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The Next Generation of BPM

February 27th, 2013 Comments off

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What Can Yellow Belts Do … Really?

January 29th, 2013 Comments off

Yellow Belt TrainingAs a followup to my recent post titled Trained Yellow Belts Think Differently, I thought I would spend a little time talking about what yellow belts can actually DO.

In a traditional six sigma deployment, yellow belts play a critical role in supporting higher level black belt and green belt projects.  They are trained in the foundation of the DMAIC problem solving process and can speak the language of Six Sigma.  They can handle some of the lower level tasks of process mapping, data collection, setting up measurement systems, establishing and maintaining control systems , and may actually be subject matter experts. Basically, they allow the black belts and green belts to focus on the more complex analytical aspects of the project.  If yellow belts are used effectively, they can improve the productivity of black belts and green belts in a BIG way.

BUT, what can they do outside of supporting higher level belts?   What if you don’t even have higher level belts?  What can a yellow belt trained employee do for the organization?

Six Sigma purists might argue that Yellow Belts should not be trained, without Black Belts and Green Belts, and that their role is to support higher level belts.  I don’t agree with this at all.   Again, I have to hedge by saying that I’m talking about the level of capability that yellow belts trained by SSQ have (i.e. 4-5 days of training).   So, what can Mr. Yellow Belt do?

  • Characterize Processes.  Process mapping and characterization is a skill that should not be taken lightly.  All too often,  improvements are made to processes when we don’t know how the current process really operates, the current state.  These so-called improvements, in many cases, add unnecessary complexity and create more problems than they fixed.  We call this tampering and it is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.  A great example of where process characterization is an invaluable skill is with large-scale enterprise software implementations.   It seems common sense that we should understand exactly how a process works before we try to systemize/automate with software, right?  How often is there really a focused effort to characterize and optimize processes?   I would argue not enough of the time and this is readily apparent in the big $’s spent on configuration, customization, tweaks, etc.
  • Establish/validate measurement systems. Yellow belts learn the basics of Six Sigma and its focus on using data to understand problems and get to the root cause.  The learn the basics of what makes a good measurement system, and what does not.    The can certainly help establish measurement and data collection systems that are actionable, and validate (or invalidate) existing ones.
  • Establish Process Control Systems.  This is a key yellow belt skillset and its importance should not be overlooked.  Yellow belts learn how to set up process control systems to assure that processes function as expected by the customer.  Spec limits are establish, as are response plans when an indicator goes out of control
  • Execute small scale improvement projects in their own areas.   Will they have the deep statistical analysis skills that well-trained green belts or black belts have?  No, they will not.  But they will have a solid problem solving foundation around DMAIC and they will have a working knowledge of the basic tools in D-M-A-I-C.  They know what a well scoped project looks like, they know the basic measure and analyze graphical tools, they know how to use a structured approach to select improvements, and they definitely know about process control systems.   Let’s not lose site of the fact that these basic tools will likely be sufficient to address a significant portion of the process problems you’ll face.

Some may think of Yellow Belts as team members, data collectors, or assistants to Black Belts.  I strongly question this view and think, in reality, a Yellow Belt’s role should be much deeper than that.  Yellow Belts practice a Process Management approach (control and manage processes using metrics and data) and can solve real business problems using basic, but proven, quality tools and a systematic approach.

Yellow belt skills are valuable at any level of the organization, from managers to the lowest level process operators, and the processes they improve are usually the ones they work in day in and day out.  Many years back the term daily process management was in vogue.  The term has certainly faded a bit, but it’s hard to argue against the value of actively managing and improving processes on a daily basis.

Contact me if you’d like to talk about how yellow belts might be able to help your organization.  And, if you haven’t already, download our yellow belt training manual to see for yourself the rich skillset a yellow belt acquires.

Yellow Belts – Worth a Fresh Look?

November 8th, 2012 1 comment

Is Yellow Belt training a good foundation process skillset?I’m going to start this little article off by opining that the need for basic process management and improvement skills in an organization is getting more acute every day.

