In 2016, BIT Development was tasked with learning and implementing lean methodologies. So, what is “lean”? Simply put, it is the pursuit of continuous improvement for any process to maximize value and minimize waste. The result improves the quality of products and services, which benefits the customer (agency).
The basic principles of lean are:
- Focus on effectively delivering value to your customer
- Respect and engage people
- Improve the value stream by eliminating all types of waste
- Maintain flow
- Pull through the system
- Strive for perfection
A few months ago, BIT Development was involved in their first LEAN process improvement event. The process that was picked was the Initial Estimate phase for Development’s Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) . Not only were teams from BIT Development involved, the Department of Revenue was asked to participate so the group could get the “agency perspective” on initial estimates for IT Development work requests. While process improvement may seem like an easy thing to do, it involves a lot of pre- and post- work along with the intense work that happens during the event.
The pre-work involved in a process improvement event includes:
- meeting with the event contributors,
- creating the charter and defining scope,
- obtaining a collaboration area for the duration of the event, and
- making sure all the necessary supplies have been gathered.
The contributors gathered input from other members of their perspective teams on the Initial Estimate process. What was discovered during that first day of work was that everyone does it differently – even within teams.
The work for the event was an intense three-day “stuck-in-a-room-and-can’t-leave” hashing out of what goes on in everyone’s Initial Estimate process. Ally Shepardson, a collaborator from Daktronics, was the event facilitator. Naturally, not all participants were looking forward to spending three days in a room.
“Participating in the LEAN event with Ally was surprising to me. Going into the event, I did not feel especially zealous about Initial Estimates. By the end of it, however, I was truly committed to what we were trying to accomplish. I felt rewarded from our hard work and dedicated to seeing this project succeed. I was inspired by the passion of everyone in that room to improve not only Initial Estimates, but BIT in general. Working with others helped me understand why continual improvement is so important and gave me a glimpse of what BIT could become, if we work together to accomplish our goals.” – Elise Bunkers, Development Team 6
The event is designed to finish as many deliverables as possible in the space of three days, but the work didn’t stop after the event was over. Everyone had tasks to accomplish: creating a new diagram for the Initial Estimate process, creating a template for the division to use when they meet with the agency, getting a new list of requirements that were needed for IT Priorities and the work order tracking system (WoTS) so that metrics could be tracked and finally creating the training for the Initial Estimate process.
Working intensely on improving the Initial Estimate provided other benefits beyond improving a process. Team members had the opportunity to get to know each other better and now they feel more comfortable reaching out to people outside their own teams.
“Participating in the Initial Estimate LEAN event was a rewarding experience. Watching the collaborative effort put forth by all team members to improve the estimate process was exciting. As ideas were exchanged, new and improved processes were identified and even the participating client from an agency could attest to how the changes would improve their planning and forecasting. Additionally, as a fairly new employee to BIT, the LEAN Initial Estimate event allowed me to interact with other BIT employees not a part of my current team. I have been able to continue these relationships and ask for their assistance when I have needed their expertise in my current position.” – Heidi Brosz, Development Team 4
(Note: the blue box represents the original process – the green is what the process looks like after being redesigned by the team)