Steve Reasner, Chief Innovation Officer and Founder at LIFT
Continuous improvement is the key to long-term success. It is the ability to creatively evaluate a program, product or service with internal and external feedback to ensure it is meeting the needs of the marketplace. Continuous improvement implies a long-term view of a situation, though it can be applied to short-term projects, too. This is often the case in Agile Sprints or the Lean Methodology. The goal is to take a lifecycle approach to systems and products which focus on:
- Defining the current market conditions and gaps
- Creating a plan for how to make changes which could include improvements, merging solutions or ending a product in favor of something different or better.
- Implementing the changes
- Measuring your results by establishing a baseline to know you are on the right track and adjusting as needed
The benefits are ensuring you are delivering the solution that still meets the need of your organization, customer and market. Organizations which are not continually improving may be disrupted given the right market conditions.
Every IT team can benefit from continuous improvement. The goal is to test your processes and programs against the current market conditions to ensure proper investment of time and resources. Building a software solution in-house makes sense when it provides a competitive advantage.
Over time these systems might be commoditized in the marketplace, and it becomes cheaper to migrate to external solutions. This only happens if systems are evaluated and improved on a regular basis. Efficiency, differentiation, security and scalability are the name of the game.
The best way to get started is by creating an inventory of some of your systems, processes and programs. The goal is to not get overwhelmed but start the process. Track the information in a database, spreadsheet or IT software like ServiceNow. Capture when the solution was first implemented, last evaluated, the value it creates, strategic importance and priority to the organization.
After an evaluation has been completed and you leave it as is, update it, or redesign it, update the data to reflect the decision date and put an expiration date in to alert your team the last possible date for reviewing it again.
IT teams are not always aware of how a system is being used or the level of criticality of each system. Some solutions are still in place, but rarely used while others are not being updated regularly but are critical to the overall health of the organization.
Shadow IT often happens when team members don’t feel they are being heard or their needs are being addressed. The most important thing IT can do is to be a partner to all departments within an organization and actively collaborate to ensure efficiency, fiscal responsibility and the overall security of the organizations data and competitive differentiations.
Organizations, especially IT, need to continually improve their processes to stay current and avoid increase costs, friction and frustration. Having a healthy internal lifecycle for all systems is the key to success.