When we talk about “waste”, it is usually related to “production-like” processes.
There the TIMWOODS principles of waste are very recognizable.

If we look at IT services, things might not be so clear as in production processes, but there is very likely waste in there too…
This waste impacts you, your budget and your consumers.

Let’s have a look into this…

First of all: What is waste?
For me, the simplest definition is: “Anything that doesn’t add value or is really necessary to deliver your service or product.”

In Lean, related to the production processes, we use ‘TIMWOODS’ to find and recognize waste:
T: Transportation (of physical products) – unnecessary moving around products or resources
I: Inventory – to much stuff you bought or created and isn’t used or sold yet)
M: Movement – unnecessary moving around of people while creating (or using) product
W: Waiting – waiting time before a task can be started or completed
O: Over-processing – when you try to make things better than needed/required
O: Over-production – creating too much products, more than users demand.
D: Defects – when a product doesn’t meet the expectations, doesn’t function as it should.
S: (under-utilized) Skill – when peoples talents and skills aren’t fully used the their potential.

Recognizing Waste in IT Services:
When we look at IT products and IT Services, I always use a combined view of the building/creating the IT product ánd the support activities you need to deliver to users of your product. Also there we can recognize waste and its symptoms. Because Waste impacts both you and your consumers

Your internal waste also causes waste on your consumer side.
For example: If your service has a defect (we tend to call them incidents ?) you need to do repair work. But your user experiences down time where they need to wait till you got stuff repaired & up-and-running again, and might even to do some rework.
It costs the both of you time, effort, frustration and money. And consumers might even turn away if they can. That will also can cost you revenue.
That’s why it is important to keep eliminating and preventing waste.

If I get a bit more into details and relate this to processes and items we know within IT, where can we recognize waste.

  • Incidents/outages: Your service/product can’t be used.
  • Faulty releases: You introduced an error into production, causing issues right away (or unnoticed at first)
  • Bad or insufficient documentation: Your documentation isn’t helping your users enough. (especially harmful in self-serve environments) and they keep searching for answers.
  • Insufficient support: Incidents or questions aren’t solved in time or with right content.

3 Tips to reduce waste:
For me there are three guidelines to add to daily routines, to quickly help you start reducing waste;

  1. Solve everything once: Incidents will always happen, that’s just part of life. However, if it happened and you understand how&why it happened, you should do everything possible to prevent it from happening ever again.
  2. Answer every question only once: There is no such thing as a stupid question… So users will always have questions, also questions you might never expect. And that is OK. The questions they already have asked, they should need to ask ever again. They should be answered within your service, within your documentation or your FAQ’s. So you can spend time on answering the one-time questions and actually development of value adding features.
  3. Never pass a defect: During your build processes test all happy and unhappy flows to eliminate all preventable errors, so it won’t be pass to a next deployment stage. Research has shown that the later an error is discovered, the more expensive it is to solve. Do as much (automated) tested as possible as early as possible.

BONUS TIP: Validate your assumptions and solutions:
There is nothing more frustrating and disappointing as IT guy, when you create something great  an wonderful and nobody likes it, uses it, or they complain about it.
Therefor it is so important to validate you assumptions before, during and after you build stuff.
I always say: “Make sure you solve the right problem in the right way”.

So, Where dou you encounter waste?

Would you like to know more on any of these topics, just let me know.