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QFD for Software and IT Projects

Why QFD is a valuable tool for software development and IT business?

At the 1998 Symposium on QFD, a researcher from Toshiba pointed out:

“(Computer and software) Design engineers are usually confident in their ability and self-content. They believe that customers in the market ought to buy their products because they develop good products. When their business does not go well, they say that the cause is shortage of selling power. On the other hand, marketing people find reasons in design problems. Thus they make each other at other’s responsibility and cannot catch problems in many cases.”

In the paper "Innovative Product Planning and Development Process," he described that in old days high tech products in general had longer life and how this was a lifesaver for companies like his because it allowed them to fix design errors over a time, causing customers to believe that they did not produce unreliable products.

“However, the situation is changing dramatically.” He warned already back then that product life was becoming shorter and shorter along with the advancement of technologies, leaving no time for manufacturers to save their face from initial poor design. The job must be done right the first time. “Now manufacturers are considering that the most important thing to win in the market is how to launch products quickly which satisfy requirements of customers.”

Two common obstacles he cited:

  1. Typically narrow and slow channels exist between marketing people and design engineers. In the process, in which the target specification of the product is transformed into the design specification, many important concepts are lost, and inconsistency arises between them.
  2. The target specification is defined based on subjective description. It is not rare that even the most critical features of products are only stated by sets of ambiguous sentences. As the consequence, the distribution of responsibility and obligation becomes ambiguous.

click to view a QFD database concept for IT/software developersTo address this weakness in the future product development, his company sought a solution in QFD. Dubbed “Super Design Technology,” they established a system of connecting product planning process with product design process, with QFD providing a broad, quick, and qualitative channel from the Voice of the Customer through executable design specification. They also found QFD served as a design verification and trade-off mechanism. [1998 K. Noguchi, et. al.]

Other published cases of QFD application in software and IT field include a company that used Blitz QFD® to define and develop software which tracks and presents anomalies, product trends, and cyclic outage for many critical computer systems. The tools and methods used in the project then served as a template for future software projects for this company.

Some companies have also used QFD to make a software purchasing decision. In one case study, QFD was used to make the best choice possible in selecting CAD software for the company, by determining who the customer was - both internally and externally, what their needs and requirements were, and matching them to the software available in the industry. At the conclusion of one of the above mentioned software projects, the team concluded:

“QFD is an extremely useful tool for gathering and defining software requirements. It is a way to translate the customer’s requirements into the definition and implementation of a project.

"It provides a means to plan how though the application of a very organized methodology – one that saves time money, and resources. This end-to-end process is a useful tool for learning many important details concerning the way the customers accomplish their tasks.” [1998 A. Burtner, The 10th Symposium on QFD.]

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