LMJ speaks with Marie-Pia Ignace, President of the Institut Lean France, about lean IT and learns about the upcoming Lean IT Summit in Paris.


France boasts strong lean IT leadership. Why? What companies have been pioneering efforts with lean IT?

The story of lean IT in France begins with an encounter between  lean and agile experts. As the two groups share certain values, notably with regards to quality, we decided to conduct experiments together. Then a number of universities and large corporations began providing support.

Several initiatives were born from these partnerships: the Agile A3 Community, the Lean & SI community of Telecom Paritech, some pilot lean-agile projects in various industries, and the very first European Lean IT Summit which brought together forerunners of lean and practitioners of information technology from around the globe.

Many French companies started experimenting with lean IT a few years ago. Among them are BNP Paribas, Bouygues, Nokia, Siemens Network, Faurecia, IBM France, Price Minister, Murex, PSA Peugeot, Orange, AXA Tech, and Crédit Agricole… the list is long.

What is the future of the relationship between lean and IT?

Deliver high-quality products in a timely manner, while reducing project lead time and costs: these are the benefits lean brings to the manufacturing and services industries. Companies are becoming ever leaner, and finding that they must include IT in their efforts for fear of losing all the benefits gained. Buggy, unintuitive, or slow information systems cause disruptions and errors in collaborators’ day-to-day activities.

However, change in information systems is usually a journey full of obstacles, which can take months or years to complete. CIOs who apply lean in their departments obtain outstanding results in terms of elimination of incidents, reduction of release time, increased operational value delivered to the users. Hence, lean IT contributes directly to the company’s strategy.

What is the main risk related to the implementation of an IT system?

The main risk a company takes when implementing a new IT system is to confuse the system with the operational processes it is meant to support. The IT system can rigidify said processes, and if no one pays attention, it can even lead to bankrupcy.

Applying lean to a company’s information systems eliminates the waste they create in the firm’s processes. The goal is to obtain agile, simple to use and scalable IT systems.

What will people be able to learn at the Lean IT Summit in Paris in November?

People will discover how lean applies to IT and what results they can expect. They will learn how to deploy lean in IT: where to start, how to involve IT in a company’s lean programme, and how to improve their information systems in order to create more value for the company. They will take home a wealth of ideas and tools to get started.

Participants will also have opportunities to validate their ideas with the lean IT experts, and share insights with their peers.

They will hear real-life stories of people who have experimented with lean IT. For example, this year we will hear about the story of a Dassault team who built a digital obeya room to facilitate product development in a distributed context, the lean journey of a large bank CIO, and the experiment called “software kaizen” of a group of lean-agile experts on how to improve their IS user experience. This is just a sample, there will be many more talks focusing on the real experiences of lean IT practitioners.

Who is going to speak at the conference and what topics will be covered?

CEOs of High Technology companies, CIOs of large service or industry companies, and IT practitioners who have successfully used lean to deliver high-quality IT products in a timely manner, while reducing project lead time and costs.

Examples include:

  • Pierre Masai, VP & CIO of Toyota Motor Europe, will explain how the Toyota Production System is being applied to the IS function of Toyota Motor Europe. He will present concrete examples of how the “Just In Time” and Jidoka principles are used in their context, and describe their journey towards an “IS enabled lean enterprise”.
  • Philippe Laniesse, CTO of BNP Paribas and head of a 3000-person IT department, will share his experience with implementing a lean approach in IT operations and infrastructure.
  • Cesar Gon, CEO of CI&T, will describe his two-year journey deploying lean strategy (Hoshin Kanri) within his fast-growing IT service firm.

Concrete case studies from a variety of companies will be also be presented: SAP, ING Bank, Solar, Thales, GE Healthcare, Tieto, MEI, ConWay, Tata Consulting, and Dassault.

Last but not least, there will be international lean experts,  like Dan Jones, Michael Ballé, Steve Bell, and Jean Cunningham, who will share their vision of lean in IT and provide actionable insights.