Data integration issues that a lean integration strategy can solve

Find out what data integration issues a lean integration strategy can solve. Learn about lean integration’s business benefits and building a business case for lean integration.

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Lean IntegrationIn this excerpt from Lean Integration: An Integration Factory Approach to Business Agility, readers will find out what data integration issues and problems a lean integration strategy can help solve. Readers will also learn about the potential business benefits of lean integration and get tips on building a business case for lean integration.


 Table of Contents
Why lean integration is important to data integration systems
Data integration issues that a lean integration strategy can solve
Data integration maturity levels and the future of data integration


The Case for Lean Integration

The edge of chaos discussion makes the case for Lean Integration from a practitioner’s perspective, that is, that technology alone cannot solve the problem of complexity and that other disciplines are required. But that is more of an intellectual response to the challenge and still leaves the five questions we posed in the Introduction unanswered. Let’s address them now.

“Why Lean?” and “So What?”
In financial terms, the value of Lean comes from two sources: economies of scale and reduction in variation. Development of data and process integration points is a manufacturing process. We know from years of research in manufacturing that every time you double volume, costs drop by 15 to 25 percent. There is a point of diminishing returns since it becomes harder and harder to double volume, but it doesn’t take too many doublings to realize an order-of-magnitude reduction in cost. Second, we also know that manufacturing production costs increase from 25 to 35 percent each time variation doubles. The degree of integration variation today in many organizations is staggering in terms of both the variety of tools that are used and the variety of standards that are applied to their implementation. That is why most organizations have a hairball – thousands of integrations that are “works of art.”

Some studies by various analyst firms have pegged the cost of integration at 50 to 70 percent of the IT budget. This is huge! Lean Integration achieves both economies of scale and reduction in variation to reduce integration costs by 25 percent or more. This book explores some specific case studies that we hope will convince you that not only are these cost savings real, but you can realize them in your organization as well.

“As a Business Executive, What Problems Will It Help Me Solve?”

The answer is different for various stakeholders. For IT professionals, the biggest reason is to do more with less. Budgets are constantly being cut while expectations of what IT can deliver are rising; Lean is a great way to respond because it embodies continuous improvement principles so that you can keep cutting your costs every year. By doing so, you get to keep your job and not be outsourced or displaced by a third party.

For a line-of-business owner, the big problems Lean addresses are time to market and top-line revenue growth by acquiring and keeping customers. A Lean organization can deliver solutions faster (just in time) because of automated processes and mass customization methods that are supported by the technology of an Integration Factory. And an integrated environment drives revenue growth through more effective use of holistic information, better management decisions, and improved customer experiences.

For an enterprise owner, the biggest reasons for a Lean Integration strategy include alignment, governance, regulatory compliance, and risk reduction. All of these are powerful incentives, but alignment across functions and business units may be the strongest contributor to sustained competitive advantage. By simply stopping the disagreement across teams, organizations can solve problems faster than the competition.

In summary, Lean Integration helps to reduce costs, shorten time to market, increase revenue, strengthen governance, and provide a sustainable competitive advantage. If this sounds too good to be true, we ask you to reserve judgment until you finish reading all the case studies and detailed “how-to” practices. One word of caution about the case studies: They convey how example organizations solved their problems in their context. The same practices may not apply to your organization in exactly the same way, but the thinking that went into them and the patterns may well do so.

“As an IT Leader or Line-of-Business Owner, Why Am I Going to Make a Considerable Investment in Lean Integration?”

Get results faster – and be able to sustain them in operation. Lean is about lead-time reduction, quality improvements, and cost reduction. Lean delivers results faster because it focuses heavily on techniques that deliver only what the customer needs (no “gold-plating”): process automation and mass customization. In terms of ongoing operations, Lean is a data-driven, fact-based methodology that relies heavily on metrics to ensure that quality and performance remain at a high level.

“How Is This Different from Other Methods, Approaches, and Frameworks?”
Two words: sustainable and holistic. Other integration approaches either tackle only a part of the problem or tackle the problem only for the short term at a point in time. The predominant integration strategy, even today, is customized hand-coded solutions on a project-by-project basis without a master plan. The result is many “works of art” in production that are expensive to maintain, require a long time to change, and are brittle in operation.

Note that Chapter 12, Integration Methodology, includes a section that explicitly compares agile and Lean methodologies.

“Why Am I as an IT Professional Going to Embrace and Sell Lean Integration Internally?”

Because it will advance your career. Time and time again we have seen successful integration teams grow from a handful of staff to 100 or more, not because of a power grab, but because of scope increases at the direction of senior management. Successful team members become managers, and managers become directors or move into other functions in the enterprise in order to address other cross-functional business needs. In short, Lean Integration is about effective execution, which is a highly valued business skill.

What Is Integration?

This seems like a simple question, but what exactly is integration? Here are a couple of examples of how others have answered this question:

  • “The extent to which various information systems are formally linked for sharing of consistent information within an enterprise”
  • “Seamless integration of all information flowing through a company”

A careful review of these and other definitions reveals a number of common themes that describe the essence of integration:

  • Formally linked: Communication between systems is standardized.
  • Seamless: Complexities are invisible to end users.
  • Coordinated manner: Communication is disciplined.
  • Synergy: Value is added to the enterprise.
  • Single transactions that spawn multiple updates: There is master management of data.
  • Fewer number of systems: The cost of ownership is lower.
  • Non-duplicated data: The focus is on eliminating redundancy and reducing costs of management.

The most comprehensive definition of integration we have come across is in Lester Singletary’s doctoral dissertation. It provides a rich definition by examining the domain of integration from four perspectives: (1) what integration is in terms of its attributes or operational characteristics, (2) the benefits or resultant outcomes of effective integration efforts, (3) the risks or challenges that arise from integrations, and (4) the metrics that provide a measure of objectivity concerning the integrated environment. Figure 1.1 has been adapted from Singletary’s paper and serves as a foundation for our view of integration in this book.

To put all this together, our definition of integration, therefore, is as follows:

Integration: An infrastructure for enabling efficient data sharing across incompatible applications that evolve independently in a coordinated manner to serve the needs of the enterprise and its stakeholders.

  • Infrastructure: a combination of people, process, policy, and technology elements that work together (e.g., highway transportation infrastructure)
  • Efficient data sharing: accessing data and functions from disparate systems without appreciable delay to create a combined and consistent view of core information for use across the organization to improve business decisions and operations
  • Incompatible applications: systems that are based on different architectures, technology platforms, or data models
  • Evolve independently: management decisions to change applications (or parts of an application) are made by different organizational groups or external suppliers on independent timelines that are not controlled by a master schedule
  • Enterprise: the organization unit that is the focus of the integration effort; it could be a department, division, an entire company, or part of a supply chain
  • Stakeholders: the customers of the enterprise, its owners, and its employees, including management, end users, and IT professionals

Table of Contents
Why lean integration is important to data integration systems
Data integration issues that a lean integration strategy can solve
Data integration maturity levels and the future of data integration


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This was first published in September 2010

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