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Top 5 Programs
Minitab gets the prize as most valuable player, as it has a vast array of functions and capabilities that are geared specifically for quality management programs such as Six Sigma. Data analysis and charting are its focus, and it accomplishes them at both basic and advanced levels to serve all types of business needs. From basic descriptive statistics and time series plots, to Pareto charts and control charts, from nonparametric tests and Box-Cox transformations, to normality tests and box plots, Minitab lets Six Sigma project teams and business leaders organize and analyze their data while presenting it in visual form. It is the core program for many Six Sigma implementations.
Process Model is another program that is specialized for use in process improvement initiatives. It allows users to create computer simulations of real-life processes, both those that already exist and those that are in the planning stages. Project teams can use simulation to evaluate hypotheses about cause-and-effect relationships and to explore potential process improvements before implementing any in the actual business environment. It has extensive controls for each aspect of the process so users can tweak specific parameters and create multiple change scenarios. It is a valuable tool in environments with high-volume transactional processes.
Six Sigma team leaders rely heavily on visual presentations for communicating project process and results to team members, business members, and other stakeholders. PowerPoint provides the set of features necessary both for creating standalone presentations and for creating "decks" that serve as visual aids to accompany a live presentation. It is widely available and considered the standard for this purpose.
Excel is widely used for basic spreadsheet functions and even basic charting. Many users are not aware that it also has built-in data analysis functions and more advanced graphing capabilities. Six Sigma teams can use Excel for almost all their data manipulation and calculation needs, as well as for creating histograms, scatterplots and other visual depictions of data. Statistical analysis options include analysis of variance (ANOVA), correlation, regression and t-tests. With some tweaking, users can also use bar charts to create Pareto charts. Excel is a tool most Six Sigma participants already have that can fulfill a wide array of functions required for Six Sigma projects.
Microsoft Project 2007
Six Sigma initiatives have a heavy project component, and thus, Six Sigma team members need to practice effective project management. Microsoft Project is the de facto standard for project management and Six Sigma projects are not an exception. Its features include task and resource management, milestones and task dependencies and budgeting. Users can create Gantt charts, network diagrams and work breakdown structures (WBSs). Standard charts and reports are included and the program has the capability for macros as well. Six Sigma teams can definitely benefit from using Project to track their project plans and progress.