Blog Insights How to reduce cycle time when faced with the digital transformation
Published on March 19, 2019
3 min read

How to reduce cycle time when faced with the digital transformation

With every industry facing change at an accelerated pace, how do you quickly deliver value to customers?


Over the past several years, the “hot topic” in the tech world has been digital transformation, the act of accelerating software innovation to deliver value to customers at high speed. Technology and innovation create disruptions across every industry – from retail to financial services – meaning everyone faces change at a faster pace. A recent study by the World Economic Forum found that “digital transformation” impacts almost every sector and offers critical examples of how mobile devices, internet of things, machine learning, and big data collectively reshape our future. If you're an IT leader, you may ask yourself, “What is fast and how does my team go faster?”

What is fast?

The first step in preparing for the digital transformation is to look at how you measure speed: cycle time.

iSixSigma has a great definition of cycle time: “The total time from the beginning to the end of your process, as defined by you and your customer. Cycle time includes process time, during which a unit is acted upon to bring it closer to an output, and delay time, during which a unit of work is spent waiting to take the next action.” In a nutshell, cycle time is the total elapsed time to move a unit of work from the beginning to the end of a physical process.

In a nutshell, cycle time is the total elapsed time to move a unit of work from the beginning to the end of a physical process.

It’s important to note that cycle time is not the same as lead time. Cycle time tells you how efficient your development and delivery processes are, and lead time tells you how long customers wait for a new feature. If you have a lot of ideas in your backlog, you could have a short cycle time, but a long lead time due to the backlog. However, if you can improve your DevOps lifecycle to achieve a fast cycle time, you can then rapidly respond to new business priorities.

How does your team go faster?

So, now you know how to measure speed, how do you reduce your cycle time, let alone your lead time?

Take stock first

It starts with understanding where your current delivery process has problems – where you’re creating bottlenecks, rework, or merely waiting for someone to do something. The objective of value stream management is to define, measure, and improve the flow of value to your customers. In the case of IT and application delivery, value stream management starts with your backlog of feature requests and ends with the delivery of the features to your users.

Here’s a recipe to reduce cycle time:

  1. Measure your cycle time and lead time (cycle time is your process and lead time is what customers see).
  2. Identify the bottlenecks in your value stream (those things that stretch your cycle time).
  3. Improve your processes, automate, and streamline your value stream.
  4. Repeat step 1.

If you’re concerned about how the digital transformation will impact your business, I highly recommend the Digital Transformation Initiative Executive Summary, a fantastic report that’ll provide you with a comprehensive understanding of how it will create business value. As you improve your cycle time, you’ll be able to lower your lead time, because your delivery processes will be faster and more efficient. The key is to measure, understand, and improve your process.

Are you ready to tackle the digital transformation? Just commit.

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