Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Lean IT

Introduction to Lean

When we talk about Lean within the context of the Enterprise, we are usually referring to Lean Production or Lean Manufacturing as it is commonly called. I have shown below the 10 Rules of Lean Production that define the concept.

1.        Eliminate Waste
2.        Minimise Inventory
3.        Maximise Flow
4.        Pull Production from Customer Demand
5.        Meet Customer Requirements
6.        Do it Right, First Time
7.        Empower Workers
8.        Design for Rapid Changeover
9.        Partner with Suppliers
10.        Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement

An interesting set of rules, and not many of them are applicable to just Production or Manufacturing. Most could be useful when applied to other areas of the organisation.

In this document I intend to demonstrate how many of these rules, and the concept of Lean, can be applied to my own area of expertise: Information Technology.

Specifically IT as it is applied and used within the Enterprise.

Lean IT

Lean IT was first mentioned in a paper by AMR Research. They discussed Lean IT in the context of a Microsoft Business Solutions Strategy, I think however the concept can be applied much more generically across Information Technology within the Enterprise and it applies to far more than just integrated software, although an integrated software system plays a big part in helping achieve the benefits of Lean IT.

If we simplify the rules of Lean and make them more generic, then we could end up with the following five rules:

1.        Eliminate Non Value Added
2.        Review how Products are Provided and Delivered
3.        Improve efficiencies by reviewing ‘Flow’
4.        Produce Products as the Customer Demands
5.        Seek Perfection

How Lean IT Applies to The Enterprise

If we take each of these simplified rules in turn and look at how these may apply to the Enterprise:

Rule 1
Non Value Added can be thought of as the processes that we all deem necessary to the essential running of the business, and yet within themselves they add no value to what we provide. Within the Lean IT premise we can see that these processes could include paper based invoicing, paper based purchase orders etc.

Rule 2
From the perspective of the IT department, our products are effectively the services that we apply to our Customers, our customers being the Staff, Shopfloor Workers, Managers and Directors within the organisation. We need to look at how we provide those products so that we are supplying what is needed rather than what is asked for. More often that not, two entirely different things. The correct information needs to be put in the hands of the correct person at the correct time.

Rule 3
This involves the reviewing and streamlining of our existing business processes, the idea being to increase productivity and cut costs across the organisation.

Rule 4
Developing better relationships with all departments within the enterprise, enabling us to meet the needs of the user faster and better. An important issue.

Rule 5
We need to ensure that the users are actually using the products and services that we supply in the correct and most efficient way. Continually looking to refine and enhance processes across the organisation. Wherever possible we need to give the users a familiar environment in which to work. Constant refinement and excellent training is necessary to ensure that our services provide the best possible solution to the customer.

“It’s not easy to juggle a pregnant wife and a troubled child, but somehow I managed to fit in eight hours of TV a day.” - Homer Simpson

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