IT DEPARTMENTS deal with both processes and projects. A project is a onetime event, such as installing a new inventory management module, refreshing all of the UNIX servers, or implementing an ERP. Processes are actions that are repeated over and over, such as requesting a new user ID, making tape backups, teaching a class the latest version of a spreadsheet program, or repairing a desktop computer. To a degree, even projects have repeated actions that act the same as a process.
As repeatable actions, processes strive to be effective (provide the desired outcome) and efficient (use the minimal amount of resources with no waste). All processes require the inputs of material, time, and labor. The output of a process is the desired result, plus any waste created. The more waste that is eliminated from a process, the greener the process is.
Imagine sitting in traffic for an hour trying to get to work, but something has blocked the road. Your car slowly creeps ahead, then stops, and then creeps again. Valuable time passes, expensive fuel is wasted and, eventually, you move past whatever blocked the road and complete your journey. The same is true for processes. Eliminating the roadblock does not change the desired output; it just makes it cheaper to arrive at the desired destination.
An efficient operation is greener than an inefficient one. The efficient operation uses only as much energy and materials as is needed to do the job. An efficient process leaves little waste, because waste represents lost value to the company. It creates a negative impact on the environment without benefit. An inefficient IT operation is quite common, although all processes are inefficient to some degree.
IT departments regularly address business problems using technology. These solutions include developing a set of processes designed to accomplish a specific task. Logical steps within software have long been an IT department focus. The goal is to use the least amount of processing time that is practical to produce a given amount of work. This same approach needs to be applied to the department's business processes as well.
To Green an IT department, follow the same steps used to establish a Lean quality program. Lean seeks out and eliminates waste from a process. It mobilizes all workers to drive effectiveness and efficiency across all processes. Greening a process does the same thing. It eliminates unnecessary movement of materials and economizes on materials used - just like a Lean process initiative! Every waste that is uncovered represents an unnecessary expenditure of energy or materials.
The Lean quality initiatives described here can be used individually to improve processes. However, the recommended sequence is to begin with 5S to clean out clutter and simplify processes. Second, study the details of the Seven Wastes to identify easy-to-recognize process steps to eliminate. Finally, use Process Mapping to examine processes and to identify non-value added steps. Taken together, these programs will improve process efficiencies and reduce wastes. Resources (time, materials, etc.) that are now available from reduced process steps can be applied to provide new customer services.
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