Lean Integration: What it is and Where it’s Going

Do you ever feel like your company is just scraping by? Departments meet requirements in the nick of time, but everyone is stressed. Even worse, some team members spend more time fighting fires than innovating.

Improving company organization and overall quality help mitigate these issues by increasing efficiency and allowing you to focus more on innovation. There are a myriad of ways to approach organizational improvement — from Six Sigma to ISO900 — however, researching and successfully implementing these strategies can be extremely overwhelming.

For companies looking for a gradual change, lean integration may be the answer. Lean integration is focused on incremental quality improvement. Over time, companies leveraging this technique grow into lean, mean machines.

What is lean integration?

Lean integration is a data-driven methodology that relies on continuous improvement and elimination of waste to maximize customer value.

The full scope of lean integration is two-fold. “Lean” refers to the gradual, ongoing reduction of waste. “Integration” refers to the development of a holistic, symbiotic relationship between different systems.

Lean integration makes complex processes simple by encouraging the use of sustainable, reusable elements and by introducing automation. Lean integration is especially important in the world of big data. It harmonizes disparate data models while still allowing for parts of a process to be managed independently.

Differences between lean integration and other methodologies

With lean integration, the product or service lifecycle does not stop once the transaction with a customer is complete. Lean integration actually utilizes customer feedback to enhance future satisfaction and decrease the likelihood of defects.

Unlike traditional, siloed office structures, lean integration places high import on “bottom-up” input. Ideas from customers and business users are considered and tested instead of solely relying on IT innovation. Validated designs are implemented, which leads to both increased morale and customer value.

In addition, lean integration is not a temporary fix, or “fire-fighting” exercise. Root cause analysis and quality checks are in place to ensure that a problem is solutioned at its source. While this may take longer at first, lean integration promotes quality on an enterprise scale.

Lean integration Other methodologies
Experience and data-driven Experience-driven
Sustainable and holistic Tackles only part of the problem
Ongoing One-time
Simple Unnecessarily complex
“Bottom-up” input Input exclusively from IT

Benefits of lean integration

It is easy for companies to be overwhelmed when attempting to keep up with technology demands. While trying to implement big data and cloud strategies, companies may start making short-term fixes rather than embracing new methodologies altogether. Continuing to engage in this patching behavior only perpetuates the negative cycle.

Lean integration is not an immediate, point-in-time fix for companies struggling to keep up with change. However, the core principles of lean integration are simple to put into practice, and the benefits are substantial. As a result, lean integration has grown rapidly in the realm of IT, and has consistently accelerated business change. 

A main benefit of lean integration is increased data quality and efficiency. Lean integration connects disparate data sources together and develops metrics to evaluate data quality. Establishing these metrics and checking them often ensures data is correct and reliable‒‒critically important for business intelligence.

Businesses practicing lean integration are also more agile. Driven by lean integration principles, automated processes and self-service platforms enable businesses to scale quickly and adapt to change. At the same time, lean integration lifts morale and encourages innovation. Employees can use lean integration to iterate on original models and develop something extraordinary.

Six lean integration principles

How do companies actually reap all of these benefits? There are several foundational lean integration principles that are essential to driving significant, continuous improvement.

  1. Team empowerment - To fully implement lean integration, you need empowered, diverse, and motivated teams. Companies must cultivate an environment where employees with various sets of expertise are heard. Each person should understand his or her role and responsibilities, but should also have the opportunity to innovate without fear of failure. 
  2. Remove waste - In lean integration, waste is anything that does not add customer value. Businesses must be attuned to internal or external customer needs to detect areas of waste. Any activities that do not enhance the customer experience, should be eliminated.
  3. Plan for change - As someone once said, there is no constant besides change. If a business prepares for change, it can react and accommodate adjustments much faster. Successful lean integration involves building systems that can make incremental changes without business disruption. 
  4. Automation - Automation tools enable teams to troubleshoot quickly, and can turn large implementation projects into bite-sized chunks. These small deployments are managed expertly to deliver high-value in little time. Automation can reduce interdependencies between systems as well.
  5. Quality - Lean integration requires a company to interweave quality activities throughout its processes. Quality audits should be comprised of standardized metrics that can diagnose issues early and often. These quality metrics can also measure progress towards a solution.
  6. Continuously improve - Continuous improvement is one of the main tenets of lean integration. Repairing end-to-end processes is difficult to do all at once. Instead, lean integration advises a cycle of hypothesis, validation, implementation, and reflection to make certain that projects are moving in the right direction.

The cloud and the future of lean integration

The rise of the cloud and big data analysis has made companies responsible for delivering maximum value products to their customers in the minimum viable time. How can this difficult feat be achieved? This question led to the development of numerous organizational quality methodologies, including lean integration.

The cloud and its complexities only continue to grow over time, and customer expectations will grow along with it. With lean integration, businesses can surmount this challenge. Lean integration enables structured, yet flexible, business intelligence. Perhaps more importantly, the principles of lean integration keep employees motivated to provide optimal service.

Three lean integration best practices

Lean integration is imperative to keep pace with modern technology. So how does a company enforce and sustain lean integration principles on a daily basis? Here are a few best practices:

  1. Keeping the customer in mind - It is easy to forget about the customer when a team is heavily invested in meeting their individual goals. Lean integration necessitates employees to take a step back and look at the whole picture. Questions like, “is what I am doing directly adding customer value?”, or “did I deliver everything the customer needs to do their job?” are helpful to frame the focus of a lean team.
  2. Standardized metrics and processes - Well-defined, repeatable processes are the hallmark of a lean integrated company. Companies need to establish a happy medium between unnecessary bureaucracy that slows down a process and the chaos of having no structure at all. In addition, lean teams need to inaugurate a visible way to track each phase of a process. Not only does this help pinpoint errors, it’s also a motivator for employees to meet their goals.
  3. Not reinventing the wheel - Though different areas of a business may perform completely different functions, much of the data or work they request is similar. Instead of starting from scratch with each new project, groups can identify patterns, validate the best approach, and hit the ground running. Recognizing and reusing operations saves companies money and resource time, while curbing ongoing maintenance efforts.

Getting started with lean integration

Clearly, the modern workplace needs an upgrade. One-time fixes, lack of quality checks, and divergent workforces cannot handle advancements in cloud technology and ever-changing customer needs. Lean integration can address those concerns by boosting efficiency, inspiring innovation, improving morale, and limiting the number of defects.

While lean integration practices are crucial to success, companies focused on big data also require cloud-based tools that offer transparency, collaboration, and seamless consolidation. In keeping with several lean integration best practices, Talend Data Fabric allows users to incrementally collect, transform, and validate data from ERPs, CRMs, and other business systems. It has built-in data governance and machine-learning capabilities to protect data integrity and eliminate waste.

Lean integration demands a culture that welcomes change as opposed to retreating from it. Start making a change and reaping the benefits of lean data integration by downloading Talend Data Fabric today.

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