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Six Sigma and Total Information Quality Management

  • October 01 2004, 1:00am EDT
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TIQM is a quality management system that focuses on business effectiveness and customer satisfaction, whether performed as a Six Sigma project or not.

Six Sigma has gained popularity recently as it has achieved dramatic benefits in organizations that have understood and implemented its rigorous processes. Some have asked me what the differences are between a Six Sigma system approach to information quality (IQ) and Total Information Quality Management (TIQM), the methodology described in my book Improving Data Warehouse and Business Information Quality.1

The term Six Sigma has two meanings:

  1. As a measure of quality, Six Sigma refers to six standard deviations and means a process performance of no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities (DPMO).
  2. As a quality system, Six Sigma is a methodology of quality management and process improvement, originally developed by Motorola, using sigma-based process measures with a goal to achieve Six Sigma-level quality.

Reasons for Six Sigma Popularity

Six Sigma has become popular because it focuses strongly on a balance of:

  • A focus on the customer. From the outset of Six Sigma, Motorola focused on the importance of customer satisfaction in product development and service delivery. The original six steps included three key points:
    1. 1. Identify your product or service.
    2. 2. Identify the customer(s) for your product or service; determine what they consider important.
    3. 3. Identify your needs to provide the product/service so that it satisfies the customer.2
  • A value proposition of decreasing the costs of nonquality. Six Sigma projects seek projects in a Pareto fashion that are expected to recover returns from $100,000 to more than $1 million. After the first year or so of GE's break-even Six Sigma efforts, the payback has accelerated. The company recovered $750 million in 1998 and approximately $1.5 billion in 1999 -- with billions of potential recovery since then.3
  • * A focus on process improvement and process design or redesign as the means of addressing nonquality. Define-measure-analyze-improve-control (DMAIC) packages the measurement processes with process improvement or design/redesign and control. It does not even consider measurement for measurement's sake. Nor does DMAIC discuss scrap and rework as a means of "improvement." It is centered around improving, controlling and performing processes to approach Six Sigma-level quality based on what customers care about.
  • * Active involvement of top management who understand and champion the value proposition and the imperatives of quality principles and processes to accomplish the value proposition. The story of GE illustrates the importance of top management and its ability to transform even the largest of organizations. When Jack Welch saw the value of Six Sigma, he quickly became the champion, urging "his top lieutenants to become 'passionate lunatics' about Six Sigma. He has described GE's commitment to Six Sigma as 'unbalanced.'"4 The Motorola and GE experiences illustrate that even large organizations can make dramatic and radical culture changes if they want to.
  • A rigorous set of processes and techniques to measure, improve and control the quality of the product, service or information based on what is important to the customer. The processes of measurement and techniques for improvement are not new to Six Sigma. According to one of the Six Sigma experts at Motorola, Motorola did not invent those techniques. Indeed, they are basically the same best practices that were developed by quality pioneers such as Shewhart (PDCA -- plan-do-check-act -- process improvement cycle) and Ishikawa (fishbone and cause-and-effect diagrams).
  • Six Sigma improvement projects are sponsored, led and coached by personnel who are certified in the Six Sigma techniques ­ master black belts, black belts or green belts, depending on the size and complexity of the projects.TIQM, a full methodology for information quality management, uses the same types of techniques and processes as Six Sigma; they are just implemented in a different packaging. However, the TIQM processes and process steps have been mapped to the Six Sigma DMAIC phases. The TIQM process steps can be performed in the DMAIC cycle for information quality improvement projects.

Reasons for TIQM Popularity

TIQM was designed with the same characteristics as just described:

  • A focus on the customer. TIQM says this about information quality: To define information quality, one must identify the "customers" of data, the "knowledge-workers" who require data to perform their jobs. Information quality is consistently meeting all knowledge-worker and end-customer expectations through information and information services, enabling them to perform their jobs efficiently and effectively. The goal of information quality is to equip the knowledge-workers with a strategic resource to enable the intelligent learning organization.The drivers in TIQM are the information customers, both external and internal. One cannot improve information quality without first thinking about who the real information customers are and what their needs are in their information products.

  • A value proposition of decreasing the costs of nonquality. The subtitle of my book, Improving Data Warehouse and Business Information Quality, is: Methods for Reducing Costs and Increasing Profits. This subtitle states the value proposition of TIQM: There is and must be only one purpose for improving information quality ­ to improve customer and stakeholder satisfaction by increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the business processes. Information quality is a business concern, and information quality improvement is a business issue.IQ improvement actually reduces business costs by eliminating costly scrap and rework caused by defective data. It increases business profits by providing more reliable information products that result in more usage, better decisions and increased exploitation of business opportunities.

    IQ is about business and manufacturing performance excellence by improving processes to increase quality information. When implemented, IQ results in:

    • Increased customer satisfaction.
    • Increased employee (knowledge-worker) satisfaction.
    • Decreased costs and increased profits/surplus.5
    • Reduced risks.

