Lean IT: Lean Manufacturing Tips for IT Service Management

Lean is lean manufacturing. To what extent are his philosophy and guidelines applicable to IT service management? Can the management of smart and high-tech manufacturing be Lean and how to apply Lean principles for IT in practice?

What is Lean IT

The main idea of ​​Lean, or Lean Manufacturing, is the maximum benefit to consumers using the minimum resources of the manufacturing company. The goal of Lean is to organize work in which financial, time, reputation and other losses can be avoided. To achieve this, you need to create a production culture in which the main criterion is the value of the product for the business and the involvement of all employees in the creation of this value.

The Lean concept came from industry. It was first introduced by Toyota to reduce waste and bring the product closer to consumer expectations. The principles of lean manufacturing were actively applied by industrial companies, then the idea was taken up by the healthcare and insurance sectors. The philosophy was successfully scaled up for IT governance and the term Lean IT emerged. Motorola, TransUnion, Fujitsu Services were among the first to implement it.

Lean manufacturing concept

Source: unsplash.com

The concept of lean manufacturing was created for the industrial tasks of the Toyota concern, but it quickly became clear that the principles work not only for the automaker

The main goal of Lean in an IT context is to eliminate waste. Waste here is an activity that leads to the consumption of resources, but does not create or add value to the final product. For example, if, while working on CRM, the team spent time repainting the buttons, although it was more important for users to add notifications for new requests, then this is an example of losses that can be avoided.

Which Lean came in handy in IT

For software development, the Lean methodology was adapted by programmers Mary and Tom Poppendieck in the book “Lean software manufacturing“. The seven principles in this book are easy to adapt to your IT service requirements:

  • Eliminate losses

Analyze processes, find and eliminate bottlenecks with unnecessary waste of resources. For example, if you study the requests received by the support service, you can identify the most in demand, develop a process for providing uniform responses to them, and avoid wasting time and resources in delivering these services to users.

  • Embed quality

Check the system while making changes, ask the question – “what will happen if …”. As a result, you will get an idea of ​​the quality of the entire system. For example, you are optimizing the work of the help desk. If you ask the question – “what will happen if …”, you can prevent small mistakes at each stage, which will save time. If you do not do this, then it will take much more time to fix all the shortcomings after optimization.

  • Create knowledge

Create a knowledge base for a project or a separate service or system. This way customers and employees can quickly get the information they need – this will save time for negotiations. Work on a task with your client. Thus, you optimize work for the most urgent requirements, and employees will be able to better understand the needs of the customer.

  • Plan solutions carefully

Before making a decision that cannot be “rolled back”, study all the areas and processes that it will affect, and act if delay is fraught with losses or losses.

  • Response in minimal time

One of the principles of lean manufacturing is to accelerate service delivery operations. Examine supply chains and reduce response delays whenever possible. For example, optimize a redundant approval or approval process.

  • Respect people

Listen to your employees and take on useful ideas. This is effective because they are immersed in work processes, see them from the inside and can offer a profitable solution. If you value and implement the ideas of employees, give them freedom in solving problems, this will create additional motivation, and the project will only benefit.

  • Optimize whole

What is the ultimate goal you want to achieve? Keep it in view at every stage so that local improvements work for a global task.

Lean manufacturing is not only material resources, but also the people who work in the project. Losses can be either finances or time, or unrealized potential of employees. Within the framework of Lean IT, process participants solve problems using convenient and safe methods, create value chains, and also reveal their own potential, being involved in the processes of optimization, management, technical expertise, and so on.

The Lean approach in the IT world begins with an organization’s ability to adapt and change. Only from this starting point is it possible to take the first step along the Lean IT path. This journey can take years before Lean principles become an integral part of an organization’s culture. But it will show its effectiveness in the future, when the services become valuable for the client, and their provision requires a minimum of costs.

How to combine Lean and IT in practice

Let’s take an example. The company has an IT department to serve internal needs. Complaints regularly arose against him, because he was slow to react to incidents. When analyzing the work of the department, it became clear that its employees are forced to constantly promptly solve emerging problems. Their work was like putting out fires.

