The term “lean” has become an accepted part of the IT management lexicon, particularly in solution development and delivery.
While the concept fits well with the increasingly automated nature of provisioning and managing the IT environment, we shouldn’t lose sight of the original principles of lean manufacturing from which the methodology arose.
The main notions of lean are the elimination of waste, a focus on actions that create value for the end customer, using customer demand to drive process activity, and pursuing a cycle of continuous improvement.
These principles cannot, however, be considered in isolation from the business processes that are enabled by those IT systems.
One of the key ideas in applying them to IT is that of managing customer or business demand for IT services, rather than focusing on the management of the underlying IT assets.
Private and public Cloud environments are making it easier to provision IT capacity on a just-in-time basis to meet business demand, but it is the efficient orchestration of this provisioning, and management of the associated processes that is the key to both achieving the desired outcome for the customer and realising savings at the back end.
A traditional lean approach classifies waste into areas which equate in IT terms to issues such as under-utilised capacity, over-provisioning, unnecessary process steps, system defects, superfluous data handling, and redundant wait states.
In the current IT environment, these deficiencies can be less noticeable because they can be offset to some extent by raw processing power, expanding storage capacity, and increased network bandwidth.
But such improvements will show diminishing returns as the complexity of managing these environments escalates, and lean thinking encourages organisations to think differently about how they configure and deliver their key processes.
The easiest way to get into this mode of analysis is to think about the end goal of the process: What is the optimum outcome that should be delivered to the IT customer?
From this point, one can work backwards through the process, examining each step and the contribution it makes towards that end goal.
I find that organisations very quickly get used to this mindset, which leads on to greater insight into how IT delivery can be optimised to help reduce costs, improve efficiency, and meet business needs more effectively.
By Tim Jennings - Research Analyst, Ovum