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Lean Enterprise by Jez Humble, Barry O'Reilly, Joanne Molesky

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Chapter 14. Turn IT into a Competitive Advantage

The cost-center pattern fills the vacuum of our inability to define, model, and measure the value most workers create for their organization.

Ken H. Judy

Enterprise IT departments face powerful and conflicting forces. Their first priority is to keep the existing business-critical systems running, even as they age and grow in complexity. There is also an increasing pressure to up the speed at which new products and features can be delivered. Finally, IT has traditionally been seen as a cost center, so there is constant pressure to increase efficiency (which normally plays out as cost-cutting).

These apparently conflicting goals often lead to a downward spiral. Reducing complexity and replacing legacy systems requires investment. However, investment often comes in the form of large, multiyear projects that often get abandoned or deployed uncompleted due to spiraling costs and/or personnel changes at the executive level. This increasing complexity, along with the need for further efficiency gains, reduces the capacity of IT to manage planned work effectively. The increasing demand for changes, when combined with a brittle IT environment, leads to proliferation of unplanned work that further reduces IT capacity.

In this chapter, we discuss some strategies to increase the responsiveness of IT to changing business needs, improve the stability of IT services, and reduce the complexity of our IT systems and infrastructure. Many of these ...

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