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Integration Maturity Levels

Another way to look at integration is to examine how integration technologies and management practices have evolved and matured over the past 50 years. Figure 1.2 summarizes four stages of evolution that have contributed to increasingly higher levels of operational efficiency. Hand coding was the only technology available until around 1990 and is still a common practice today, but it is gradually being replaced by modern methods. The movement to standard tools, more commonly known as middleware, began in the 1990s, followed by industry consolidation of tool vendors during the first decade of the 2000s, resulting in more "suites" of tools that provide the foundation for an enterprise integration platform.

Figure 1.2

Figure 1.2 Evolution of integration technology and management practices

As we look to the future, we see the emergence of the Integration Factory as the next wave of integration technology in combination with formal management disciplines. This wave stems from the realization that of the thousands of integration points that are created in an enterprise, the vast majority are incredibly similar to each other in terms of their structure and processing approach. In effect, most integration logic falls into one of a couple of dozen different "patterns" or "templates," where the exact data being moved and transformed may be different, but the general flow and error-handling approach are the same. An Integration Factory adds a high degree of automation to the process of building and sustaining integration points. We believe the Integration Factory, described in detail in Chapter 3, will be the dominant new "wave" of middleware for the next decade (2010s).

Management practices have also evolved from ad hoc or point-in-time projects, to broad-based programs (projects of projects), to Integration Competency Centers (ICCs), and now to Lean Integration. A major paradigm shift began early in the current century around the view of integration as a sustaining practice. The first wave of sustainable management practices is encapsulated by the ICC. It focused primarily on standardizing projects, tools, processes, and technology across the enterprise and addressing organizational issues related to shared services and staff competencies. The second wave of sustainable practices is the subject of this book: the application of Lean principles and techniques to eliminate waste, optimize the entire value chain, and continuously improve. The management practice that optimizes the benefits of the Integration Factory is Lean Integration. The combination of factory technologies and Lean practices results in significant and sustainable business benefits.

The timeline shown on the bottom of Figure 1.2 represents the period when the technology and management practices achieved broad-based acceptance. We didn't put a date on the first evolutionary state since it has been with us since the beginning of the computer software era. The earlier stages of evolution don't die off with the introduction of a new level of maturity. In fact, there are times when hand coding for ad hoc integration needs still makes sense today. That said, each stage of evolution borrows lessons from prior stages to improve its efficacy. We predict that Lean practices, in combination with past experiences in project, program, and ICC practices, will become the dominant leading practice around the globe during the 2010s.

In Part III of this book we refer to these four stages of evolutionary maturity when discussing the eight integration competency areas. The shorthand labels we use are as follows:

  1. Project: disciplines that optimize integration solutions around time and scope boundaries related to a single initiative
  2. Program: disciplines that optimize integration of specific cross-functional business collaborations, usually through a related collection of projects
  3. Sustaining: disciplines that optimize information access and controls at the enterprise level and view integration as an ongoing activity independent of projects
  4. Lean: disciplines that optimize the entire information delivery value chain through continuous improvement driven by all participants in the process

We think of this last level of maturity as self-sustaining once it becomes broadly entrenched in the organization.

We don't spend much time in this book discussing project or program methods since these are mature practices for which a large body of knowledge is available. Our focus is primarily on sustaining practices and how Lean thinking can be applied to achieve the highest levels of efficiency, performance, and effectiveness.

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