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Shortening Development Times Through Lean Integration

Published with permission from Toolbox for IT. The original post, “Shortening Development Times through Lean Integration” by Leigh Dow can be found here.

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The Director’s Cut:

Shortening Development Times through Lean Integration

by Leigh Dow Director, Toolbox for IT

Spend a few minutes with David Lyle, Informatica’s VP of Product Strategy and you will learn three things. David is passionate about his work, he’s proud of the products they have created and he enjoys meeting with user groups. The Informatica team has developed software by not only listening to what their customers say they need, but maybe even more importantly observing what challenges their customers are trying to tackle through software implementations. The result? Embracing “Lean Integration”, a management system emphasizing continuous improvements and the elimination of waste in end-to-end data integration and process integration activities.

If you are not familiar with Lean Methodologies: Lean is a management system focused on creating value for customers and eliminating activities that don’t add value or what I like to call common sense. Lean concepts were originally applied to manufacturing, but are now used as a management practice applied in diverse industries. Lots of companies use the term “lean”, but very few master the concepts of lean six sigma and fully integrate lean into their overall manufacturing approach. Lean is often thought of as a process or manufacturing concept, but I’ve always viewed lean as a way of thinking or a way of approaching continuous improvement. For lean implementers, this means you have to overcome people’s mortal fears: math, statistics and the big monster – change.

Two of the most important concepts in lean are Lead Time and Cycle Time metrics. For anyone in manufacturing you know these are different but related concepts. Lead Time is measured by elapsed minutes and Cycle Time is measured by the amount of time per unit. Cycle Time measures throughput and is sometimes called “Takt” Time. I think you can see where math, statistics and change come into play implementing lean. I prefer to think of it more old school – faster, better, cheaper, the new element is value. Great lean thinkers know where and how they can improve the times while still delivering more value to their customer. Recently I spent the day with an Informatica User Group and David learning how “Lean Integration” transforms organizational processes. As a lean geek, I was impressed with how companies like Informatica are making a step change in the IT development process by incorporating lean concepts into their software. In doing so, they are providing developers with tools to deliver faster with higher value.

David is the person responsible for guiding the longer-term vision for the platform that assists organizations, integrating and managing data more efficiently and effectively. The topics covered in the User Group Meeting included: Mapping Architect for Visio (MAV), Data Profiling and Lean Integration. Informatica realizes data integration mappings often follow the same design but have many different sources or other transformation rules. Developers and architects end up spending non value added time on repetitive tasks creating unique mappings and documenting mapping process. Redoing work is a big lean no-no as it leads to errors and higher defect rates. In MAV, they have incorporated the lean concept of reuse by auto generating PowerCenter mapping templates and reverse-engineering existing mappings into reusable templates. This ties into another lean concept: velocity, or the acceleration and automation of design where possible. After the presentation I had the opportunity to sit down with David and he told me much of what they have incorporated was developed by observing how their customers are using their products, “looking over their shoulders”. Because of their strong relationship with their User Groups, they don’t just field enhancement requests. They are able to really dig into what challenges their customers are trying to resolve. Asking the lean “5 Why’s” gave Informatica the requirements to build lean concepts into MAV and deliver value to their users.

David also spoke with the User Group about their Informatica Data Explorer (IDE) products. The product finds hidden data problems and enables organizations to analyze anomalies across multiple data sources. Version 9 of IDE incorporates lean concepts in role-based profiling tools so business analysts can analyze data through browsers and IT developers can use comprehensive development environments to conduct midstream data profiling. This lean concept of making corrections as you go, debugging midstream, saves developers time in the implementation process. Further, you don’t have to launch another tool to profile and investigate the reality of the data.

It’s obvious from speaking with David and from their products, Informatica values user communities and the feedback they provide. David shared with me how their user communities are plugged into the Informatica Product Development teams and the enhancement processes. David said “the user community is a vital part of the company’s approach to software development.” For those of us who are user community junkies, we know we can be a group of raging evangelists or detractors from any product. What David’s team has been able to do is embrace the dialogue across communities and the product team to create some impressive tools.

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