Why?  Well, I really don’t think the need ever waned, but   there are a lot of new things happening, specifically with technology, that have the potential to put business process management and formal improvement at the top of both business and IT leaders’ priorities.  While beyond the scope of this article, spend a little time looking at the new generation of BPM software (BPMS), the interest and investment in BigData, and software trends like SOA and I bet you’ll come to the same conclusion I have … process skills are becoming more and more critical to the success of enterprise.

Based on what’s happened over the last few years, many companies are finding that those skills are simply not there, or have gone dormant.  So, how do you develop or re-energize the capability?  Now, here is where we have to stay real.

The way companies are willing to build out organizational capability has clearly changed, based on my experience.  Big, top-heavy initiatives that push broad knowledge into the enterprise (the firehose approach) have been largely replaced with agile, practical thinking that says you pull right-fit capability into the organization, at the right-time.  Deliver exactly what’s needed, exactly when it’s needed, and execute in a way that delivers immediate ROI in the form of quantifiable business performance results.  That’s the new reality.

Download lean, six sigma, BPM, VOC content

I whole-heartedly agree with the agile, pull-based approach to organizational learning.  That being said, when building anything, you still have to start with a foundation … a base that you can continue to build upon as needed.  So, what should that foundation business process capability be?

Do you really need a large segment of people to be certified Black Belts, or even Green Belts, that specialize in deep statistical analysis?   Does everyone need to be a Lean Expert?  Does everyone need to have process design and DFSS skills?  I think not.

This caused me to go back and took a hard look at our trusty old Yellow Belt skillset and, you know what … it just might serve as that nice foundation. Yellow Belts, in the not-so-old days, were thought of as supporters of Black Belts and Green Belts. But I think that skillset can stand and deliver on its own.

(As a disclaimer, there is really no standard out there for yellow belt.  I’m talking about our (Qualtec’s) definition of a yellow belt skillset.)

So, what should well-trained Yellow Belts be able to do?

  • Map out and validate as-is processes, from a variety of perspectives
  • Identify waste and excess complexity in the process
  • Understand VOC and how a process delivers (or doesn’t deliver) value from the customers perspective
  • Evaluate and quantify what a problem is really costing, the cost of poor quality (COPQ)
  • Define and scope projects
  • Use a structured, data-driven approach for problem solving
  • Recognize different types of data, plan for collection
  • Analyze a variety of data to get to root causes of problems
  • Support identification of right-fit solutions, and support implementation
  • Put in the proper process control mechanisms to monitor performance and sustain improvements over time
  • Etc, etc

Not bad.  It’s something that’s broadly applicable in the organization, in any process or area, and immediately usable for just about anyone in the enterprise.  It also establishes that nice, solid foundation that advanced capabilities can be built upon when needed.

So, you may want to give Yellow Belt a new look, if you’re looking to establish process capability in your organization.  Contact me if you want more info or would like to discuss in more detail ….

Success With Lean Isn't Just About Tools and Training …

October 30th, 2012 1 comment

Lean toolsI talk to people everyday in all kinds of industries who, for their own reasons, have decided that they need to do Lean.   And, in most cases … it’s pretty easy to confirm that they REALLY do have legit business reasons for doing Lean.  So far, so good … we’re talking about solving real business problems …  I’m happy.

Now, let’s start talking about execution.  Oh no … Almost always, the conversation jumps to Lean tools and tools training.  And, you know what …. tools and tools training are not the most important considerations for achieving success with lean.   There … I’ve said it …

Now, before I get people thinking I’m completely nuts and sending me nasty emails, I’m not saying that Lean tools aren’t important. Tool knowledge is obviously necessary, but it is absolutely not sufficient.  Here’s my thinking.

