Risks Associated with Lean IT

Lean IT has the potential to speed up project implementations, standardize business practices, reduce energy usage and, most importantly to most businesses, save money. Given the possible benefits, what could go wrong? Industrial engineers should stop and perform a risk assessment before buying the hype of Lean IT. What are the risks associated with Lean IT?

Shortage of Critical Skills

Reliance on contractors to fill in the gaps in your IT team can lead to skill set shortages if you cannot reach a contractual agreement with the contractors or afford their increased rates. You also risk a skill set loss by relying on a contractor who may be on assignment with another customer or quit altogether. Reducing headcount saves money, but it creates critical resource constraints when demand is high. It also creates an emergency when one of your few subject matter experts is on medical leave or takes an extended vacation.

Virtual Systems Rely on Physical Networks

Relying on virtual servers puts your customers and employees at the mercy of your network. For example, if your network traffic is at capacity, new users cannot access the virtual servers to run their software applications on the cloud. If your servers are hosted externally and there is a denial of service attack against your network or theirs, you cannot connect to the virtual server.

Flexibility Creates Insecurity

One of the common techniques to lower costs while implementing business continuity is to use virtual servers within the cloud to host backup servers or sandbox “test” systems. You get a backup server that is offsite, something invaluable if your office and servers are flooded by a hurricane. What you may lose is control of your data and the inability to completely secure it. Companies can implement as many layers of control as they wish on their internal network. You cannot guarantee such security on the cloud. This is especially true if it is a backup or “test” database on the cloud, which is often given less priority and protection as the main production system.

Declining Support Due to Outsourcing

When you outsource help desk functions, you no longer have direct control over those who are helping your customers. Even if you have trained the new contractors in your processes, the high turnover in the IT help desk industry is similar to that in the telemarketing industry. High turn among help desk staff over leads to erosion in the knowledge base, though this rate is a little lower than the 300% turnover seen among telemarketers. You often end up with people who can only read a script and answer questions based on the script, with a higher rate of referrals of low level problems to subject matter experts due to a lack of first and second level support solutions among those answering the phone.
Outsourcing server support potentially lowers your support costs. One contractor could support your servers and several others, while you only pay a portion of the system administrator’s costs. However, this creates problems and delays when you have to input a ticket and go through the contractor’s firm to reach the contractor when your server is down. If the system admin was an employee in house, he or she could often solve a Unix server problem in a matter of minutes. Going through the middle man adds delays at a time when time is of the essence. Saving money on service leaves customers bitter when they do not get immediate assistance when it matters most.


As with all projects, IEs should look at the risks as well as the possible rewards of all projects – including Lean IT. An honest assessment of the risk can prevent serious problems that can arise from dramatic cost cutting and consolidation efforts.