Tips for developing a lean integration strategy

This excerpt from "Lean Integration: An Integration Factory Approach to Business Agility," offers seven lean integration principles and the skills needed to make them work.

Lean IntegrationThe following is an excerpt from the introduction of Lean Integration: An Integration Factory Approach to Business Agility, by John G. Schmidt and David Lyle.

This book is divided into three parts. Part I serves as a summary for executives of Lean Integration, and therefore provides an overview for a broad audience, from senior IT executives to front-line operations staff. It provides an overview of and justification for Lean by answering questions like these:

  • "Why Lean?" and "So what?"
  • "As a business executive, what problems will it help me solve?"
  • "As an IT leader or line-of-business owner, why am I going to make a considerable investment in Lean Integration?"
  • "How is this different from other methods, approaches, and frameworks?"
  • "Why am I, as an IT professional, going to embrace and sell Lean Integration internally?"

This first part also provides an overview of Lean practices, where they come from, and how they have evolved. It includes insightful research and current trends in how Lean is being adapted to different industries and management disciplines.

Part I concludes with an overview of the Integration Factory -- the next-generation integration technology that adds a high degree of automation to the flow of materials and information in the process of building and sustaining integration points. Examples of automation include requirements definition, code generation, testing, and migration of code objects from development to test to production environments. The Integration Factory, we believe, will be the dominant new "wave" of middleware for the next decade (2010s). It views the thousands of information exchanges between applications in an enterprise as mass customizations of a relatively small number of patterns.

The management practice that optimizes the benefits of the Integration Factory is Lean Integration -- the use of Lean principles and tools in the process of making independent applications work together as a cohesive system. The combination of factory technologies and Lean practices results in significant and sustainable business benefits.

Learn more in this chapter download: "What is Lean and Why is it Important."

Part II introduces the seven Lean Integration principles that optimize the Integration Factory and shows how they can be applied to the challenges of system, data, and application integration in a sustainable fashion. This section of the book is targeted at business and IT leaders who are implementing, or considering implementing, a Lean Integration program. Each chapter in this part focuses on one of the seven core principles:

1. Focus on the customer and eliminate waste: Maintain a spotlight on customer value and use customer input as the primary driver for the development of services and integration solutions. Waste elimination is related to this principle, since waste consists of activities that don't add value from the customer's perspective rather than from the supplier's perspective. Related concepts include optimizing the entire value stream in the interest of things that customers care about and just-in-time delivery to meet customer demands.

2. Continuously improve: Use a data-driven cycle of hypothesis-validation implementation to drive innovation and continuously improve the end to-end process. Related concepts include how to amplify learning, institutionalizing lessons learned, and sustaining integration knowledge.

3. Empower the team: Share commitments across individuals and multifunctional teams and provide the support they need to innovate and try new ideas without fear of failure. Empowered teams and individuals have a clear picture of their role in the value chain, know exactly who their customers and suppliers are, and have the information necessary to make day-by-day and even minute-by-minute adjustments.

4. Optimize the whole: Make trade-offs on individual steps or activities in the interest of maximizing customer value and bottom-line results for the enterprise. Optimizing the whole requires a big-picture perspective of the end-to-end process and how the customer and enterprise value can be maximized even if it requires sub-optimizing individual steps or activities.

5. Plan for change: Apply mass customization techniques to reduce the cost and time in both the build and run stages of the integration life cycle. The development stage is optimized by focusing on reusable and parameter-driven integration elements to rapidly build new solutions. The operations stage is optimized by leveraging automated tools and structured processes to efficiently monitor, control, tune, upgrade, and fix the operational integration systems.

6. Automate processes: Judiciously use investments to automate common manual tasks and provide an integrated service delivery experience to customers. In mature environments, this leads to the elimination of scale factors, the ability to respond to large integration projects as rapidly and cost effectively as small changes, and the removal of integration dependencies from the critical implementation path.

7. Build quality in: Emphasize process excellence and building quality in rather than trying to inspect it in. Related concepts include error-proofing the process and reducing recovery time and costs.

Read more about Lean Integration: An Integration Factory Approach to Business Agility.

This was first published in July 2010
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