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The Lean ITIL connection

(Posted on behalf of Manu Singh)

While trying to improve IT operations, the application of ITIL best practices alone does not necessarily guarantee effectiveness and efficiency in IT processes. ITIL, in fact, recognizes this, and for that reason, the ITIL v3 framework defines a service lifecycle stage - Continual Service Improvement (CSI) - intended to measure and improve processes and services over time. However, the 7-step improvement processes defined in CSI is perhaps too focused on improvements as opposed to reducing wastage of effort.
There is a significant amount of effort wastage while performing routine tasks and activities. So, any activity that does not focus on delivering value to the customer is a potential waste and needs to be removed or at least reduced.

And this is where Lean comes in.

Lean principles were originally developed to improve quality and reduce costs in manufacturing. But, over time, Lean principles have been used in the services industry as well.  Lean thinking has now evolved towards improving quality, eliminating waste, reducing lead times for implementations and, ultimately, reducing costs.

So, how do Lean principles compliment IT service management?

Let me give you an example: IT organizations around the globe follow the same practices i.e. detailing client requirements, designing the solution and getting it approved.  At the next stage, they build the solution, take it live and support the same. In a way all the ITSM processes are followed, however, the extent of detailing these processes will depend on many factors such as- the size of the organization, support requirements, geographic spread (for incorporating business rules for different countries) etc. Some of these processes may include wasteful effort that does not really add any value.

Lean helps in identifying  'fit for purpose' ITSM processes i.e. identifying the right fit based on organization requirements and removing those activities that are irrelevant for the business or which create unnecessary overheads. In this way, the correlation of Lean and ITSM principles can be seen as a natural progression towards delivering value in IT services - while Lean focuses on waste reduction in alignment to client requirements, ITSM focuses on delivering services that meet client expectations.

The best approach towards embarking on a Lean ITSM journey is to first identify what the business (internal and external stakeholders) perceives as Value and Non Value adds and then defining a "To-Be" value stream which will act as a baseline for the future improvement journey.  This "To-Be" value stream would take inputs from the corporate business strategy along with current and future business requirements.

Another important aspect is to define the change management and roll-out strategy so that the new/improved processes make sense to the process stakeholders. For this, organizations would need to focus on incremental process roll-outs by bundling them in a logical manner and involve all stakeholders to contribute in solution designing so as to reduce the resistance to change as everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the definition of the solution.

Over a period of time the incorporation of Lean principles in IT service management has evolved towards improving support efficiency, accelerated issue management and reducing costs through better allocation and utilization of support staff and budget funds. 
In the current market scenario, where IT spending is expected to slow significantly, it makes even more sense to apply Lean to gain cost advantages.

(Manu Singh is a Senior Consultant with the Service Transformation practice at Infosys. He has more than 8 years of experience in the industry and is focused on Service Transition, Program Management, IT service management, Process design and gap analysis.)


Nice insights of relevance on Lean to ITSM.

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