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Topic Title: Principle I, Value for ICT staff departmens
Topic Summary: What is the right questions to ask to reveal the value for ICT staff departments
Created On: 11/24/2010 09:41 AM
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11/29/2010 10:26 AM
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Bas Brink

I am currently working for the ICT department of a dutch insurance company. As we are implementing lean over de various depertments, my assignment is to do the staff departmens such as Information Security/Risk management and IT architecture. I found it verry hard to ask the right questions to discover the real value for the customers in these departments. For instance, what will happen if the department will stop its activities today? Not much, now. But maybe you will see some effects in 6 months and after 2 years you are likely to see negative effects. But still. Can anybody help me formulate the right questions to ask or the right path to follow to discover the real value add for these departments?

Thanks in advance!

Bas van den Brink
The Netherlands
11/30/2010 09:54 AM
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Matthew Spielman

From your description, I think that focusing on the time until the customer is impacted may be the issue. Why does it take so long for these departments to feel their impact? My guess is that it is because the IT project cycle is so slow. If you had an agile development group with a cycle of 1-2 weeks, instead of 6 months or more, then architecture and security questions would have a completely different sense of urgency. Is it a goal of your lean transformation to speed up the IT project cycle? If so, this may become very important.

You may be able to get better results with this group if you discuss a current or past project. For example, if your customer-facing website (or anything exposed to the internet) just had new development done, what was the input of these groups? Was their input valuable? Would the company have been exposed to technical or security risks if they weren't involved?

I'm certain, given that your business is insurance, that you have some general customer requirement such as "transactions are secure." Although it is dangerous to ask speculative questions, if you could find some examples of the usefulness of this team's expertise you could start to sort out value from waste. Also, compliance with government regulations is usually considered a valid "necessary waste." Although you would like to be ahead of external standards, there is a valid expertise in knowing them.

These groups are your IT product design department. They set the rules for how you develop solutions, in the same way that an engineering department sends a design to the manufacturing floor. You may find further inspiration as to how to approach this question in books and articles on product and process design, too.
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