Top 5 Reasons Your Lean Implementations Will Fail in an IT Service Desk

Arnon Yaffe | February 14, 2021

Advocates of Lean Management principles encourage organizations to validate their hypotheses in real-world environments — trying and testing small changes that can lead to new directions in organizational strategy and operational workflows. The concept is at the heart of modern ITSM frameworks and applicable to domain-specific use cases such as the IT Service Desk.

However, digital transformation failures are fairly common. According to recent research, 70% of change initiatives driven by technology fail to deliver their promised returns. In the context of Lean IT, many organizations buy into the promises of change through off-the-shelf technologies that will make their business operations lean.

Such failures, specifically in the IT Service Management and Service Desk use cases are attributed to the following reasons:

1. Lean IT Perceived as a Bunch of Single-Fixes

Many changes such as introducing a team lead are implemented once and do not require organization-wide support. These changes however, are only designed to instigate continuous efforts that will ultimately determine the success of lean IT operations and business processes. If these efforts are not conducted continuously in the right direction, Lean IT does fail.

2. Lean IT Requirements become Overwhelming​

A collective workforce often struggles to adopt change. Behavioral norms and culture of the organization are inherently tied with formal structures, technologies and ways of doing business that have been in place for years. Switching to lean process frameworks requires organizations to disrupt their traditional ways or running business, changing every aspect of the job routines of a collective workforce.


At an individual level, adopting these changes means following too many instructions, relying on new technologies with a high learning curve, managing information silos that keep expanding disparately, and taking care of the growing bureaucratic and governance changes to ensure lean business operations.


3. Lean IT is Knowledge-Intensive​

ITSM solutions necessary for lean business operations are inherently knowledge-intensive. Organizations successful with lean implementations typically accumulate deep technical expertise and HR resources to capture information and insights. This knowledge is not only maintained in databases and repositories from Business Intelligence solutions but also represented by HR — skills and expertise of the vast workforce.


The idea of lean implementation is to facilitate the availability and sharing of this knowledge across organization-wide systems and teams. Without systems that actively eliminate information silos and make it possible for ITSM systems and individuals to access, consume and share knowledge, organizations run into a Knowledge Management bottleneck. Useful information is lost frequently, new knowledge is accumulated in siloed data repositories, teams and departments; ultimately, ITSM users invest more time in finding and managing knowledge than consuming it effectively.


4. Getting Back to Old Ways​

When IT organizations implement an ITSM framework, the implementation can take its own shape that resembles the standardized framework guidelines but eventually diverge to some unique direction. Extrapolated into the future, this shape and direction often looks similar to past methodologies, frameworks and processes that have been in place for ages.


A prime example is the Agile implementation in large IT organizations. Organizations — from IT executives to development teams — bank on false assumptions such as:



– “We will eventually reach the desired system design as we keep adding new features iteratively based on user feedback”.

– “We can pay technical debt later”.

– “We can simply restructure legacy code and technologies to avoid integration issues with new systems”.

– “We can use the latest tools to fix the process bottleneck of existing operational frameworks”. 

– “Users can simply switch to new tooling and demonstrate the promised rewards in productivity and efficiency”.

– “We don’t need documentation, planning and governance — employees can do whatever they want as long as the new technology is in place”.

– “Agile is easy: all we need is a new technology and organization-wide instructions to follow the said guidelines”.


With these false assumptions, Agile reflects little more than sequences of fast Waterfall.


5. Going Lean IT for the Wrong Reasons​

Many organizations perceive two important goals in implementing lean IT: enhancing user productivity and reducing inventory — or in the case of the IT Service Desk, reducing the ticketing workload.

In theory, these are logical end-goals of a Lean IT implementation for IT service desk and support use cases. In practice however, both the IT executives and internal IT observe a disconnect and dissuasion against these objectives.

The solution in this context lies in adopting technology capabilities that help find the true problem root cause, which not only reduce the number of tickets but address the underlying issues; as well as freeing up the IT Service Desk staff to focus on business innovation instead of productively working on repetitive ticket resolution exercises.

This is essentially the Swish.ai approach to make Service Desk operations lean: using advanced AI technologies can help route tickets to the right resolution teams; find bottlenecks and opportunities in improving operational procedures; gather useful knowledge and insights that can be easily consumed and shared across teams and technologies for IT to adopt a truly Lean approach in their Service Desk support operations. 


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