date 2015-06-19
Transforming IT with Lean Six Sigma

Transforming IT with Lean Six Sigma

Although Lean and Six Sigma are most often associated with manufacturing products, they have in fact been applied to the service-based structure of IT in recent years, with fantastic results for many businesses. This is how the principles of both methodologies can be applied to the management of Information Technology.

Eliminating Waste

In its most basic form, Lean is the elimination of waste from the manufacturing process. When we apply it to an IT environment, waste becomes any work which doesn’t add value to the end product or service.

This could be excessive processes, such as documentation, data entry and meetings, or just inefficient ways of working, such as multitasking. Lean encourages the management to look in-depth at these processes, decide if they are truly necessary, and either improve them or remove them completely.

Doing More With Less

A second major principle of Lean is the idea of doing more with less. In the case of IT, this means being more productive with fewer staff members.

This could mean reducing the amount of people a decision goes through before it is approved, or giving people greater responsibilities, which is something you could certainly do once you’ve identified which processes can be eliminated.

Continuous Improvement

One of the most popular Lean tools to apply to IT is Kaizen. Kaizen is Chinese and Japanese for continuous improvement. It entails making small changes to processes in order to improve them over time.

These changes could be something as small as altering the way data is categorised, or moving a step in the software development process to a different stage. As you repeat these processes, you will learn something new each time. The end goal is a perfect and efficient process.

Introducing Six Sigma

Cutting back on waste is all well and good, but Lean principles must be applied in a balanced way – you don’t want to remove anything by mistake. This is where Six Sigma can come in handy.

Six Sigma puts the central focus on the customer and the quality of the product or service they receive. The main idea behind it is defect reduction; identifying areas where mistakes are being made and a sub-par product or service is being offered. After this, a number of steps are taken in order to improve the service and solve the problem.

Combining Six Sigma with Lean provides the best of both worlds: the effects of Six Sigma in addition to the speed with which Lean can be applied. Using both in an IT support scenario will mean faster response times, better customer service and happier customers.

Remember, none of these approaches are set in stone. You could formally implement Lean and Six Sigma into your organisation as the collective name Lean Six Sigma, or you could simply take approaches from each and pick and choose to suit you.

No matter the combination in which they are applied, Lean and Six Sigma work in an IT environment because they focus on the customer and the product – in the end, aren’t those the building blocks of any business?

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