First, what is success, or maybe better, what is not success?  Success IS NOT training 100 people across 5 operations in Lean. Success IS NOT about certifications. Success IS NOT completing X projects last quarter, all with slick final report outs.  If these or things like them are your measuring sticks for success …. well, you’re just being lazy and I can assure you that your relationship with Lean will end badly.

Download our Lean Primer kit an overview of project selection and definition ….


I’ll argue that success can only be defined by BUSINESS RESULTS, results that can be objectively measured and verified. Am I improving service to the customer in a meaningful way? Am I reducing risk (compliance, regulatory, liability, etc) in some meaningful way?  Am I pulling cost out and improving margins? Am I making better use of finite resources? Am I doing a better job of retaining existing revenue streams? Am I doing a better job generating new top-line growth? etc, etc.

Squishy, feel-good measurements (# people trained, # projects executed, etc) really just equate to an academic exercise and, let me tell you,  I don’t talk to a lot of business leaders that are interested in academic exercises these days.  It’s all about results … show me the money …

So, without further adieu, here’s a 3-step formula for Lean success:  Identify your target, then take aim, then fire.   I know … I know … not exactly a sophisticated or earth-shattering pronouncement, but sometimes taking things that have been made unnecessarily complicated and putting them in overly simple terms helps …

Identifying targets is about aligning the lean effort with the REAL NEEDS OF THE BUSINESS. No squeaky wheel projects! Do things that matter.  Aiming is about defining and scoping projects so that they are well-defined and manageable. We don’t want boil the ocean things that have no chance of getting done and we don’t want death by a thousand cuts through the dreaded scope creep.  We want high-value projects that have a clearly defined scope and objective.   Then … and only then … we fire by attacking our good projects with good training and Lean project execution.

I know it’s simplistic and really just common sense, but all to often the identify and aim components are put on the back burner in favor of fire events like tools training and kaizen events.  Why?  Well, because identify and aim are just plain hard sometimes and it’s awfully easy to just train people and do stuff.

But, realistically, what’s likely to happen if the identify and aim components are ignored? You’ll get a lot of people trained and a lot of meaningless, squeaky wheel projects being worked on that really don’t make any measurable impact to the business. Training for the sake of training and projects for the sake of projects …. a recipe for a Lean train wreck you want to avoid.  But I maintain that if the 3 steps I laid out happen well, then success in terms of meaningful business results is always within reach, and meaningful business results is the right definition of success for Lean.

Thoughts?  I’d like to hear from you …..

What is Lean, Really? Taking a Step Back …

October 25th, 2012 1 comment

What is Lean? How’s it different from Six Sigma?  Which one should I use?  How do I get started?   I get questions like this all the time.  To process aficionados… well, these questions just seem trivial.  Come on … How can anyone not know that?

Not so fast.  To a business person under real pressure to solve a real business problem … one who doesn’t have time to wade through the vast swamp of information and opinions out there … these are completely relevant questions.  And save the theoretical, academic stuff … just cut to the real-world chase … no time for a lecture … can it help me nor not?

What is Lean?

I know there are a lot of more complete definitions, but I like simple and straight forward so I boil it down to a relentless focus on the identification and elimination of waste.  But, let’s expand a little more:

  • Lean is about doing more with less
  • Lean is based on the premise that anywhere work is being done, waste is being generated … and should be minimized or removed
  • It should be team based process understanding business processes in a way that identifies and eliminates waste to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
  • It can be used at any level of the organization and applied to any process or work area

What Lean Isn’t …

At least the way we approach it here, it’s not a long, complicated process based on sophisticated data analysis, where projects take months and months to deliver results.  Now, to be clear, there are certainly projects/problems that need tools like Six Sigma to do this kind of analysis, but Lean approaches a different kind of problem (flow, throughput, cycle time, etc) in a simpler way, and, done well,  typically focuses on incremental improvements instead of big bang breakthroughs.  And, Lean is for everyone, from the lowest level operator to high level executives.  You don’t need a PhD to get stuff done.

How do I get started?

