Leap IT: Lean Accelerators for Productivity improvement in IT

“Expectations from IT just keep increasing every single day “– this is a point of view echoed by several CIOs across the organizations all over the globe. Newer developments in IT like Social Networking, Green IT, Virtualization, and Business analytics are changing the way businesses are run.

The real value of IT is going to be measured by the way in which IT organization utilizes its physical, human and information resources. Like any other core business group, IT organization is expected to demonstrate year-on-year improvement without losing sight of the value delivered to business.

Lean Management: An Overview

A recent survey of the CIOs shows a clear indication clearly indicates that the IT organizations need to be run with greater efficiencies to meet the expectations from both internal and external customers.

Best practice frameworks and standards provide the required direction to establish the necessary processes in different facets of an IT organization. However to calibrate the existing processes and demonstrate continuous improvement it requires a very focused and disciplined approach.

Lean Management provides the required impetus to address this need.

Lean principles over the years have been successfully adopted in IT and service industries. Application of lean principles in Application Development and Maintenance (ADM) is slowly getting more acceptance in the industry.  It would be more beneficial if the adoption of Lean principles could be extended to all streams of an IT organization cutting across IT strategy, Governance, Operations, Information Security and Infrastructure Management. This approach calls for a shift from ‘using lean techniques’ to ‘building a Lean Management mindset.’

Fig 1: CIO priorities

Lean Improvement approach

Lean approach provides simple, quick deployment result-oriented tools and techniques which can be integrated with the existing processes of an IT organization.

People, Processes and Technology are the pivots around which any improvement initiative is positioned. The Lean improvement approach is based on set of lean tools and techniques called as Lean Accelerators. Lean Accelerators could be broadly categorized under five different groups each focusing on specific area of improvement. The five categories are Strategy deployment, Waste elimination, People development, Lean operations and Continual improvements.

Identifying and using the right Lean Accelerators helps to:

    • Assess and improve the end-to-end value stream
    • Build quick and smooth process handshakes
    • Eliminate waste in operations
    • Standardize the processes
    • Enhance the  competency of the workforce
    • Build process discipline
    • Make improvements a way of life
    • Maximize returns on IT investments
    • Improve customer satisfaction
    • Foster innovation
    • Reduce Total Cost of Ownership

In a nut shell Lean Management focuses to build and sustain an IT organization which excels in four dimensions of – Quality, Speed, Flexibility and Value.

Lean framework for productivity improvement

Fig 2: Lean Improvement Approach

Lean framework for improvement

Lean improvement framework based on Lean Accelerators aims to improve the effectiveness and efficiency in different facets of an IT organization.

Improvements are focused on both core and support processes which are termed as IT drivers and IT enablers respectively.

Lean accelerators could be seamlessly integrated to different processes of the IT function. A typical approach to deploy the Lean accelerators would be:

    • Analyze the current IT set up
    • Measure the  Base Lean Quotient
    • Identify the Lean improvement areas
    • Establish and communicate Lean Management model
    • Deploy Lean Accelerators
    • Measure the tangible and intangible returns
    • Validate the Achieved Lean quotient
    • Recalibrate processes and identify next set of improvement areas

Critical Success factors that could make or break the Lean improvements are the management commitment, involvement of people and the right change management strategies.

Fig 3 : Lean Improvement Framework

Lean Accelerators

The chart below summarizes a few of the key Lean accelerators and their relevance in IT function. (Note: This is not an exhaustive list of Lean Accelerators)

Fig 4: Lean Accelerators


Lean Management using Lean Accelerators would provide significant benefits to the organization. Returns seen from investment in Lean Management could be either direct (tangible) or indirect (intangible).

Some of the direct returns could be   -  reduction  in  IT issue cycle time reduction,  reduction  in IT assets  procurement costs ,improvement in turnaround time , better resource utilization , bottom line savings through waste elimination .

Some of the indirect returns could be – increase in customer and employee satisfaction, improved competency levels of workforce, better brand equity for the organization.

The chart below demonstrates how the various categories of Lean Accelerators are relevant in meeting the priorities of CIO organization.

Fig 5 : Lean Accelerators and CIO priorities


In recent years Lean Software development became accepted widely and is now used along with Agile development practices.  Using Lean principles in other streams of IT is not completely new but the extent of its application and implementation is in its early stages. With right management commitment, organizational change management strategies and a committed workforce – Lean Accelerators could deliver significant benefits and help organizations to achieve business excellence.

About the Authors
Gunjan Saxena has more than 12+ years of experience in the areas of software process improvements .She has successfully consulted & led several organizations of varied Business domains in their transformational journey and has expertise in the areas of – IT project and portfolio management, service operations and software development .She currently works as Regional Practice Manager in Wipro Consulting Services and handles the India ,Middle east & the APAC markets for Process Excellence. She can be reached at [email protected]

StickyMinds is a TechWell community.

Through conferences, training, consulting, and online resources, TechWell helps you develop and deliver great software every day.