7 Steps to Smarter Integration
Sometimes, change can be worthwhile. The key is knowing what's worth pursuing and what's not.
Where I'm from, spring means it's time to do some cleaning. In her younger days, my mother would actually make us wash down the walls every spring. Of course, back then, we used a wood stove, Granny churned her own butter, the eggs were fresh every morning and my name was Laura "HalfpintIngalls" Lawson, but I digress.
My point is that spring is a good time to clean and get rid of things you don't need anymore. So, when was the last time you cleaned out your data integration toolbox?
David Barkaway, a member of the SAS EMEA Technology Practice, thinks it's time companies did just that. But he's not just recommending you purge your toolbox of duplicate or old tools. In a recent BeyeNetwork article, he argues the entire concept of a "data integration toolbox" is outdated.
The toolbox is generally poorly integrated, and the differing interfaces stifle collaboration and consistent application of processes and standards. As projects become increasingly complex they require deployment of many technologies from these DI toolboxes, a significant proportion of the overall time on the project is spent resolving technology integration issues that could be better applied to DI requirements that support the business.
That's why Barkaway argues companies should move to a data management platform. He sees these platforms as bringing all these tools into one, integrated solution that includes not only integration capabilities, but also data quality and master data management. He writes:
These key areas will be underpinned by adapters and a federation capability, and will share technical and business metadata that aids in collaboration. Ultimately, a single user interface should surface all the platform capabilities rather than a disparate set of user interfaces.
The benefit would be a single place for all data management, which would allow you to use a consistent methodology as you manage it.
Of course, there are already integration platforms available. I'd be curious as to what extent Barkaway would say they actually achieve what he's describing. Alas, he doesn't address specific solutions, no doubt because he's responsible for SAS data management technologies.
Barkaway isn't the only one suggesting that organizations and the industry reassess integration. BPM (business process management) and data governance projects could also benefit from integration, says business and IT consulting veteran Rajan Chandras in a recent InformationWeek column:
Data governance and business process management initiatives are usually kicked off independent of each other, with different objectives, project owners, project teams, and project calendars. The result can be (and often is) a deep, inexplicable, disconnect between your business process and business data.
He cites Forrester Research in pointing out how connecting the two would also help resolve some of the ongoing problems with data quality, including the argument over who's responsible for it.
While we're on the topic of changes in integration tools, O'ReillyRadar recently noted that some organizations are replacing intranets with dashboards designed for integration. One reason this works well is dashboards can be customized to show information that's most pertinent to different employees or departments, according to the FierceCIO.com article.