Strategic Integration: 10 Business-Building Tips
Ten ways that companies can use integration and integration-related strategies to build business.
Teradata's data warehousing specialist, Rob Armstrong, shared a humorous story with me this week that says a lot about what's wrong with data and how it's being managed. He was working with a company that told him their data was fine-until they did a data warehousing project. The data warehouse, they explained, caused their data to be unclean.
It must have been hard to keep a straight face. Fortunately, I didn't have to bother. It's like looking at gray bath water and saying you were perfectly clean before someone made you take a bath.
Correlation does not imply causality, of course, but Armstrong had a tricky time convincing them that their data was already dirty; they just didn't know it because they'd never put it in one place and compared it.
As I shared yesterday, it's a fallacy to see IT as "in charge" of the data or of the problems associated with it. And as Armstrong pointed out to me, while IT certainly has some areas it needs to address, many of the problems of data integration require the business to solve questions-including questions of how data is defined (e.g. What is a "customer"?).
But it's easier said than done and leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For instance, when should the business be more involved and how do you get them to actually participate in processes that, until recently, IT "owned"?
I've found three resources recently that can help answer these questions at different stages of the data management process:
Let's start with the data migration process-a key component of data warehousing projects, and one you may not think would involve the business in any significant way. Dylan Jones, the founder of Data Quality Pro and Data Migration Pro, recently tackled this unusual area for IT/business alignment in a piece for DataFlux's blog site. I should add that, while he's talking about data migration projects, much of what he says could also hold true for data integration projects.
Jones contends there are three areas where IT should involve the business, but typically doesn't:
Data governance is another area where business leaders need to step up involvement, and, fortunately, they seem to realize this, according to a recent article by Andy Hayler, published in the UK-based site, CIO. Hayler is the founder of Kalido, a data warehousing and business intelligence (BI) company, and now does consulting and blogging.
The article isn't heavy on concrete ways to involve the business, but it does include a lot of statistics about how more business leaders are becoming involved in data governance and why that matters. His company surveyed 257 large companies-with just over half from North America-and found that business involvement in data governance and quality is on the rise. Specifically, it found:
The trick, it turns out, isn't always getting business leaders and users involved, but holding their interest. When business departments resist participating or become fatigued with the process, the whole thing falls apart and you wind up with distrust in the data and the reports you produce with it, he says:
Yet all too often such initiatives falter because the business people that sponsor such projects are insufficiently engaged, and after an initial burst of enthusiasm return to the old ways of doing things. ... Only by convincing the business that they own this data and are partly responsible for this mess will large organizations be able to get a true picture of their global business performance at a level of granularity and reliability that they need.
Finally, we come to my personal favorite, involving users in data integration. It turns out, there is a new generation of data integration platforms that is addressing the very question of how to encourage collaboration and give business managers more control over integration and data, according to an upcoming webinar featuring the senior manager of TDWI Research, Philip Russom.
The title for the Dec. 2 event is very telling: "Data Integration Platforms: A paradigm shift towards Business-to-IT Collaboration." The write-up explains that these new platforms are emerging from both a user-driven trend to squeeze more value from data and a vendor-driven trend to support multiple user types, metadata and other reusable artifacts.
It sounds like this webinar will give you both the talking points and some concrete ways to involve the business more in the data integration process. Russom will discuss both the business and technical reasons for collaborative data integration, as well as use cases for these collaborative platforms, and more.
The event is free, but you may want to pre-register. It begins at 9 a.m. PT. I suspect it'll be well worth your time, especially when you consider the high cost everyone's paid for IT being the only one responsible for data initiatives thus far.