The Value of Looking Beyond Immediate Integration Needs

Loraine Lawson

"I will start with the assertion that different business stakeholders require different types of information," begins Robert Abate in a recent Information Management blog post on Business Intelligence tools.


It's a deceptively simple statement, but sit with it a minute. Abate, an IT veteran who writes and speaks on SOA, BI and a slew of other IT topics, is actually pointing out something that's easy to overlook. The information needed from business intelligence differs depending on where you are in the business chain of command. As one reader points out, it's a "great point, and something that many, many companies miss when they look to deploy a 'BI solution.'"


Since data integration is often a cornerstone for producing business intelligence, I wonder if this could worth considering with data integration projects as well. For instance, I recently read a short piece about data integration and marketing:

 

"Having quick and easy access to data has always been a barrier that prevents marketers from implementing targeted and integrated campaigns. Marketers have had to call on the IT department to mine customer behavior or transaction history in a data warehouse, or use Web analytics."

 

The piece seems to be largely about promoting Responsys, a niche solution for marketing that comes complete with its own data integration tool. But the article also contains some interesting findings about data integration from a Forrester Research report, "What's Your Web Data Integration Strategy?":

 

  • One-third of large companies-and by "large," Forrester means over $1 billion in annual revenue-do not have the staff or resources to integrate data.
  • 54 percent of large companies say they're challenged by infrastructure constraints.
  • Approximately 21 percent of all companies have difficulties finding a solution that addresses their integration needs.

 

Those are pretty ugly statistics. Given that so many companies have trouble meeting their data integration needs, doesn't it make sense to try to help as many parts of the business as you can when you do undertake data integration?


 

A similar story, this time a mini-case study about data integration's impact in the publishing industry, shows how data integration, when coupled with CRM, can touch on many aspects of a business.


I really like the idea of thinking across the organization before you begin a project. It may change how you approach the project, or it may actually help you kill two - or more - birds with one integration stone. It's so easy when you're starting a project to focus only on the immediate need or on a specific department's request. But when possible, casting a wider net and looking at how the data will be needed across the company might save you time and money - and help you better meet the needs of your organization.


If nothing else, this approach can help you build a business case for master data management, SOA, BI and other initiatives that are useful to all, but belong to no single department's budget. In fact, in a May post, Abate also pointed out that BI is converging with SOA and MDM-and all involve a need for better integration:

 

"The IT community has sensed that there is a need for an overall integration architecture or method that we employ to the integration of systems and data and these terms we use should be consistent. Just as the builder, electrician and plumber can all communicate, we should learn from them."

 

After all, just like the builder, electrician and plumber - the departments you serve are all in the same business.



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