In my opinion, Lean should not be rolled out as a big, top-heavy initiative.  Lean can be effectively deployed in a grass roots, pay-as-you-go model that requires minimal up-front investment, and still delivers quick ROI.  See this post where I laid out such a pay-as-you-go approach.

How can Lean help me?

  • Faster. Removing waste, complexity, and bottlenecks improves process flow and assures that things can be done faster, and be more predictable
  • Cheaper. If there are fewer unnecessary steps, less complexity, and things get done faster because of better overall flow,  then fewer resources need be consumed
  • Better. Complexity = more opportunities for defects = reduced service quality. Reduce  complexity, and quality improvements often are a natural by-product

Difference between Lean and Six Sigma?

Difference Between Lean and Six Sigma

There you have it.  Simplistic, I know, but I hope this helps to answer some of the fundamental questions.  Contact me if you want to discuss in more detail.

Warehouses and Distribution Centers: The Supply Chain’s New Efficiency Experts?

October 18th, 2012 Comments off

I’ve had a number of conversations this week with leaders focusing on improvements in supply chain management, specifically in a warehousing operation.  This reminded me of a supplychainbrain.com article from some time back that featured one our our long-running customers and made the argument that companies should think about their warehouse/distribution center floor for some low hanging fruit performance improvements.   Warehouses and distribution centers are mission critical components of the overall supply chain, but seem to get very little attention when it comes to process improvement.  This is a mistake as a careful analysis would likely show things like:

  • High or unpredictable cost of operations
  • Poor use of space
  • High cost of stock levels
  • High resource levels needed to sustain customer order shipments, or, worse, a complete inability to consistently meet customer expectations

Download 3PL brief

this short Executive Brief that discusses the importance of CI for companies whose business success is a clear function of effective and efficient warehouse and distribution operations – namely 3PLs.  Relevant reading even if you’re not a 3PL, but have warehousing and distribution operations

Now, what can you do about it.  A focused effort to analyze the underlying processes, not the activities, of the warehousing operation may provide a cost-effective answer.  Structured process improvement approaches, when applied correctly, can make a dramatic positive impact to these operations. At a high level, the goal is to understand the core processes, identify to the highest value performance gaps, and then design and implement right-fit improvements. Where might focus be directed?

  • Poor warehouse layout & design?
  • Warehouse process flows are not well defined and therefore the warehouse is cluttered and disorganized, possibly dangerous?
  • High cost due to excess Inventories?
  • Lack of basic WMS functionality?
  • Poor stock and location controls -Can’t find stock for customer orders?
  • Picking productivity poor which is driving additional labour costs?
  • Overtime requirements just be meet basic SLA terms?
  • Stock loss is an everyday occurrence ?
  • Poor people productivity?
  • No visible floor controls for Input and output product flows?

In the article Charlie Jacobs discussed how APL Logistics (a long time Qualtec client) rolled out a simple but effective lean based continuous improvement  program that made improvements in several of these areas, saving one customer over $1M. That alone should raise some eyebrows!

To Lean or Six Sigma – That is the Question …

October 9th, 2012 7 comments

Lean or Six SigmaWe can’t decide whether to do Lean or Six Sigma …”.  I’m still surprised how many times I hear this, much in the same context of whether to get a Camaro or a Mustang.   There is still this misconception that Lean and Six Sigma are competing methodologies, and that you have to opt for one camp or the other based on some arbitrary preferences.

The CI consulting industry is partly responsible for this, no doubt.  Lean shops push Lean  — Six Sigma shops have all kinds of reasons why Six Sigma is the be-all end-all.   Then the waters were muddied further with the introduction of this thing called Lean Six Sigma, which weaves the lean tools through DMAIC methodology.

So, if you’re a business leader with real problems and real opportunities, how do you make a smart decision, one that has a good chance to deliver a solid ROI and bottom line results?

