Thursday 21 August 2008

The Lean Information Workplace

You get the impression that many organisations think that good information management is a nice to have, rather than something that can help the bottom line. However, reading The Complete Lean Enterprise again I'm reminded (and encouraged) that information management really is a critical area for improvement. In the introduction, the authors say that organisations are only focused on achieving a 35%-40% productivity gain in their production areas, when in reality they should be aiming for a 400% gain through improvements to both production and non-production areas, i.e. problem solving and information management processes. So information management is important in both non-service and service organisations.

Now, bearing in mind the current economic environment, isn't this something every company should be interested in doing?

Maybe part of the problem is understanding how much will this cost to achieve and how much money will I save, especially if I need to buy yet more information technology. Now, there are couple of highlights in the book that focus our attention on understanding the types of "waste" in information management value streams (ranging from overproducing to underutilised people) and their root causes - and through the value mapping process, you can establish the cost of current processes. However, the part I really like is their approach to prioritising identified improvement projects ("kaizens"), which is:

  1. Eliminate non-value-added tasks that don't require new IT;
  2. Simplify steps that require minimal IT support;
  3. Improve the flow of transactions or paperwork; and
  4. Implement the solutions that require significant new IT.

If you look at both points 2 and 3, then I see value first in looking at what you can do with the information systems you have available - so its not just about buying new information technology!

However, with my information system hat on, I do believe its also worth thinking about what systems might be easily implemented to solve a large number of steps but that still only need minimal IT support. Today the wiki is the fashionable approach to providing a flexible information workplace (and maybe you can save a few more dollars by going open source), but it might equally be Microsoft SharePoint, some other portal platform, Web-based project spaces or even (heaven forbid!) Lotus Notes!

All these systems have the potential to solve many small process problems that would otherwise be too costly to solve individually. So, if you already have one of these platforms on hand, are you maximising its potential to help power your lean information management workplace? If you don't have a platform like this available, would it be beneficial to invest in one if you could solve many problems (rather than investing in a large system to solve a single problem?). The new generation of conversational collaboration tools are also ideally placed to help solve design problems and are worth considering if this is a point of pain.

So is creating a lean information workplace a priority in your organisation and how are you going about it? Or is information management still treated as a nice to have?

1 comment:

  1. Yes, it is a priority in our organization. We're not focusing on one tools, but are implementing blogs, wiki's and Sharepoint. I agree these tools can help create the lean information workplace. What I do find though, is that the roll-out of these tools should not be done by IT. Or: IT has to understand 'how works truely gets done'.


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