Enterprising Developments

7 Steps to Lean IT

Joe McKendrick
Insurance Experts' Forum, June 30, 2010

The application of “Lean” processes has been big in the manufacturing world for years, but something outside the realm of white-collar, paper-intensive insurance companies.

Until now.

There's a full-thrust movement to apply the lessons in efficiency learned from manufacturing and applying them against another expensive, jury-rigged albatross around organizations' necks—their information technology systems.

Back in January, I talked a bit about Lean methodologies here on these pages. Manufacturers have seen a lot of success with the applications of Lean, and those that have leveraged it have gone on to compete with global rivals. As Lean expert Steve Bell succinctly describes it, Lean means doing things “simpler, faster, better, cheaper.”

Now, John Schmidt and David Lyle have released a new work on the topic, titled “Lean Integration: An Integration Factory Approach to Business Agility.”

In the book, Schmidt and Lyle outline the seven core principles of Lean. (Seven – “that's it,” they point out.) The principles are the following:

1) Focus on the customer and eliminate waste. “Lean integration starts by focusing on the customer, that is, the people who demand, and usually pay for, the integrated capabilities in an enterprise. This requires that integration be defined as a service in order to establish a customer-supplier relationship.”

2) Automate processes. “As the integration hairball grows in an enterprise, the complexity escalates beyond what humans can reasonably be expected to efficiently and effectively maintain.”

3) Continuously improve. “Seeking perfection is an ongoing process, since there are always opportunities for improvement that can be uncovered using scientific disciplines.”

4) Empower the team. “When people describe their experiences on fantastic teams, they frequently use the extreme words always or never. 'We always kept the feedback loop with our end-users fresh ...' 'We never allowed our training to fall below par ...' People on these teams were consistent in their pursuit of excellence.”

5) Build quality in. “Stimulate and execute the business process during development... If every step in a process has high standards and strives to ensure that its output to the next step never has to backtrack to the previous step, we can envision a time when integration testing that today takes months can be reduced to days.”

6) Plan for change. “Decide as late as possible until you have the maximum amount of information before making a decision that would be expensive or hard to reverse.”  

7) Optimize the whole. Keep the overall objective in mind and ensure that your continuous improvement efforts and measurements are for the greater good for the long term... avoid getting mired down in localized optimization.”

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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