PA Consulting outlines benefits of Japanese strategy
UK CIOs are falling behind in their use of Lean IT and are far less mature in their approaches than their European counterparts, a top European consultant has claimed.
Sune Schackenfeldt, a Lean IT consultant with PA Consulting Group said that although there is a hard business case to be built around the use of Lean IT techniques, very few CIOs in the UK have applied it to better manage resources or to help prioritise projects.
PA describes Lean as a management strategy that seeks to improve operational performance in terms of cost, quality, delivery, and staff satisfaction by focusing on the customer and eliminating waste, variability and inflexibility.
It is based on an operational strategy for manufacturing which originated in the Japanese automotive industry, and has since been successfully applied to a range of service businesses and is now catching on in IT. Executives have applied it to support growth and innovation, promote efficiency or reduce costs.
Lean IT can be thought of as a strategic framework which focuses the efforts of IT departments on customer service and businesses processes. It also provides a wide range of tools and techniques to improve performance. These may include kaizen, just-in-time, value stream mapping, standardised work and kanban.
“There are benefits are to be found with Lean IT, especially in the way it promotes fresh thinking and a new approach to demand planning,” Schackenfeldt told us.
“There are also gains to be made in the way it can speed software development with better prototyping and test, and how it can be applied to speed the more transactional aspects of an IT function such as help-desk service requests.”
At the infrastructural level Lean IT suggests a need for standardisation and re-use as a means of building in industrial strength processes and repeatability as the drivers of service efficiency. It is the tack that’s been taken by software suppliers like CA Inc.
It is one of a number of vendors that has taken up the mantra of Lean IT to sell the benefits of its software to automate and optimise the systems and processes that support business services. In April the company announced three enhanced service management products that it said would lower the cost of service change, delivery and support.
Fujitsu has been promoting the idea for years and has developed its Triole system as a series of prefabricated and pre-validated software templates. The company has developed standard blocks for business applications, databases and the like, which can be loaded off the shelf. Other templates manage virtualisation or provisioning on servers, or will provide links to storage through a switching infrastructure.
Schackenfeldt said that Lean IT brings with it many softer benefits, such as the way the adoption of Lean IT methods can help bring on a new performance culture in the IT department. He said the use of problem-solving ‘kaizen’ meetings can also bring about some impressive gains, but only “if the CIO is a leader instead of a manager,”
He maintains that businesses in Denmark and Sweden are the most mature Lean IT geographies in Europe.