But it is more effective not to extinguish, but to prevent “fire hazardous situations”. Therefore, it was decided to hold regular meetings of the IT department with consumers. As a result, it turned out that users fill out applications for a long time due to an implicit approval system. The second point of growth was the division of technical support by areas and the introduction of a general information system. Then a knowledge base was created and subsequently a system for automatic application management was implemented.

After it became easier to send applications, their management became automatic, and users got access to the knowledge base, the number of complaints to the IT department decreased. The workload of his employees dropped, and they were able to concentrate on anticipating requests from their colleagues.

Combining Lean and IT will help:

  1. Knowledge base management… Update the information, keeping the most current. This will greatly simplify the work of employees.
  2. Root Cause Analysis… If you understand and eliminate the root cause of the error, then you do not have to fix it over and over again. If the user can send the request faster, then there will be no complaints about the speed.
  3. Scaling the IT system. If a company grows, then the IT service must also grow. This can be done without the cost of equipment and personnel – by optimizing existing processes.

How to start implementing Lean IT principles?

Joe the it guy, blogger and employee of SysAid Technologies, advises to adopt

the same basic principles that were first applied by the management of the Japanese company Toyota:

  • Light up the Andon – highlight the problem

In Japanese culture, Andon is a lamp that was turned on by pulling on a cord. The principle is based on the need to “highlight” an issue that negatively affects the quality of a product or process. In ITIL 4, this can be compared with the practice of event and incident management, in which the process is stopped and the problem is corrected. For example, if the same error occurs several times when introducing new software, then it is necessary to stop the whole process and fix the problem once, so as not to constantly face it. The tool is also interpreted in a more general sense, for example, for organizing cross-cutting meetings or general sessions.

Andon lamp

Source: behance.net

To light a lamp in Lean terms means to “illuminate” a problem that affects the quality of the result.

  • Genchi Genbutsu and Gemba – Solve the problem on the spot

Young engineers were brought into the workshop, placed in a circle drawn on the floor with chalk, and asked to observe the process from it. It was assumed that when the engineers “go and start working” (Genchi Genbutsu), when a problem arises, they will independently study and / or change the process or place of work (Gemba) to find the root of the problem. This principle is also reflected in ITIL 4 practices. If there is a difficult-to-diagnose incident, then look at how the work is being done, at what stage the problem occurs.

  • “Nemawasi” – prepare the ground for change.

“Nemavasi” translates as “prepare the ground for planting.” According to this principle, before a large and important meeting, one-to-one meetings with all participants should be held. So they will come prepared, with their opinions, arguments and ideas. In ITIL 4 practices, major changes are possible only when everyone supports the proposed idea. Until then, you need to work with each stakeholder until you come to an agreement.

Are Lean and ITIL Compatible?

ITIL 4 introduces major changes to the positioning of value and the tools based on it.

The Service Value System (SVS) is now the centerpiece of ITIL-4. It requires a service value chain, each link of which should lead to an increase in product value without loss. Familiar concept of lean manufacturing, isn’t it?

Service value framework in ITIL 4

A source: axelos.com

The key concept of ITIL 4 is the service value system, to the formation of which all processes are directed

Participants in the process are required not only to make a feasible contribution, but also to receive a single and predictable result. ITIL 4 calls this co-creation of value. Lean management ensures that everyone involved in this process is rewarded. This way, the winners are teams that can quickly overcome silos and achieve common goals.

Sounds too good to be true

Some initiatives can bring results quickly, but Lean IT implementation is a continuous and long-term process. The concept of lean manufacturing for the IT services industry can be the very lever that will help, if not turn the world, then certainly turn mountains of work: eliminating small repetitive mistakes, eliminating tasks that will not benefit the client, and much more. Yes, it will take a lot of effort, because the most difficult thing is to change the basic principles of the organization, but the result is worth it. Effective services, in-demand products, engaged employees, minimizing costs – think that sounds too good to be true? But why not take this path to find out where it will lead.

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