Is IT Overfed Yet Undernourished?

Steve Bell and Mike Orzen -- whose book, Lean IT: Enabling and Sustaining Your Lean Transformation, just won a 2011 Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence, Research and Professional Publication Award -- recently authored a short article for the online magazine IT Today.

Because 80% of most firms' IT (information technology) budgets are spent on "maintaining," while only 20% goes to "improving," Steve and Mike contend that this situation, like the disturbing trend in the eating habits of the US population, has created "overfed yet undernourished" IT operations and infrastructure. These costly efforts are not focused on creating value.

The authors feel that many organizations forget that "Lean is not free, it requires investment" and must remember to "create sufficient slack time in the schedule to allow workers to perform continuous improvement activities."

Are any readers of this blog involved in a Lean initiative focused on the IT function? Do you agree with Steve and Mike's assessment?


Darrin Thompson said...

I agree. Where do I begin? How do you walk the Gemba in an IT department? What would you look for? What are the 5S's of IT?

Most of what needs to be seen is hidden to the naked eye.

Cleaning up that rats nest of cables is a good start. And yes, we can all see that. Maybe throwing out 5 of the 6 copies of the full doc set for that old database we keep around just in case.

However, the fact that we have not replaced that application running on that old NT 3.5 server and hoping the server doesn't crash because we lost the source code for the app back in '02 and no one knows the administrator password...

That's the real stuff. You can't really "see" that, at least not the way we all do things today.

Hope that rambling helps.

John W. Davis said...

As Mr. Thompson duly noted, most of the issue is hidden to the naked eye. But the same logic and principles for Lean (and 5S)apply to the IT function, just as it would for any production or shop floor operation. There's actually mothing magical about finding the source of both problems and opportunities. It boils down to appropriate training of the IT staff and then seriously involving them in the pursuit of the "hidden wastes" inherent to the operation, as a whole.

Hayden Franklin said...

When I think about Lean and IT, the first thing that comes to mind is all the useless data that company's store. Most employees hoard data for years, and as a result the companies spend way more than necessary on data storage.

When it comes to something like 5S or data, we should look into our hard drives and servers and start the efforts there.

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