The simple answer is Let your business tell you what makes sense.   We did a  post that touched on the concept of letting the business pull your CI approach vs. pushing a one size fits all approach, a good example of Lean thinking itself.  We have a very structured assessment model we use when we help our customers design CI programs, but the waters can start to clear with some simple questions …

  1. What kinds of business problems do I need to solve?  Do I have clear quality and defect issues that are hurting the business?  Are they complicated problems, where you really don’t know what’s happening?    Or, am I really trying to increase efficiency, make things run faster, and at a lower cost?   Quality and defect issues may tilt the scales toward Six Sigma.  Efficiency, cycle time, flow almost always point to lean.
  2. When it comes to process maturity and availability of data, where is my organization, really?  Six Sigma is heavily dependent on measurement and analysis of detailed data to get to root cause. What happens if you really don’t have a lot of data, and have a lot of processes that are messy and unstable?  Projects that take a VERY long time to complete, if they ever complete, is a likely scenario.  In this case, then maybe you should look to lean to clean up and stabilize processes, establish some measurement systems, and get some quick results before moving into Six Sigma.
  3. Am I under major budget and time constraints?  Six Sigma can yield some incredible breakthrough results when done correctly, but it takes some upfront investment, in money, resources, and time.   Lean is typically simpler, projects tend to be more incremental, upfront costs are less, and results (albeit in smaller bites) come quicker.
  4. Do I have leadership buyin and active participation?  Getting Six Sigma off the ground really requires some support and infrastructure.  If you have that buyin, there are typically some major gains to be had.   If you don’t, and need to do things more from a grass roots perspective, then lean might be a better answer.
  5. Am I under pressure to show real operational improvements, NOW?  If so, then I’d take a hard look at lean as a starting point.

Download our Lean Quickstart Presentation

our Lean Quickstart .ppt.  There is a short section that provides a high level overview of the differences between Lean and Six Sigma.

Now, before all you purists get mad at me, I know this is overly simplistic.  Did you see all the “may” and “maybes”?   But, you have to admit it is very practical and does provide some realistic guidance, a starting point at least.

Of course, no single one of these questions should be looked at in a vacuum, but I think if you look at all of them in total, you can get some clarity on what might be the best place to start, whether it be Lean, Six Sigma, or a blended Lean Six Sigma approach.  And, remember, different organizations within the company will likely be in different places.  That’s OK.   Remember, be flexible, and let the business pull the CI approach/tools that make sense. Good results will follow ….

As always, I welcome your feedback and thoughts.   Email me if you’d like to discuss in more detail.

BPM and Lean – For Many Service Oriented Organizations, Enough to Get Big Improvement Results

October 4th, 2012 1 comment

Might Continuous improvement (CI) be making a comeback after a several years of being severely cut back or outright eliminated?  I think they just might be, and I see it most in service delivery organizations. But, they’re doing it for different reasons and they’re doing it in a different way.  Simple and light-weight trumps top-heavy and complex.  Near-term wins reign supreme over long-term initiatives.

Why the re-emerging interest? Well, the simple answer is that things are just different than they were, even just a few years ago.  I talk to business leaders every day, and I don’t hear “we want to start a program to instill a culture of quality and continuous improvement in the company”.    No, what I hear about are specific business problems, and immense pressure to immediately and inexpensively fix the problems.   Feel good corporate initiatives are out ….  in the trenches get it done  thinking and actions are in.

Problems in service organizations seem to cluster around being able to deliver an increasing service level while maintaining or growing margins, WITHOUT adding headcount.   It’s do more with less (or at least with what we have).  This insight doesn’t bode well for the near-term employment outlook, but it’s what I see nonetheless.

BPM and Lean for Services OrganizationsAnd, it’s not just the reasons for doing CI that are different. The way business leaders want to do CI is also different.  There is almost no appetite for big dollar, infrastructure-heavy corporate initiatives. The focus is almost entirely on quick wins … show me the money.   Now, I know there are some practitioners out there might say that a focus on near term results is just a recipe for disaster, but I just don’t think so.  We have to live in the real world, and this world requires a shift in perspective.

