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Using the DMAIC Process for SEO Projects

Chris Dyson
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Define Measure Analyze Improve Control

Conducting SEO projects involves working in a constantly changing environment, an environment where one of the major search engines rolls out hundreds of changes to it's algorithm every single year. On top of that we need to make sure we are offering a good return on investment for our clients while managing our own costs to ensure we stay in a job.

DMAIC offers you a unique way to solve these problems.

DMAIC stands for:

  • Define
  • Measure
  • Analyze
  • Improve
  • Control

It was originally created by Motorola as part of the Six Sigma method to quality management.

Does DMAIC Really Work?

Six Sigma is typically used in manufacturing industries where processes run at high volume and often need to be scaled or improved because of inefficiencies. It's difficult to port across the whole Six Sigma process to digital marketing projects as our products aren't as clearly defined as they are in vehicle manufacture. However, there are some processes we can use.

When used effectively, DMAIC can improve any type of process for any organization in any industry just by looking at the efficiency and effectiveness.

DMAIC offers a way of challenging wasteful and inefficient processes to come up with something better. You can also reuse the process to streamline all of your processes.

In addition, DMAIC is a thorough system. Decisions are based on measurement and data. There are various tools needed and analysis phase identifies all of the problems that may not have been exposed otherwise. It's a fresh way of looking at the project to establish new processes.

It's also about looking at the long-term values for a company. DMAIC isn't about a quick fix. The system is about finding a solution that will provide a more simple process that is more beneficial to the business. The control part of the DMAIC methodology is crucial to ensuring the effectiveness of the plan.

There are some issues with DMAIC. It's not exactly perfect.

Some businesses may have to provide more training to employees to use DMAIC correctly and has been looked as treating humans like robots. However, it's all about the way you lead a team and reward hard work.

Time constraints are also a problem. It can be months before some processes are resolved in larger organizations with complicated sign-off processes or long development queues, and it takes a lot of resources to continuously work on these problems. However, it will help the business in the long run, so it should be looked at as a good investment into the future of the company. Furthermore, improved processes often lead to more cost effective processes.

The techniques used in DMAIC have proven to work for many industries and constantly improves the way that processes handle information. However, if you are using DMAIC and run across many other problems, you should remember that you can only solve one problem at a time. It's up to the project leader and the team to root cause the problem and prioritize improvement projects.

When used effectively, DMAIC can be an incredible way to fix problems. Whether you're a large multi-location organization or just a freelancer looking for answers to a particular problem, DMAIC provides a method to solving all kinds of problems quickly and efficiently.

The success of DMAIC depends on how well you're able to carry out each phase of the process. If you're thorough and gather all of the data beforehand, you'll be in a much better place to grow in the future.

Data should be considered the most important part of DMAIC as it's necessary to complete each stage of the improvement project.

Define

This is where a team of people begin a journey to solve a problem. In our agency we decide how we are going to approach a process improvement project via our internal project charter. The document is updated continuously throughout the life of the project. It will likely be revised multiple times.

There are some important aspects to include in the project charter such as:

The Business Case

This is where you explain the importance of the project to your client or management. You should detail costs incurred overall because of the problem and describe what will happen if no action is taken. You should also relate the problem back to business goals and specify the positive impact of the project in monetary value.

The Problem Statement

This part of the project charter clearly states the problem. It provides details of the problem's impact and why it is detrimental to fix.

The Goal Statement

Right after you clearly state the problem, you now have to define a clear goal. This is where you project the expected results after the problem is resolved.

You should have a project completion timeline with savings estimates, improvement goals and how to measure these goals. You should also include how reaching the goal will influence any Critical to Quality (CTQ) parts of the project.

The Project Scope

What are the boundaries and limitations of the project? You have to have a shape for your project. Where does it begin? Where does it end? The scope also helps your team stay on task.

Cost of Poor Quality

Again, you should talk about the COPQ metric and how the problem is affecting the company negatively with a realistic cost that management will take into consideration when reading your project charter.

