Twenty top information sinkholes that strangle effective IT management

Selected 'information wastes' that only add to the cost and complexity of IT systems.

The object of "Lean IT" -- which is a philosophy that emphasizes “simpler, faster, better, and cheaper” ways to build and manage business technology -- is to wring waste from the IT behemoth. In their latest book, Lean IT: Enabling and Sustaining Your Lean Transformation, Steve Bell and Michael Orzen, point out that IT management is riddled with waste and wasteful practices.

Here are just a few selected "information wastes" Bell and Orzen have observed in their years of working with IT organizations. Many of these could possibly be addressed by more service-oriented approaches; certainly all can be remedied in a lean IT initiative:

  1. Endless spreadsheets and other documents that encourage local optimization while fragmenting the overall process, increasing the number of delays, hand-offs, or errors.
  2. Excess information across local drives, shared drives, SharePoint sites, data warehouses, duplication of the same data in multiple forms.
  3. Multiple software code objects that perform the same function.
  4. "Gold plating" system design and performance, striving for perfection rather than practical functionality.
  5. Introducing excessive tools, technologies, or methodologies.
  6. Unused/unnecessary software user licenses.
  7. Inspection and correction activities required to catch and correct errors that should be prevented by building quality into the process.
  8. Producing and distributing reports that contain information which is not used.
  9. Entering redundant information into the same or multiple systems.
  10. Management reporting systems (e.g., hierarchical scorecards and dashboards) that do not align strategy with daily activity, and thus do not effectively prioritize action.
  11. Excessive automated exception notifications and alerts that cause distraction, but do not drive effective action or decision making.
  12. Non value-adding control activities solely for compliance purposes.
  13. Capturing data at various points along a process, rather than capturing it at the source.
  14. Over-design of software applications.
  15. Premature technology intervention to improve a process, before the process is well understood, simplified, and improved by the people responsible for it.
  16. Developing complex solutions to simple or nonrecurring problems.
  17. Overly complex governance, funding, prioritization, and control processes.
  18. Inappropriate or overly complex IT chargebacks that cause ineffective behavior and misguided IT investment decisions.
  19. Rigid and lengthy system change/upgrade cycles that encourage user workarounds and offline systems.
  20. Attraction to newest, latest technologies rather than existing systems that serve their purpose.