• United States
by Lisa Erickson-Harris

Six Sigma and ITIL

Apr 14, 20034 mins
Data CenterITIL

* Two methods for managing services

Every IT executive will tell you that delivery of quality IT services from a user point of view is their highest priority today. Much has been written recently about managing the quality of IT service delivery, yet little has addressed the practical approaches for achieving service quality. Two methods currently being employed to achieve quality service management are Six Sigma and the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

Six Sigma and ITIL have their own merits and can be used individually. However, many organizations are finding it beneficial to adopt both structures at the same time. ITIL essentially provides a clearly defined structure for delivering and supporting IT-based services. Six Sigma is a quality-management process based on statistical measurements used to drive quality improvement while reducing operational costs. Many service-level management (SLM) software vendors are beginning to support one or both of these methodologies.

ITIL was originally defined in the U.K. by a government agency. It has stronger adoption in Europe than in North America, but is beginning to gain traction here. The ITIL structure is a framework to deliver and support IT-based services. There are many components to the ITIL model. Service support includes incident management, problem management, change management, configuration management, and release management. Service delivery encompasses availability management, capacity management, service continuity management, financial management, and service level management. Each component has a set of recommended practices and procedures that can be adopted individually or in total. Staff certification is a key part of ITIL adoption. Customer satisfaction is critical to a successful ITIL-run organization.

Six Sigma was established many years ago and has been heavily used outside of IT management to improve operational processes. It’s a formal approach to evaluating which processes are important to your business, measuring the quality of outputs for those processes statistically, and using the methodology to improve the processes and hence the results. It is very oriented towards economic savings, lending itself particularly well to the concept of IT service management.

SLM, by definition, is the process of defining and then managing IT service delivery to a standard of quality. Six Sigma fits well with this because it creates a way to tangibly measure the service that can either formally be built into service-level agreements (SLA) or informally within the organizational structure.

Customer satisfaction and prioritization are also critical aspects of Six Sigma. Any organization that takes on all of its processes to streamline and measure quantifiable results will be digging itself quite a large hole that distracts from its core business objectives. Six Sigma concepts involve the identification of those “most important” processes to the success of the business. It is this smaller group of key business processes that is then measured and monitored.

While we know that many companies have been adopting Six Sigma and ITIL as a means to an end in delivering quality IT-based services, we know far less about the extent to which either are understood or implemented. Enterprise Management Associates is currently looking at the question of Six Sigma and is conducting a survey on our Web site:

We’re interested in participation from Six Sigma shops as well as non-Six Sigma shops. Do you see the growth and relevance of Six Sigma when it comes to IT service management?  Are you using other methods for managing IT service quality? Have you taken steps to be formally trained in its implementation? How widespread in your company is Six Sigma being used? Did the adoption of Six Sigma begin in IT or elsewhere in your organization?  If you aren’t adopting Six Sigma, why not? What are the success factors for implementing Six Sigma in the enterprise? These are but a few of the questions we’re looking at in this research.

EMA will publish results of this survey with a follow-up column, provided we receive adequate participation. Please take a few moments of your time to answer this short survey.  If you have questions, drop me a note at

Your participation would be greatly appreciated.