How to Shrink Your Waste with Lean IT
While lean principles and practices have been widely adopted in manufacturing over the years, their use in IT has just recently gained popularity. Lean IT is a revised way of thinking whose ultimate goal is the elimination of wasted IT resources, thereby increasing business efficiency and profits. Knowledge Center contributor Sunny Gupta explains the six steps organizations should follow to obtain Lean IT operations.IT is currently undergoing a transformation reminiscent of manufacturing in the 1970s and 1980s. It's called Lean IT, which applies the lean manufacturing principles developed by the Japanese, perfected by Toyota and leveraged by greats like General Electric and Motorola with the same end goal: cost reduction by elimination of waste. Waste doesn't necessarily mean reducing scrap metal. It can also mean eliminating the waste of your IT resources, such as purging low-value applications, consolidating multiple data centers, standardizing server platforms, increasing utilization from existing infrastructure and applying best practices to manual processes in order to make our human capital most efficient.
The lean concept requires strategic thinking and smart ideas, but some hurdles come with the territory. One of the biggest challenges in implementing a lean methodology into IT is offsetting skepticism. Fears that Lean IT will suppress creativity and its exaggerated rigidity are common criticisms among its skeptics. But the result is actually the exact opposite: Lean IT organizations are able to focus more of their resources on new projects that advance the business goals. These tend to be the leading-edge, innovative projects that attract the top IT talent.
For example, by understanding unit costs, you can determine the overhead of running an e-mail service per employee (as Google does) and thus, understand how much it costs IT to bring on new employees into the business unit. Additionally, infrastructure unit costs can be compared to determine best practices (that is, Windows blade server versus rack server, UNIX rack server versus virtualized servers), with all allocated support and facilities costs included. And, by knowing the fully-loaded cost of an IT service, IT product managers responsible for such services can run their business using such metrics--and have a baseline for managing to Lean.