Is Lean IT Killing Your Digital Transformation Plans? - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
IT Leadership // IT Strategy
Commentary
5/28/2019
09:00 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
100%
0%

Is Lean IT Killing Your Digital Transformation Plans?

There is value in IT adopting the Lean concepts established in manufacturing, but do so with care, particularly is you are heading through digital transformation initiatives.

The results of a recent survey conducted by TrackVia show that 62% of business department heads wanted to submit a digital transformation (DX) implementation request to their IT department -- but decided against it. Their stated reason for not moving forward with the request was because they felt "IT departments are under-resourced, and the request would take too long."

It’s possible that some of the cause of these shortcomings may be improperly deployed Lean IT (or ITIL, DevOps, etc.) practices. For IT departments that are working within a Lean IT framework, it's not uncommon to experience times where teams become overwhelmed. However, any prolonged downturn in service quality and response likely means your Lean IT goals are not properly aligning with the business. Here's a quick rundown on the realistic gains found in Lean IT -- and what to do if it's not functioning as expected.

What is Lean IT and why is it failing?

As most of you are already aware, Lean IT is a business concept that was copied from a strict efficiency approach to manufacturing processes. However, instead of creating efficiencies on the manufacturing floor, they can be created within the IT department. Ultimately, Lean IT is about doing more with less – with the assumption that benefits achieved from Lean IT will be no less than what they were before a lean framework was implemented. 

Image: Olivier Le Moal - stock.adobe.com
Image: Olivier Le Moal - stock.adobe.com

If that’s the case, then why is it common for newly instituted Lean IT shops to become overwhelmed with keeping the lights on while failing to respond to new digital transformation requests?

Much of the problem has to do with the approach IT leadership takes towards Lean IT. They are so fixated on achieving the expected efficiencies that many of the steps required to evolve to a Lean state are hurried. Processes end up being sloppily automated – or hastily offloaded to a third-party managed service provider. Additionally, IT staff aren’t properly trained on their new roles within a Lean IT framework. What often happens is that these automated processes or outsourced services go off kilter. The in-house team must then scramble to right the ship. Thus, when IT staff are supposed to be ready to engage with business departments regarding complex projects such as digital transformation, it turns out that Lean IT is causing more harm than good.

What should be done to remedy the Lean IT problem?

The first thing to keep in mind is that IT should not be in any huge hurry to significantly trim down in terms of time and technology waste. A proper framework must first be put in place that clearly outlines and categorizes technology services, how they should be implemented, supported and spun down at the end of the lifecycle. These processes should be broad enough to encompass things like technical staff/management roles, service provider requirements, lifecycle planning, quality control and lines of communication.

Also keep in mind that unlike Lean manufacturing, Lean IT must take into consideration the speed at which technology advances and the volatility in what the business needs. Manufacturing is far more static in nature – and major changes can be planned for well in advance. Yet, with IT, that’s not the case. The need to adopt disruptive digital technologies can strike at lightning speed. Added to this is the fact that DX is about converting all business processes to a digitized state under the operational umbrella of the IT department. Thus, even a minor pivot in business strategy requires IT to change or add new technologies to accommodate for shifting business processes.

Ultimately, this is a case where Lean IT likely can’t become nearly as “lean” as what many would like to believe. Certainly not nearly as lean as what can be accomplished in manufacturing. Instead, a buffer of resource time and money must be built-in to accommodate for fluctuations in the services that IT departments must manage or create. Certainly, there is room for IT departments to streamline their processes, workflows and management of services. But it’s also important to be realistic about how streamlined it can be given our current pace of digital innovation.

Andrew has well over a decade of enterprise networking under his belt through his consulting practice, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and datacenter build-outs and prior experience at organizations such as State Farm Insurance, United Airlines and the ... View Full Bio
We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Slideshows
9 Steps Toward Ethical AI
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  5/15/2019
Commentary
How to Convince Wary Customers to Share Personal Information
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author,  6/17/2019
Commentary
The Art and Science of Robot Wrangling in the AI Era
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  6/11/2019
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
A New World of IT Management in 2019
This IT Trend Report highlights how several years of developments in technology and business strategies have led to a subsequent wave of changes in the role of an IT organization, how CIOs and other IT leaders approach management, in addition to the jobs of many IT professionals up and down the org chart.
Slideshows
Flash Poll