    Seven speakers at the 13th IQ Conference in San Diego last year had measured and documented savings as a result of their IQ improvement initiatives of more than $575 million. These are the kinds of business results that IQ management systems must produce to sustain executive management support.

  • A focus on process improvement and process design or redesign as the means of addressing nonquality. TIQM Process P5 (Improve Information Process Quality) uses the Shewhart Cycle of PDCA which is the basis of Six Sigma's DMAIC.Of the 10 essential components of IQ management, the seventh is, "Emphasize process improvement and preventive maintenance (plan-do-check-act), not just corrective maintenance (data cleansing). Without a concept of 'customer' and a defined and a habitually practiced improvement process, a [data quality] method or practice cannot legitimately use the word 'quality' management or methodology for several reasons: The highest payoff for quality information is when we 'design quality in' to the processes that produce it."

    Every valid quality system recognizes that real quality comes by designing quality in. Deming's Point 3 of quality is, "Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place."6

    The "kaizen [quality system] philosophy assumes that our way of life -- be it our working life, our social life or our home life - should focus on constant improvement efforts."7

  • Active involvement of top management who understand and champion the value proposition and the imperatives of quality principles and processes to accomplish the value proposition. A key concept of TIQM is the active role of executive management as strategic information stewards. The executive or senior management team members who are responsible for the performance of the enterprise are, in fact, strategic information stewards. They establish information policy, like other policy, and establish performance measures related to information quality and management and use of information to accomplish the enterprise mission and goals. Senior management sponsors the change required to transform an organization's treatment of data as merely a byproduct of business processes to treating information as a primary and strategic product - and business resource - of business processes.
  • A rigorous set of processes and techniques to measure, improve and control the quality of the product, service or information based on what is important to the customer. TIQM describes how to define metrics for IQ assessment based on information customer requirements (TIQM P3.S2).
  • Projects are sponsored, led and coached by personnel who are certified in TIQM techniques. TIQM projects are led by a process improvement facilitator. There is a certification program for certifying IQ practitioners in TIQM analogous to Six Sigma's certification program.8 TIQM certification is taking place in leading-edge companies such as Intel and Capital One.

Six Sigma's Road Map and TIQM's Six Processes

The DMAIC phases are succinctly described by Peter Pande et al. in The Six Sigma Way, so I shall use their Six Sigma road map mapped to TIQM (Figure 1) for quality management implementation.9 I will then map the DMAIC Six Sigma improvement model phases and steps (see Figure 2) as the basis to map TIQM processes (see Figure 3) and steps (Figure 4).

Figure 1: Six Sigma Road Map to TIQM Process Map

Figure 2: Six Sigma DMAIC Improvement Model13

Figure 3. TIQM: Six Information Quality Processes14

Figure 4: Six Sigma DMAIC Phases and Steps to TIQM Processes and Steps Map15

The road map is Six Sigma's approach to implementing Six Sigma as part of the culture of the enterprise. It puts the implementation of culture as part of the habit of process improvement. TIQM strongly addresses an IQ culture by adapting W. Edwards Deming's 14 Points of Quality to information. IQ Point 1, "Create constancy of purpose for information quality improvement," is based on the fact that survival in a competitive environment requires management to have a customer-centric plan for products and services that meets customers' evolving needs. Deming is right that "the consumer is the most important part of the production line."10 The ramification of Point 1 is "obligation to the customer never ceases."11 What this means in TIQM is that management must have a plan for providing for the information that the knowledge-workers require to perform the processes of the enterprise.

Management must "adopt the new philosophy" of quality management (Point 2) that reliable products and services reduce costs.12 The same has been proven in TIQM. Improving information processes reduces costs by eliminating the costs of process failure and information scrap and rework.

Point 14 requires management to organize itself to make the other 13 points happen. Sustainable culture change will always ultimately require the executive leadership to make and implement the transformational training and performance measurement, and provide the tools for improvement and champion to management and staff why change is necessary. Then, the executive leadership can hold management accountable for measuring, improving and controlling the quality of the information created by the processes within their charge. The 14 points of information quality are the core of P6 for implementing a culture for a sustainable IQ environment.

Six Sigma's DMAIC Phases & Steps, TIQM's Processes & Steps

DMAIC is actually a repackaging of several quality management processes, including quality assessment (measurement), nonquality cost measurement and process improvement based on customer requirements as the cycle for improvement. As such, it encompasses steps from TIQM's P1, P2, P3 and P5. Note that P4, "Reengineer and Correct Data," is not part of DMAIC but is part of Six Sigma's "Design For Six Sigma Methodology." (We will address how this fits into quality management later in this article.) DMAIC focuses on proactive process improvement with rigorous metrics for determining the extent of the problem and confirming the outcome of the improvement. This is the value basis of any quality management system.

To drill down into the mapping of DMAIC's phases and steps, we will map the TIQM processes and steps to illustrate how you can perform TIQM as a Six Sigma DMAIC. Figure 4 illustrates the DMAIC phases and steps to TIQM processes and steps.

