British Airways: A Case Study in Lean’ IT

All processes can benefit from a search for wasted steps and smoother flow. Sending out process analyst sleuths trained in Lean tools and techniques to observe processes (especially customer service or accounting) can reveal significant, needed changes. Sometimes without touching a line of software. Perhaps one group starts using tools initially designed for another, paper flow steps are eliminated or just plain redundant steps slashed.

Benchmark the competition. Although John did not comment on what the other airlines were doing during the same period, imagine if BA didn’t implement self service check in as part of its Terminal 5 effort at Heathrow?

If your firm’s progress at any specific process can be charted and compared to a rival, and no executive is demanding that your company match or catch them, speak now or watch the stock slide. Sell the project to senior execs (as happened at BA with the Customer Enabled BA initiative following a near melt down of the airline after 9/11).

Use the business savings to fund and find more business savings. John originally proposed achieving a ?100 million/year savings within two years, which he delivered and exceeded. It seems simple to then use those savings to self-fund strategic initiatives to find more savings. Enterprise politics being what they are, however, CIOs and business peers must be ever vigilant to clarify the “Proposition” to make that happen.

Now an independent consultant, Laurie M. Orlov is a long time practitioner and industry observer. She has over 33 years of IT experience, the last 9 years as a VP and principal analyst, research director and consultant at Forrester Research. Prior to joining Forrester, Laurie held senior IT management positions in various high-tech companies, most recently as a CIO, driving the implementation of eCommerce-based ERP solutions for a mid-market PC reseller.