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Every business wants to increase sales -- and the ability to do so is even more vital in today's economy. For companies that are looking to save money on manufacturing, this translates into an imperative to streamline production and build effective project teams to meet the evolving needs of clients. Success becomes visible when project teams maximize quality manufacturing and minimize budgets. Two distinct development methodologies have emerged to produce the most efficient and economic options available for achieving this: lean and agile. The former strictly focuses on value that is realized by waste minimization. The latter is centered on creating more value with less work. But when it comes down to it, which competing model strikes the best possible balance between quality of final projects and cost?

Agile

An agile product development approach helps companies achieve aggressive market delivery targets, while maintaining cost structures optimized to current economic conditions. John Zachman, who originated the Zachman Framework, did some of the seminal work that laid the foundation for current best practices in IT process and architecture, from development through architecture and governance. One of John's maxims is that the best analog for building software is manufacturing and that a company should ultimately be able to assemble solutions to order. Service Oriented Architectures and agile processes have made his prediction a reality. Solutions for both discrete and process manufacturing companies have the power to bring manufacturing disciplines to bear in IT. Businesses can extend that capability, and therefore the ability to precisely deliver with high quality solutions, by using these manufacturing concepts.

Lean

Lean is a culmination of the best ideas in manufacturing history that came together when Taichii Ohno married Toyota's concepts of workforce empowerment with Henry Ford's production optimization ideas, enabling it to evolve into the iconic manufacturing powerhouse it became. The core of lean is a relentless focus on value that is realized by waste minimization -- eliminating all activities that do not add value. In Japanese, this is called Kaizen, the continuous process improvement, quality, a quest for zero defects -- and the ability to quickly adapt production to value-driven demand (pull processing). Lean principles also include:

  • Waste minimization: Features are defined in close conjunction with colleagues in the field and customers. Ideally, the finished product is reviewed every two weeks to ensure the right thing is being built correctly.

  • Quality: Test-driven development and highly automated testing management build quality into the development process so that a feature is fully tested as it is being built.

  • Kaizen/Continuous Improvement: Agile is fundamentally powered by self-governing teams. Empowered teams naturally strive to improve their processes and collaboration using techniques like retrospectives.

  • Pull processing: Products and features are defined with field experts and tested as they are being produced to provide optimum value to the people who will use them.

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