Types of Waste in Lean IT

Lean IT promises to identify and eradicate waste that otherwise contributes to poor customer service, lost business, higher than necessary business costs, and lost employee productivity. To these ends, Lean IT targets eight elements within IT operations that add no value to the finished product or service or to the parent organization (see Table 1).

Table 1 – Targets of Waste in Lean IT[1]
Waste Element Examples Business Outcome
  • Unauthorized system and application changes.
  • Substandard project execution.
Poor customer service, increased costs.
Overproduction (Overprovisioning)
  • Unnecessary delivery of low-value applications and services.
Business and IT misalignment, Increased costs and overheads: energy, data center space, maintenance.
  • Slow application response times.
  • Manual service escalation procedures.
Lost revenue, poor customer service, reduced productivity.
Non-Value Added Processing
  • Reporting technology metrics to business managers.
  • On-site visits to resolve hardware and software issues.
  • Physical software, security and compliance audits.
Higher capital and operational expenses.
Inventory (Excess)
  • Server sprawl, underutilized hardware.
  • Multiple repositories to handle risks and control.
  • Benched application development teams.
Increased costs: data center, energy; lost productivity.
Motion (Excess)
  • Fire-fighting repeat problems within the IT infrastructure.
Lost productivity.
Employee Knowledge (Unused)
  • Failing to capture ideas/innovation.
  • Knowledge and experience retention issues.
  • Employees spend time on repetitive or mundane tasks.
Talent leakage, low job satisfaction, increased support and maintenance costs.

Whereas each element in the table can be a significant source of waste in itself, linkages between elements sometimes create a cascade of waste (the so-called domino effect). For example, a faulty load balancer (waste element: Defects) that increases web server response time may cause a lengthy wait for users of a web application (waste element: Waiting), resulting in excessive demand on the customer support call center (waste element: Excess Motion) and, potentially, subsequent visits by account representatives to key customers’ sites to quell concerns about the service availability (waste element: Transportation). In the meantime, the company’s most likely responses to this problem — for example, introducing additional server capacity and/or redundant load balancing software), and hiring extra customer support agents — may contribute yet more waste elements (Overprovisioning and Excess Inventory).

^ 1 Waterhouse, Peter. “Improving IT Economics: Thinking Lean& rdquo;. CA White Paper. November 2008.

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