• Valerie Groce

Increasing headcount vs. productivity….is this even a question?


When things are falling behind schedule, the first thing that comes to mind is the assumption that more resources are needed to keep up with the demand, finish on time or at least faster than usual. With the low employment rate for developers driving up their cost, budget is the likely sacrifice. What better solution to this dilemma than more productivity and efficiency from the current team?


Is the old way the best way?


It is often assumed that the way things are done is something static, and what is the most common answer? “Because that is the way it has always been done.” So many teams wind up in an incredible rut because of the way that things have always been done, from assembly lines, corporate, and yes, even in IT and software development. It is this stick in the mud stance that is often a key contributor to waste, as discussed in a former blog, The Skinny on Lean Concepts. Transportation and Motion are the two waste contributors that occur due to stagnant and outdated methods.


When analyzing processes, look to these first:

  • Transportation: Unnecessary movement. This is often steps in a process that are inefficient. It could be ways of sending or accessing information that might be automated or updated. It might also be a literal example of the team walking to another building for a meeting, missing production time in-between.

  • Motion: Extra steps in any process that may no longer be required. We can associate this with “That’s the way we’ve always done it” without analyzing if “that way” is still even needed. A natural aversion to change can foster the reluctance to consider such changes.


The IT world is notorious for its fast pace and advancements. With that in mind, before adding new resources, be it tools or headcount, analyzing the way things are done may save considerable expense to any organization. There may be a new tool or a better way to use what is currently in possession. The only way to know for sure is to investigate.


Process analysis: value stream mapping


Value stream mapping is a Lean method of analyzing a process by examining each step from start to finish. This first part may be familiar to many, for it is a simple process flow:


A value stream map is created to identify all activities involved in product manufacturing from start to finish. While it was originally developed for manufacturing, it is applicable to most processes, and yes, even IT and software development projects. This value stream may include suppliers, the project team, stakeholders, and the end user (customer). The more detailed the better.


While this map was likely first created at the beginning of any analysis and labeled the “as-is process”. Once that map is created, each step is addressed and determined a value, which is usually one of three categories:

  • Value-add: these are activities that are of direct value to the customer. Think of activities that the customer is willing to pay for like coding for extra features and functionality in a system.

  • Business value-add: these activities are necessary and cannot be negotiated, albeit of no direct value to the customer. Examples may be regulations and policies that must be complied.

  • Non-value-add: these activities are often the potential sources of waste. These are the activities that have always been done or someone wants them done. Common examples would be multiple approvals or reporting prior to proceeding or redundant tasks. These steps are the first to be negotiated to be either reduced or eliminated altogether. If they cannot be negotiated away, then analysis may be conducted for a better way or a better tool to take the place.

Once the process is analyzed and negotiated, it is created again to display the “future process” and finally memorialized as part of standard procedure.

In the fast-paced IT environments and their rapid evolution, process analysis exercises should be done regularly to ensure all activities maintain value. If an organization has a Quality Team or Lean Six Sigma group, it is common that they would be the stewards of process efficiency if the leadership does not currently maintain the task.


Enter IT Efficiency Consultants (ITEC)


ITEC professionals are experts in improving efficiencies with software development teams. The first task is analysis of the current process. Before an agreement or quote is made, a consultant positions themselves with the developers and observes how they operate from coding to testing. They are reviewing the coding methods, testing process, and the tools that are currently being used. In addition to all of that, they are even observing the team dynamics, for it is the belief that an engaged team is a more productive team.

Once analysis is complete, suggestions are proposed to how ITEC may make improvements, along with the cost and estimated schedule. When working with ITEC, the proposed cost remains static, regardless of the time spent working with the team. If the ITE consultant goes beyond the estimated time, there is no additional cost as long as the work is part of the original scope. The professionals at ITEC are that confident with their tried and true methods and that good with their time estimates.

The end result is that the team realizes such an increase in productivity and efficiency that the original thought of needing additional resources is no longer a reality.


Common improvements


Tools

ITEC has a collection of best tools that they commonly work with, but understand that every client, while similar in function, is a different entity. For this reason, ITEC is always watching for the latest improvements and the NEXT BIG THING so they may bring the best value to their clients and provide a customized approach to provide the best results. ITEC may introduce or suggest an upgrade in testing automation tools to enhance the efficiency and productivity of the developers prior to even proceeding to user acceptance testing.


Team

The next improvement is in the way that the team itself works, with the goal to increase the level of cohesion of the team members and then enhance the communication inside and outside of the team. When a team works with ITEC, they experience a surge of confidence, engagement, and yes, even morale. How does this happen? ITEC’s approach breaks down silos and barriers, bringing the team out of their shell and acting like a well-oiled machine, and quite frankly… a team, sharing the same goals and celebrations. The amazing phenomenon is that this increased engagement alone yields greater productivity in addition to the new tools and processes.


Another increase in productivity is with onboarding new developers. The standard practices take several weeks or even months for that new developer to get acclimated to be productive. ITEC has a method to get a new developer to being productive on THE VERY FIRST DAY. Curious? Just ask us how!


The final benefit of ITE Consultants is the ongoing benefit to customers. Many only need to bring ITEC into their organizations once. With the tools and new processes in place, they experience continuous results and benefits going forward. Contact us to learn of our successful innovations to maximize productivity with our clients.

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