Measure

Data AnalysisAs you move out of the define phase, you'll go into the next part which gathers information from the current process. In order to make something more effective, you have to first figure out what's wrong.

Your team of people will need to understand exactly how the current process is operating but not necessarily focus on what's wrong. This is more about understand its function and role in the company.

You have to create a detailed process map from this research. You'll collect baseline data and summarize all of the collected data as you make the process map. This will provide a visual representation of what's currently going on with the process when under investigation.

You can also find additional problems and inefficient areas to work on like bottlenecks and cycle times. The process map also defines where and how data can be collected.

When developing your process map, you should remember:

  • Draw the process map from where it actually is located. If you take it back to your desk, you may miss some of the key elements that are causing the problem like redundant loops.
  • When finished, walk through the process to validate all of the features outlined in the process map. This will ensure that your process map is correct.

Now it's time to collect more data. The data you collect has to be relevant to the problem statement from the define phase and what the customer will determine is critical to the quality of your product or service. This data will be used as baseline to the improvement process.

It's worthwhile visualizing the data to help you to see what's happening and help you present the data to other project members or the client.

The control chart is also frequently used in the measure phase. This is a way to show the process visually and also show statistics that shows which elements of the process are irregular.

Analyze

5 WhysThe team now looks for what is causing the problem of the improvement project. The root cause has to be proven by the data first. There are a variety of different root cause analysis methods that you can look into including 5 Whys, Brainstorming and Fishbone/Ishawaka Diagram.

With these root cause analysis tools and a process map, you should be able to find the root cause with all of the data that you have collected.

During this phase, you also have to validate that you have found the root cause.

The important element here is not to play the blame game. Perhaps there are breakdowns in communication, training issues, or commonly there are no documented processes should someone be out of the office that day.

Improve

During this phase, you should bring your team together and brainstorm different potential solutions to the problem based on the data collected and root cause. If you can bring in people who perform the process every day, you'll have a better chance of understanding what is going on with the process that is causing it to malfunction. These people may also be able to provide the best solution.

With brainstorming, you can use freeform or follow a few rules. For example, you can set limits for the brainstorming session:

  • Set the topic to be discussed.
  • Stay on the topic.
  • Always encourage creativity.
  • Establish a no criticism policy.
  • Piggy-backing off an idea is encouraged.
  • Assign someone to take down all possible solutions.
  • Encourage everyone to participate.

These rules will help your team on the right track and should also maintain a lively yet fun discussion of the problem. Once you have a few different solutions, you'll have to pick the best solution. However, everyone will have their own opinion of what is best, so you should think about certain issues before deciding on the best solution.

  • How much time will it take to implement a solution?
  • Will the cycle time be reduced?
  • How much will the solution cost to be implemented?
  • Will the solution reduce the cost of the process?
  • Does the solution eliminate the problem?
  • Does the solution simplify the process?

These are just a few things to think about when looking for the best solution. You'll also need to validate that solution once selected. This means that you have to see if the solution will actually work.

Segmented implementation and pilot programs are a couple of different ways to see if your solution will work. You can also create a future state process map as part of the improvement phase. You can then walk through the process once more to see that the solution works.

Control

This is the final phase of DMAIC. With this part of the project, you're looking to sustain the solution and benefits that were achieved as a result of going through the process of DMAIC. The team has to create a plan that details the steps to ensure that the process is now being controlled. Some of these steps might include:

  • Keep the process map updated and fresh.
  • Update all work instructions that were affected.
  • Create training that shows the newly implemented solution.
  • Understand the new metrics used to verify how effective the new process is.
  • Can the process be used on other processes?

Once you've completed all of these tasks, you have to transfer the ownership of the new process over to the original owner of the process. The team may also need to talk to the facilitator about the new project ideas that came up during the course of improving the process.

If you were successful, it's time to celebrate. It should always be celebrated when you complete an improvement project successfully. It builds rapport and provides recognition for a team's efforts. Employee morale will come in handy the next time that you have an improvement project.


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