Just as no two clients are the same, no two projects are the same. Thus the characteristics of the solution, the team, the timeline and whether or not it is an initial implementation or an enhancement should be weighed before selecting a project management methodology. C5 Insight practices portions of Six Sigma, Waterfall and Agile; at times independently, and when applicable, collaboratively.


In the event a project is an initial implementation where user adoption is critical, C5 Insight recommends a methodology weighted with Agile practices. Agile’s greatest benefit is early engagement of critical users and continuation of the feedback loop throughout the development cycle. Agile projects consist of iterative releases called sprints, that typically last 4 weeks. Each sprint engages the necessary Stakeholders, who work alongside the project team, to ensure that the correct requirements are identified, conduct thorough testing and report feedback. Each sprint consists of a looped process that entails prioritization, requirements gathering, delivery, and demonstration to senior stakeholders, feedback/rework and approval of the deliverables.


The benefits of the Agile process include: engagement of users early and often, the ability to tackle issues quickly as they are identified, and firm management of the project timeline and budget. The prioritization portion of the sprint loop aids in managing the budget and scope creep while the demonstration enables project managers to hold the team accountable to deadlines. Additionally, frequent delivery of manageable portions of system functionality, assists users with the learning curve. Ultimately, this aids in mitigating one of the largest project obstacles, user adoption.


When engaged in an upgrade or enhancement type of project, it may be best to consider a more traditional waterfall approach. The methodology follows a very classic timeline whereby requirements for the entire engagement are gathered, estimates and specifications are derived from those requirements, and the work is planned, then executed. Execution is follow by internal and user acceptance testing. Upon successful closure of user acceptance testing, the work is deployed to production and the project enters the closure phase. 


In this scenario, the client users are already acclimated to the technology. User adoption is not going to be nearly as large a hurdle as a brand new implementation. The team can clearly describe the pain points of the current environment, as well as the enhancements they wish they had. From those bits of information, the delta can be identified, allowing for estimations, specifications and execution to occur. The client team can continue to work in the existing environment without interruption until the upgraded product is ready for testing. Upon completion of successful user acceptance, the updates are rolled to production during non-business hours. In most cases, this is the least invasive approach with regard to ensuring minimal interruptions to day-to-day operations.


Regardless the version of framework a company chooses to apply to a project, there are aspects of Six Sigma that are beneficial to every project and should not be overlooked. For those who are unfamiliar with Six Sigma, the methodology is comprised of six primary components: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control, and Leverage Learnings (DMAIC-L). Define is the concept of selecting a project and determining what measurement will indicate success. Measure is about documenting the current process and validating how much time is spent working that process to determine a baseline. The Analyze phase is used to address root cause as it pertains to the current processes inefficiencies. Improve is focused on process redesign and implementation that should result in an improvement as measured against the baseline determined in the Measure phase. The Control phase is used to set policies and procedures that ensure long-standing success of the implemented improvements. Finally, Leverage Learnings is used to assess the project in order to determine pitfalls that should be avoided in future plans.1


The theory behind the DMAIC phases is subtly called upon in the manner that C5 engages in both the Agile and Waterfall methodologies. However the one Six Sigma concept that C5 Insight builds into every successful project plan is Leverage Learnings. A C5 Insight client project cannot be closed without team participation in a Lessons Learned session. This kind of team engagement allows for constructive sharing of: what the team did well, where it encountered challenges, how well those challenges were mitigated and what it essentially would do differently given the opportunity. The results of the session are documented to not only capture mistakes we should not make again, but more importantly how to continuously improve the framework moving forward.


The results are shared with clients in order to demonstrate C5’s vested interest in ensuring a productive, long-term partnership. A relationship built upon mutual respect for making and learning from mistakes, supporting one another’s shortcomings and collaborating to work together better on future engagements. C5 welcomes your thoughts and suggestions, do you have any tried and true project management concepts that you would care to share? Please leave us a comment, we’d love to hear from you!


1DMAIC Tools, Six Sigma Training Resources, http://www.dmaictools.com, 2014