Sub-optimization Kills Customer Value

Creative Commons License luckyfly

When we start optimizing our processes, it happens quite often that we only optimize our area of influence instead of addressing the whole process of creating customer value. When we’re responsible for a software development or an operations team, we tend to optimize the process of our team. We adapt agile practices and our teams performance seems to skyrocket. But even if we’re that successful, it might do more harm than good. We might flood the QA team with features, which they have to sign off, creating overload on their end. Or our operations environment might be the greatest part of our organization, but there are no new features or necessary bug fixes arriving for deployment.

We Need to Think End-to-end

In both scenarios the customer does not benefit from our optimization. We sub-optimized our area of responsibility without taking the complete company with us. Only if everyone involved in creating value is working together and bottlenecks are removed from all stages do customers truly benefit.

Finding and Removing Bottlenecks

For being able to optimize the whole, we’ve to look outside of our home turf. We have to find out how customer demand reaches our organization, how it flows through the various departments and how the demanded value is finally delivered to our customers. One tool to use for such analysis is Value Stream Mapping.

When we’ve identified the biggest bottleneck in our end-to-end flow, it’s time to start removing it. If it lies in our area of responsibility, that’s rather easy. But if it is outside of our direct reach, we need to get into office politics – we need to convince others that they have a problem and that they have to fix it. That’s usually not too easy. But, again, only if we optimize the whole instead of sub-optimizing parts of the value creation flow inside our organization will the customer truly benefit.

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