Is lean ITSM a myth?

When I talk with companies about IT processes and IT service management (ITSM), ITIL seems to be the de facto standard for ITSM. Implementing an ITSM without using ITIL, seems to be impossible. I have many customers that have implemented ITIL-based ITSM processes and most of them had enormous trouble during the implementation and/ or operation.

Lean ITSM and ITIL?

Companies mainly have three problems during the implementation and/ or operation of ITIL processes:

  • slow processes
  • complex processes
  • error prone processes.

ITIL doesn’t show you how to design a process. ITIL is a collection of best practices. Usually, you have someone that helps you to design and implement the processes and functions. If you don’t have an experienced consultant, you might get processes, that lead you to the wrong direction: Big, fat, complex, ugly, error prone processes.

You don’t have to implement all processes. It’s sufficient to implement some of the processes of the ITIL Service Operation phase to slow down you business. I used the term “agility” in one of my last blog posts (Industrialize your IT – after you have done your homework) to describe the ability of an organization to act flexible, proactive, adaptable and with initiative in times of change and uncertainty.

Agility needs lean processes

If your business has to be agile, your IT has to be agile. Agility needs lean processes. What are the characteristics of a lean process?

  • It delivers value

For sure, every process should deliver value. The value should, however, be determined by the customer. Only if the customer would pay for it, it’s has a true value.

  • It respects and involves the people who run the process

I don’t know how often I saw teams, that has to communicate over a ticket system, just because “it’s the process”. That’s not what I would call a process that respects and involves people. It’s a waste of time and knowhow.

  • It’s steamlined and free of waste

The Toyota Production System (TPS) knows three types of waste:

  • Mura (waste due to variation)
  • Muri (waste due to overburdening)
  • Muda (transportation, waiting, overproduction, defects, inventory, movement, extra processing)

To get a streamlined and waste-free process, you have to examine your current processes for potential waste. The Lean Management/ TPS knows different methods and instruments to streamline processes and to avoid waste.

Lean IT or ITIL? Or lean ITIL?

Some companies think that Kanban is all you need for Lean IT. No, that’s not all you need. Kanban is only an instrument to implement the pull principle. Lean IT is much more. But you don’t have to throw away your ITIL knowhow.

It can be useful to review your current ITIL processes for potential waste. Many Lean Management methods and instruments can be used in ITIL processes and functions. With a little skill, you can streamline your processes and get much leaner ITIL processes.

This is nothing new. ITIL and Six Sigma are often used together. In this case, Six Sigma is used to optimize the quality and the output of ITIL processes. So why not use Lean Management methods and instruments to put ITIL processes on diet?