The demand on IT is ever increasing. Companies are piling on requirements for IT to be more efficient, ‘do more with less’, while remaining flexible to changing business needs. Organizations have convinced themselves that new technologies and out-sourcing will produce cheaper and more efficient IT solutions, and while this may be true, the business and CIOs should be keenly aware of what problem they are truly striving to solve (hint, it’s more than just the bottom-line). “Efficient IT” is no longer enough for today’s organizations. Lean IT must be the new way of thinking.
Lean IT > Efficient IT
Lean focuses on eliminating process waste to improve products and services, while also altering the mindset of what drives real value for the customer. The Lean IT Association (http://www.leanitassociation.com) states, “We believe that Lean Thinking should be an integral part of every Enterprise IT organization and also every IT professional’s toolkit. Lean Thinking is about understanding how to assess business processes, to identify and eliminate waste.”
You may be telling yourself, “Lean IT sure sounds like Efficient IT”. In some respects, you are right. Lean processes are also efficient processes, but Lean IT has three primary outcomes and one primary focus. These outcomes include, efficiency, productivity, and agility, while the focus is on providing customer value. Lean is also more than just a set of tools to improve processes. It is a shift in mindset and way of thinking. It is about building a culture of continuous improvement.
The New Trifecta of Lean IT
Let’s look at the definitions (according to Google) of these 3 Lean IT outcomes.
- Efficiency: The state or quality of being efficient (and) an action designed to achieve this.
- Productivity: The state or quality of producing something (and) the rate of production.
- Agility: Ability to move quickly and easily.
I call this the new trifecta of Lean IT. Efficiency includes the actions taken to provide quick solutions at the appropriate quality levels. Productivity is throughput of these actions and resulting products or services. It is entirely possible to have an efficient process that is not productive, or a productive process that is not efficient. Agility is the ability to adapt to changing business needs while maintaining process capability. Agility is also improved (or matured) when a culture of continuous improvement is prevalent. Lastly, this Lean IT Trifecta should always be focused on the customer.
A Practitioners Cautionary Note
Lean IT is so much more than utilizing good tools or cost cutting. Yes, changing to a “better” ticketing tool can produce improved productivity, but without evaluating your processes you will experience the same old ‘garbage in, garbage out’. It is not just about tools. Some companies will also look to outsource or off-shore their IT processes in the name of cost-cutting. This may improve the bottom line, but in my experience, it does not (always) introduce efficiencies as advertised.
Implementing Lean IT and creating a culture of continuous improvement will enable you to build an efficient, productive, and agile environment. These methodologies are becoming more important as the business continues to demand more and more from IT. Lean IT must be the new way of thinking if there is any hope of improving the way IT performs.
Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.
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With 12 years of diverse project management experience, Chad brings a unique perspective to PMforToday.com. Whether it was at the start of his career as an ice cream store manager or more recently as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and ITIL leader in the telecommunications arena, Chad has always zeroed in on the kinds of changes that make a business function more effectively. Chad's formal background in process improvement complements his seasoned project repertoire. He's never found a team or process that couldn't improve in some area, and Chad is a firm believer that a healthy company culture is fundamental to any process improvement initiative.
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