Question – what has a furniture factory and an IT change delivery function got in common? Actually quite a lot!
Halfway up a mountain on a walking holiday a few years ago, I was comparing notes with my brother, who ran a furniture factory whilst I ran an IT change delivery function. We realised that our challenges were remarkably similar – prioritisation, managing demand and supply, reducing time to market etc, and he pointed me towards Eliyahu Goldratt’s book “The Goal”. Goldratt elegantly describes the Theory of Constraints, and how to make a “factory” run much better. Put simply:
“Every process has a constraint (bottleneck) and focusing improvement efforts on that constraint is the fastest and most effective path to improved profitability”
Change Delivery functions can also be thought of as a factory, with “goods in” being processed by a finite capacity, delivering a portfolio of value-added products out the other end. So what are the typical constraints?
- Developers – the number of “warm bodies” available to code a particular system (or component)
- Test – typically a trade-off between scope/quality; most easily addressed through automation and/or a continuous integration approach
- Subject Matter Experts – a frighteningly common constraining factor (how many “single points of failure” resources do you have?), and typically ignored
- Environments – where cloud hasn’t yet been adopted, developers and testers are often constrained by a finite number of places to test.
Where are your bottlenecks? How would you eliminate them?