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Making IT Lean by Rebecca Duray, Howard Williams

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11
Chapter 2
The Work of IT
In this chapter, we are going to look at the operational work of IT
(Information Technology) first from the perspective of an IT practitioner, and
then set the stage for looking at this same work from a Lean perspective.
When we look at IT from the point of view of someone who works in IT, we
will often find a rather technology-focused perspective. This is understandable
given the primary importance of technology within IT, and is probably rein-
forced by the attraction that technology has for individuals who choose this
profession. By the same token, even with a technology bias, IT is obviously
not just about technology. Most IT practitioners would acknowledge that there
is an equally strong inuence by both people and process that underlies much
of the work that they do. When we consider IT work from a process perspec-
tive, we can begin to identify the domain of influence for Lean applications.
The IT View of IT
When IT practitioners look at the world around them, they see the demand
to respond to rapid business change against a landscape of changing tech-
nology, and the requirement to deliver high-quality services while managing
resources under tremendous cost constraints. They can take satisfaction in
the successes they have achieved in balancing many competing demands.
With a more critical lens, many practitioners may see opportunities for fur-
ther improvement to services and operations. In some cases, they might even
observe low-quality service delivery, inefficient or ineffective processes and
operations, strained resources, low productivity, and, in a word, lots of waste.
12 ◾  Making IT Lean: Applying Lean Practices to the Work of IT
Despite the motivation to identify and implement improvements based on
these observations (or in IT parlance, despite the clear identification of pain
points as a driver of change), we often observe that the IT practitioner is
too busy or too distracted, or has insufcient resources to address solutions
in a deliberate, focused way. Within his or her world of work, the immedi-
ate needs often take precedence and systemic issues often fade into the
background. These immediate needs can be seen throughout the apparent
jumble of activities that characterize day-to-day operational work of IT, and
include such things as:
Rolling out new technology to support mobile computing needs of users
Managing increasingly complex networks (internal, external, Internet)
Upgrading servers without loss of business functionality
Responding to pressures from the business side of the organization to
release new applications to support business needs
Ensuring that security measures are implemented to prevent compro-
mise to internal systems from both known and unknown threats
Keeping critical business functions, such as email, operable and sup-
ported around the clock
This is just a short list of concerns that makes up the daily life of the IT
practitioner, and despite the attention that these activities get, there are still
things that can fall through the cracks. Ask a CIO (Chief Information Officer)
what keeps him or her up at night and it’s often the anxiety of not knowing
what they don’t (but should) know.
If we look at this jumble of operational work from a somewhat more struc-
tured perspective, but one which is still aligned with the IT viewpoint, we
might categorize the work of IT according to the functions identified below:
IT Operations (e.g., server provisioning, tape backups, job scheduling)
Technical Management (e.g., network management, messaging, middleware)
Applications Management (e.g., software development, testing)
IT Project Management (project management for IT projects)
IT Service Management (IT as a provider of services)
There are other ways to characterize the world of IT work, but we want
to present this scheme as a somewhat familiar structure within many IT
organizations. While individuals may play multiple roles across the boundar-
ies of these functions, they still represent distinct areas of responsibility, and

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