How LEAN can IT be?

A buzzword that has been popping up here and there is LEAN. It has been described (i.e by Forrester Research) as an approach that reduces costs, consolidates, reduces planning horizons and gets rid of bad ideas. I am not in full agreement.

Using “Lean” to shorten project targets and to consolidate is good. Cost cutting could also be easily achieved by getting rid of the bad ideas of Java, XML and SOA. All those are the opposite of consolidation and require long planning horizons. Is that not obvious? SOA is complex integration work mostly by means of Java and XML. Right?

Another bad and most of all UNPROVEN idea is that BPM improves business results and that SixSigma and TQM are more than a paper exercise. Show me the studies that prove that any of the above has really improved the way a business works in the long run. I am still unable to find any. Why? SixSigma, TQM and BPM create rigid environments that people hate to work in because their initiative and intuition is flooded with bureaucracy! Why can nobody see that?

Toyota has been used over and over as example for a LEAN approach. Looking at what makes Toyota different shows clearly that it is not an IT solution but a people centric approach.  People knowledge, people innovation, people motivation and a reduction in bureaucracy is Toyota’s success. So what role can IT play? It can only be new and innovative software that empowers people and does not restrict them or enforces bureaucracy or even governance.

If the secret of LEAN is not rooted in its tools, then it requires the CIO’s commitment to empower people. A business consulting function within a business unit could be one solution. I have seen some organizations that have an “IT relations officer” within each LOB. But many IT people don’t like them because they interfere with IT … as much as that is their job. They would have to be confirmed and accepted by the board and the CIO. Business wants to be more involved with technology decisions because they are unhappy with those decisions taken by IT. They turn for example to SaaS because they get something to use fairly quickly and then typically those vendors are pretty cool about listening to their users. Inhouse IT usually isn’t.

So if the CIO wants more control over IT budgets and implementations why does he not offer the same thing as SaaS? I am not saying to install these products inhouse but to look at this as a business user demand. They want something quickly, they want to be involved and they want their say. So lets give that to them. Right?

I know that the answer is: “But dear user, you don’t understand IT. You are asking for something that is not available.” That is however not true. Users look most of all at user interface and they will accept and work with a product that gives them that regardless of how crappy it is underneath. While that is the cause for some huge customization projects, where business decided for a cute CRM, BPM or ECM user interface and then millions were spent on customization and integration, that user need has to be acknowledged.

We need to give the users not a ‘standard’ GUI where all people get the same old thing, but GUis have to be ROLE and USER specific. The success of Web2.0 lies in the ability of the user to change the GUI to his preference. Business applications have to do the same.

To achieve that requires a commitment of the CIO to a paradigm shift in IT that leads away from applications coding for business applications. You can’t afford to customize GUIs for each user role when it is programmed. It is too complex and no matter how much bureaucracy you put into it, the complexity of systems and software and code is staggering to unmanageable. Computers are now powerful enough to enable new technology. We do not need more bureaucracy and more consulting … we need truly innovative technology. You know who resists that technology change the most? Not so much LOB, but IT people.

One way CIOs try to get a grip on costs is by performing IT spending benchmarks. It is my conviction that such spending benchmarks (like most) are nonsense as they proof nothing and the comparisons are always invalid. There is only one way to reduce IT spending: “Change!” And the answer here is too: “Yes, we can!” So what is this change I am talking about? It is a technology paradigm shift away from complex solutions that I already pointed out in the beginning. Away from Java, XML, and most of all SOA integration of all the unsatisfactory systems of yesterday. SOA is like server virtualization that has the terrible side effect that all those software pieces that should be dumped can now be kept alive. SOA does the same, just at a substantially higher price.

How can software become simpler? Get away from coding applications, customizing standard products and integrating all those old crappy solutions with SOA. I see many of you rolling their eyes. But why do we still have those legacy systems? Simply because you can’t upgrade them and you are glad that they are still running … sort of! You installed and customized CRM, BPM, ECM, BR and BI and now you want to integrate them? Good luck! SOA would rigidly hardwire all those systems together until the business is sold off and the new CIO is brave enough to dump them.

The paradigm shift means most of all to GET RID OF CODING for business applications. It requires innovative software such as our Papyrus Platform that consolidates CRM, BPM, ECM, DOM, BR and BI into a single customer focused context. It enables the business to turn its strategy into a business architecture that is deployed via life-cycle management from the Papyrus WebRepository into production without intermediate coding or compilation. Processes are discovered from user interaction by machine learning the state patterns of content. Everything is secure and audited and goals are monitored. That is today’s reality of the platform. Anything else? Yes, open that system to the business user. That will take a little longer but as we are not talking about code maintenance it is feasable.

Yes, IT is too expensive. We all agree. So how about solving the problem and not just compare if your symptoms are not bigger than those of other businesses. That would be intelligent way to deal with the cost of IT!

2 Comments on “How LEAN can IT be?

  1. i agree that LEAN is not all it is cracked up to be…but it is a response to a real problem, software development weighed down by bureaucratic non-sense.

    there’s got to be some synergy at some point.

    Some of the other statements are either way off or misleading. E.g., “…getting rid of the bad ideas of Java, XML and SOA.” — Java and XML are bad ideas??? I don’t think so…but SOA is very complex and not where it ought to be.

    “…get rid of coding…” will never happen but we will get closer and closer, more abstract. but it seems to be a very slow process.

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  2. Thanks for your comments. My point of view is neither way off nor misleading. I said what I meant. Java has no real benefit over C++ and what is the benefit of XML supposed to be? It is not a standard because all that is standardized is two triangle brackets and a slash. For our Enterprise Service Bus we use a binary format with defined string length and field types that is ten times more efficient and as flexible.

    When I say “get rid of coding” I refer to business application development and not to systems development. I agree that we will replace it for business with definitions and rules, so the logic effort of coding will remain to some extent.

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