Lean BI 

Lean Business Intelligence (Lean BI) is a customer-focused, measurement-based approach to improving business intelligence. Lean refers to smarter way of managing business process. Lean means putting the customer first and striving for a product that is near perfection. Lean principles have been used in the business world for years and have produced significant and frequently amazing results.

Despite continued success in the business arena, Lean principles and methods have only been recently adapted to the information technology domain. Lean BI is a rigorous program that focuses on the customer, measures and uncovers hidden costs and problems, and uses the Lean approach to auditing and improving current BI assets.

We learned a number of years ago that the Big-Bang approach to data integration simply doesn’t work. However, the alternative is to slowly grow our program over time. We add more reports, more users, more ETL jobs, more data, more applications and more hardware. BI teams behave more like a manufacturing team than a conventional software development project team with a predetermine end-date and a fixe budget.

Lean BI is about generating additional value by accomplishing more with existing resources by eliminating waste. Lean BI is a set of principles and practices that have been influenced by three main concepts:

1.   Lean Thinking1 
Lean Thinking is a set of principles and practices that evolved from the Toyota Production System. It has helped Toyota become one of the top car manufacturers in the world, and many other companies worldwide have also benefited from Lean Thinking. Not all Lean Thinking concepts apply to business intelligence some of the principles are more closely aligned with the shop floor; others are universal to all functional areas.

2.      Systems Theory2 

System theory analyzes the behaviour of management systems and other complex system. It recognizes that systems, such as BI programs, are complex and that we must consider this fact when developing our architecture and making decisions. BI programs grow through iterations so we need to consider how our architecture will change over time so we can augment it versus replacing it.

3.   Lean Software Development3

Lean Software Development evolved from the “Agile Manifesto for Software Development”. Lean Software Development was originally designed for software development, but many of its concepts can be applied to BI projects. It is important for BI teams to be agile because businesses are not static, and we must be able to effectively deliver value in a changing environment.

Delivering more value with existing resources is at the core of Lean BI. As the economy tightens, BI programs will need to adopt new principles and practices if they are to flourish.

1James Womack and Daniel Jones, Lean Thinking, Simon & Schuster, 2003
2Jay W. Forrester, “Systems Thinking and the Lessons of 35 Years”, April 29, 1991
3Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck, Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit, Addison-Wesley, 2003