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Apply lean principles to ITSM for continuous service improvement

Applying lean principles to IT services management not only helps CIOs cut the fat, but find a balance for continuous service improvement.

CIOs are consistently called on to cut waste and costs out of the IT service delivery process. In this podcast, Troy DuMoulin, vice president of professional services at IT management best practices firm Pink Elephant and contributor to the recently published book Run Grow Transform: Integrating Business and Lean IT, explains how applying lean principles to IT services management (ITSM) will help CIOs gain efficiencies and focus IT services on processes that deliver business value.

Troy DuMoulinTroy DuMoulin

Why should CIOs consider adopting lean principles for their ITSM processes?

Troy DuMoulin: It's this balancing act. You get people who go to the ITIL class, and they come back all charged up about the theory of how things are done. Then they take that theory and try to apply it to perfection, and perfection is never the goal. [On the other hand], when you have people who are lean trained, they understand the right things to do … with IT services management and ITIL. That CIO will know that the investment they are making and the formality they are putting in place when lean practices are applied to ITSM] will not be overkill. We have this real focus today where things not only have to be effective, but they have to be cost efficient. Lean principles keep us honest by asking "What's the cost efficient approach or the focus of value for this process?" It's about the balancing act of doing things right and doing the right things.

What is an example of applying lean principles to IT services management?

DuMoulin: Lean is a way of approaching [IT service] improvement. It's doing just enough, or doing "fit for purpose" -- not too much, but not too little either. It's finding that balance. I get this question of how to apply Lean to IT services management from organizations of all sizes. All IT shops have the same basic practices: They talk to their clients about what they need in the future, they take those requirements and build blueprints and designs for what these requirements look like. They then get these requirements vetted, approved and funded. They have to take these sets of services in their embryonic form, build them out and then move them to production and support them. So, pretty much all of the ITSM processes apply, the entire value stream. The question is how deep do you go? This is where the lean concept comes in.

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If you have the entire scope of processes, the same scope of processes in a shop of five people or an IT organization with several hundred, the question then really has to be how much is enough? This is where lean says, "OK, what really is necessary? How do I optimize that? What is necessary, but can it be minimized?"

That's where we get into the administrative side -- the necessary non-value-add. And then we ask, "What is really redundant and waste that can be eliminated?" This is where you get to the point of doing things right or fit for purpose.

For example, when people complain that a service is disrupted, yes, I have to record that incident. But do I need a half-million dollar tool to do that? Perhaps not. Perhaps I can use an Excel spreadsheet and that's fine for the small [IT] organization, but that won't cut the mustard for a larger organization. What kind of reporting am I going to do? I might need to cut it down to just the basic reports that ensure that services are restored in a timely manner. So, I may only need to define one or two key performance indicators. It's really about the depth that you go to versus the scope or the width.

Listen to the full podcast to learn how mobile application development turnaround times are driving the need for lean principles and how lean practices lead to continuous process improvement across the IT organization. DuMoulin also delves into "value activity" and what he calls the "Three Sisters for Continuous Service Improvement."

Dig Deeper on Enterprise ITIL and ITSM