So, my argument …. For many service organizations, fundamental Business Process Management (BPM) and Lean combined with some light-weight infrastructure components can make for an incredibly cost-effective way to make near-immediate, high impact improvements and set the stage for long-term sustainable results.  A true win-win.

In a services environment, simple BPM and Lean allows you to consistently execute well-defined, low risk, and high impact projects  that are clearly aligned with the real goals of the business …. for many, a better path  to  Continuous Improvement

BPM crystallizes value streams (processes) and establishes measurement systems that clearly identify the highest value gaps in performance, from both customer and business perspectives. These gaps represent business cases, and ultimately, projects.  Define a good prioritization approach, and you have a project pipeline.

Download BPM

a BPM Overview presentation

Lean is an inexpensive and highly effective way, then, to execute those projects and close those performance gaps.  Now, there is not doubt that not all projects identified will be lean projects.  You will for sure find capital projects, six sigma projects, and even some process redesign projects.  BUT, my experience is that a significant number of the highest value projects in service and service delivery organizations are indeed Lean projects. They focus on doing more with less, reducing cycle time, or reducing cost.  That’s lean.

Download Lean Services

 this short .ppt overview of Lean for Service Operations

BPM and Lean.  Done well, you can get near-term results AND set the stage for long-term sustainable results.  And, the beauty of it is that it can be very lightweight and cost-effective.  Contact me if you want to discuss how this lightweight approach to CI might work for your organization.

Use Lean to Ease the Pain of Enterprise Software Implementations

September 27th, 2012 2 comments

Use Lean before enterprise software implementationsLarge scale enterprise software implementations … ERP, CRM, BI, BPM, Ware house management, transportation management, talent management, learning management ….. What do they all typically have in common?

I routinely speak with managers who have been tasked with implementing or supporting the implementation of large-scale enterprise software solutions. All raise a similar set of frustrations:

  • There are a LOT of options, all very different. I just don’t know which is right for us …

  • It’s taking much longer than we thought to do this and negatively impacting our business …

  • Integration and customization costs are out of control and way over budget …

  • We have the system installed and up, but can’t get people to use it …

  • We’re different. We just don’t do things in a standard way and no system seems to be able to handle our requirements. Guess we’ll have to build internally …

Coincidence that I keep hearing the same comments? I think not. From my experience, this is absolutely the rule, not the exception. Now, the question is why does this consistently happen?

I think it’s simply a matter of putting the cart before the horse. So often, technology is looked at as a silver bullet to solve business problems when, in reality, the problem is one of process and not product (i.e. technology solution). Let’s put this into perspective … technology solutions should sit on top of good business processes and ideally enable those processes to function better, faster, and cheaper. But,what happens when you try to overlay an ill-defined or just plain bad business process with a technology solution? You guessed it … experiences like those outlined above.

I think some very focused process characterization and Lean work on the front-end of system decisions and implementations could alleviate a lot of the frustration, if people would just take the time to do it. Some things to think about ….

  • Start with top level enterprise metrics and a high level value-stream. Identify the key value adding processes, their associated owners, and the metrics those owners manage to. This will help identify critical stakeholders and to crystallize the reporting that is really required

  • Start breaking down those top-level processes and characterizing across all operations. Are all operations doing things the same way, measuring the same things, etc? Most likely, they are not. Where differences exist, work collaboratively to identify best practices and consolidate to a best-of-breed process.

  • Look for unnecessary complexity, waste and defect-producing aspects of processes. Run focused improvement teams to correct. Remove the fat and make processes as LEAN as possible BEFORE trying to systemize. Waste and complexity in processes equals increased cost for system integration and customization, GUARANTEED.

  • Payoff. From steps 1-3 above, a well-defined and actionable set of requirements will be derived AND prioritized. This helps with product selection AND with system integration, customization and testing. Get it right the first time … what a concept, right?

