I recently read this TechRepublic blog post about how GE is restructuring its IT practices to revitalize American manufacturing.  GE’s new process is borrowing ideas from agile development and Gemba, among others.  One way to think of this approach is to break a big project into smaller parts and deploy incremental solutions that move toward the ultimate business goals.  That is the agile part.  The Gemba (“real place”) component involves breaking down the barriers between IT, management, and the end-users:

They created a mission control room for the ERP+ project and co-located the IT people, the business stakeholders, and the employees who would eventually be operating the software all in the same room.

This sounds like a great approach, and really one could argue that most small and medium businesses (SMBs) already have many of the advantages that Gemba provides.  However, one IT trend that seems to run counter to this approach is the outsourcing and commodification of IT services, such as that seen in the managed service provider (MSP) model.  It seems to me that MSPs can’t afford to iterate an IT solution, their economy of scale is only achieved when they implement a standard platform across a wide range of clients.

So this might be a case where a small, traditional IT services provider can provide more value.  A company like Aviator can come to your place of business and work side-by-side with your management and end users to develop incremental improvements to your existing infrastructure.  We can hear right away what is and is not providing real value to your business and “fail fast to succeed sooner.”

This story illustrates that IT is becoming more and more important to the success of businesses everywhere.  Businesses with an IT strategy that is integrated with their business plan and actual execution will probably be the most competitive at the end of the day..