One of the hardest cases to make for any CTO or CIO is that reducing helpdesk calls or saving users 45 seconds per login is a true cost save. Typically referred to as “soft savings” they are considered inferior to “hard savings”. Hard savings are judged by the qualifier “how many people can I fire? … give me names.” It is now more important than ever for organizations to drive efficiency to remain competitive.

A methodology common in manufacturing and other industries is Lean Six Sigma. This methodology focuses on wringing out waste from the mundane workplace activities (processes, tasks).  An example that comes to mind is a shop floor where factory workers make several trips per day to get a commonly used part. The lean six sigma solution would be to move the part closer or at least shorten the path to retrieve the part. Lean is not limited to manufacturing – Denver Healthcare used it to turn around its operations and profitability.

Kaizen events are workshops that focus on a single business process, usually using re-enactments or white-boards. The goal is to identify unnecessary steps or steps that can be made more efficient. This can be applied to almost any industry or any business process. 

Lean Six SigmaThe shop floor example identified a process optimization that might only save 20 seconds per round trip. However, multiplied over several times per day, many days per year, performed by many different people and perhaps applied to many different processes – the time-savings can be substantial. 

The question becomes – how can this be quantified. When faced with the question of “who can I fire?” you need to be able to say “nobody, but…” and follow it with a meaningful metric related to machines per year, patient satisfaction, or dollars per hour wasted.

What spurred me to pen this article was a study performed internally by Mahaska Health Partnership. The study applied Lean Principles to Identity Management and coined the phrase “authentication waste.”

They started by process-mapping their authentication flow. By eliminating waste from the authentication process for registered nurses, it was able to “give back” 45 minutes per day to nurses. More important than reducing costs by “firing someone” they were able to redirect their focus from the computer to the patient.

Identropy has mused on this topic in past blogs – check out “Death by Clicking”. The focus was on single sign-on in a clinical healthcare setting and how long it takes to open a patient record. 15 seconds seems to be the acceptable threshold.  Getting down to 5 seconds is the nirvana.  But…can this be achieved without using shared anonymous accounts?

Quick and Easy Access is Nirvana resized 600

We work with a lot of healthcare organizations and the problem is universal.  Every second counts which is why technology that allows for badge access and biometrics for authentication are really taking hold.  These technologies do a good job of guaranteeing security while minimizing the total time spent in authentication.

The business proposition is clear for healthcare. Roaming nurses and physicians need fast access to systems that can be accessed on stationary desktops, kiosks, or mobile devices.  The applications (mostly client-server) each require authentication, but doctors and nurses can’t be expected to keep track of dozens of passwords.

Single sign-on applications (used in conjunction with virtual desktop) pay for themselves through improved clinician productivity and patient satisfaction. Through Lean Six Sigma, the wasted seconds can be quantified and the business case can be made.


Jim McDonald

Jim McDonald

Jim McDonald is a professional with over 10 years leading teams through business-critical technology initiatives. Technical Strategist, Leader and Champion of Change with history of crossing organizational boundaries, cultivating strategic alliances and building consensus and alignment among diverse constituents to leverage IT as strategic asset and deliver solutions that rejuvenate and advance global business’ financial performance.