma, born from the pursuit of operational excellence within the manufacturing sector. While Lean serves to eliminate waste, Six Sigma reduces process variability in the pursuit of perfection. Jutras finds Epicor’s combination of the Agile rapid application development process with Lean Six Sigma unique.
Here’s how she explains Six Sigma:
The label “Six Sigma” itself implies a level of rigor not usually associated with the software industry, considering many software developers today still view what they do as an art, rather than a science. … Literally six sigma is a statistical measure that refers to the number of standard deviations away from the mean in a bell-shaped curve. Achieving Six Sigma quality translates to producing no more than 3.4 defects per one million—in other words, 99.99966 percent good quality. That might mean 3.4 bugs in a million lines of code. While defect rates are important, Six Sigma is much more than that. It is a rigorous process and a business management strategy with the goal of delivering measurable financial results.
The post cites other industry observers who caution that the rigors of Six Sigma processes could “extend the time to market,” but acknowledge that “if done right, Six Sigma can create solid test plans.”
But Six Sigma is all about doing it right. Jutras notes, “As a methodology that uses a structured problem-solving approach, Six Sigma seeks to identify and remove the causes of defects and errors in any process, which is why it makes a nice complement to the Agile development process. But it is not only about quality of the product (in this case the software code) produced, but also the process of developing the product. So it extends far beyond test plans.”
One place it clearly extends to is customer satisfaction. Jutras quotes directly from six early adopters of the latest release of Epicor ERP. Among their comments:
- “Upgrading was so easy. We had trouble doing installs on prior releases, but this time it was effortless.”
- “Getting up and running was like getting a new car—everything is crisper, cleaner, good quality. I’ve now been out of the office for a week and I haven’t gotten a single call or email with an issue.”
- “[From the point we went live with the new release], I can tell you the first month-end close was the cleanest and easiest we have ever done.”
The analyst concludes by saying that the combination of the rapid development methodologies of Agile and the rigors of Six Sigma should bode well for Epicor customers.
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team