Of course these actions will take some time on the front-end, but my contention is that the time and expense of doing this process work in front of a system implementation will almost always pay for itself many times over. Sometimes we seem to for get that it’s the business processes that serve customers and produce revenue, not the technology you’re trying to implement to supposedly improve those processes.

A little preparation and risk prevention now, or a lot of pain and suffering down the road? You make the call ….

Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss. I’d love to hear your insights and ideas.

Lean In IT ? – Surely you Jest ….

September 25th, 2012 4 comments

Lean in ITRepeat after me … Lean is not just for manufacturing … Lean is not just for manufacturing …..  Fire up your browser and just ask Google.  It will enlighten you with many, many examples of  Lean making a big impact on service organizations … reducing costs, making things faster, making things just better.  You’ll find it in healthcare, government services, financial services, logistics,  and one that is near and dear to everyone’s heart ….. IT.  Yes, I said the I-word …

Remember, Lean is first and foremost about the elimination of waste, and I would argue that there is plenty of waste in IT, hence there is applicability for Lean in IT.   To take things further, since IT is supporting the broader business needs, waste in IT can be magnified into bigger waste (and bigger problems) as it filters through the business.  A good way to look at how Lean applies is to look at the elements of waste and make the connection to IT ….

Waste of Defects.  Systems not meeting requirements, software bugs, missed deadlines, blown budgets, etc.  This clearly adds cost to IT, but I would argue that the impact to the business can be even larger in terms of $’s.  Incorrect handling of a single customer transaction can cost the business big in terms of cost, lost revenue, and potentially attrition.

Waste of Overproduction.  Here, overproduction means simply doing things that don’t need to be done, like working on low-impact squeaky wheel projects that really don’t provide value to the business.  This is the classic IT Alignment with the Business problem that has been talked about for years and years.  The cost to the broader business is that strategic projects offer real value don’t get worked.

Waste of Waiting.  Test teams waiting for the next load that’s running behind, development teams waiting for test results, waiting for new hardware, waiting for software upgrades and patches, etc.    But, again, the business impact can be bigger.  Think about slow application response times, inefficient problem escalation process, missed deadlines delaying product launches, etc.

Waste of Overprocessing (non-value add processing)A good example here is IT keeping track of excessive amounts of technology metrics, and then reporting those metrics to business managers.  Again, the old business / IT alignment demon rears its head.

Waste of Transportation. On site visits to correct hardware/software issues, physical security, compliance, or software audits, vendor visits for equipment that might not really be needed, etc.

Waste of Excess Motion. Firefighting creates excess motion, and I think it’s safe to say that firefighting is a way of life for many IT organizations and a productivity killer.

Waste of Excess InventoryServer sprawl, under-utilized hardware, software installed that no one uses, development and test teams benched, waiting for their next assignment

Waste of Underutilized TalentFailure to encourage and capture new ideas for innovation, retention issues, high-value employees used for mundane tasks that really require a much lower skill level, or possibly even automation (i.e. regression testing).   And I’ll add one more here … build vs. buy.  What is the impact when IT leverages its resources to build something inhouse, when a better and cheaper solution could have been bought?  This negatively impacts IT and the business heavily.

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a short Powerpoint that discusses Lean in a services environment

OK, do can we agree that some (or all) of the above wastes happen in the typical IT department?  I thought so.  And, if Lean thinking and tools can help you reduce these and other wastes???   They can.

So, I think it’s pretty clear that there are many opportunities to use Lean to help IT organizations better serve their customers (i.e. the business), and lower IT costs and resource requirements.  I also believe that, due to most businesses’ increasing dependence on IT, the bigger value to improvements will likely be realized by the business, through smoother operations, better resource utilization, and happier customers and employees.   There are some really interesting trends like SOA and BigData that I’ll talk about in future articles that make Lean even more applicable.

Think about it and Contact me if you’d like to discuss how lean can be applied to IT organizations in more detail.