TIQM employs all of the elements employed by Six Sigma. TIQM uses the same quality management techniques employed by Six Sigma ­ the elements and techniques are simply described in different sequences.

Six Sigma's DMAIC and TIQM processes 1 through 5 have the same general sequence. This kind of an approach is the approach taken by Intel. They have identified high payoff projects and perform TIQM processes sequentially from measurement of data definition and architecture quality to cost of nonquality measurement to process improvement.

Earlier, I mentioned that TIQM's process P4 that addresses information corrective maintenance (data cleansing) was not part of Six Sigma's DMAIC. Is not data cleansing part of quality improvement?

The answer is: yes and no. While data cleansing does improve the quality of existing data in the various databases, it is actually reactive improvement. Data cleansing is actually part of the costs of nonquality, or information scrap and rework. It is the cost incurred by not having created data with quality at the point of origin and by not having processes in place that control and maintain the quality when it decays as the result of real-world objects changing their characteristics such as people moving, changing marital status or product price changes.

TIQM P4 addresses data cleansing as a cost of nonquality. The value of data cleansing comes when you employ TIQM's approach:

  1. Treat any data cleansing activity as a one-time cleanup effort for data in a given data set, coupled with a P5 process improvement initiative that eliminates further defects from being created.
  2. Conduct your data cleansing activity at the source where data is created, if the data is still being used from that source. Otherwise, you will suboptimize the money you spend in cleanup. Only the downstream information customers will benefit. Secondly, this creates a new information quality problem, inconsistency of data in the source and the downstream data store that has been cleansed. Furthermore, the defective data can come back to haunt you by being subsequently passed to the downstream data store and corrupting it.
  3. Measure the cost of time and other resources in the data cleansing activities. These costs should be documented to communicate why you must improve and control processes. Without a process improvement, the unchanged processes that caused the cleanup to be necessary will continue to pollute your data source with the same degree of nonquality.

Process P4 does have a major focus on control of the processes that move and transform data. Its value is in the use of audits and controls in the data movement processes to keep those processes from contributing to nonquality. Every process is a process that can fail.
TIQM is consistent with Six Sigma as a quality management system. TIQM can be packaged as a Six Sigma DMAIC project by starting with P5 to define an improvement project and embedding the assessment processes within it, following the Six Sigma DMAIC mapping in Figure 4.

TIQM also addresses the cultural transformation necessary to achieve active management involvement as is the strength of Six Sigma.

TIQM calls for the executive leadership team to be the strategic quality council or to have direct strong links with a quality steering team appointed and anointed by the executive leadership team.

TIQM focuses on the enterprise's end customers and internal knowledge-workers as the customers whose requirements must be understood and met.

TIQM calls for process improvement using the Shewhart Cycle PDCA of quality management systems such as Deming's 14 Points; Juran's trilogy Quality Planning, Quality Control and Quality Improvement; Imai's Kaizen; and Crosby's 14 Steps. PDCA is the basis for Six Sigma's DMAIC.

TIQM calls for statistical measures in assessing both data definition quality and information quality, including accuracy.

TIQM calls for stretch targets for process improvement once you know the current process performance.

TIQM calls for focusing on and measuring the most important metrics: customer satisfaction and the costs of nonquality ­ both direct costs and opportunity costs. These two metrics are inextricably linked. You cannot reduce costs in a way that alienates your customers. You cannot have Six Sigma-level quality of characteristics that customers do not care about.

The bottom line is that TIQM is a quality management system that focuses on business effectiveness and customer satisfaction, whether performed as a Six Sigma project or not.

What do you think? Let me know at

1. English, Larry. Improving Data Warehouse and Business Information Quality: Methods for Reducing Costs and Increasing Profits. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999.
2. "Utilizing the Six Steps to Six Sigma," Motorola University, 1992, as cited in C. Sengstock, Jr., Quality in the Communications Process. Motorola University Press, 1997, p. 11.
3. Pande, Peter, Robert Neuman and Roland Cavanagh. The Six Sigma Way: How GE, Motorola, and Other Top Companies Are Honing Their Performance. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000. p. 5.
4. Ibid., p. 4.
5. English, Larry. "Information Quality Improvement: Processes and Best Practices for Business Performance Excellence Seminar" (IQI Seminar). Brentwood, TN: Information Impact International, 1993-2004, as taught in London April, 2004, p. 1.3.
6. Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the Crisis. Cambridge: MIT Center for Advanced Engineering Study, 1986. p. 23.
7. Imai, Masaaki. Gemba Kaizen. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997, p. 1.
8. For information about TIQM certification, e-mail
9. Pande, op. cit., p. 67, and English, Improving Data Warehouse and Business Information Quality, p. 70.
10. Deming, op. cit., p. 26.
11. Walton, Mary. The Deming Management Method. New York: Putnam Publishing Group, 1986. p. 57.
12. Deming, op. cit., p. 252.
13. Pande, op. cit., p. 39.
14. English, IQI Seminar, p. 3.4.
15. Pande, op. cit., p. 39.

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