A Holistic, Business Approach to Data Integration

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What if we rethought integration?


What if, instead of individual projects and technology solutions, enterprises took a holistic approach to data integration? How would that look?


Rick Sherman, a consultant with Athena IT Solutions and the Data Doghouse blogger, has more than an idea of how it would look. In the most recent installments of his series, "People, Process and Politics: Stop the (Integration) Madness," he shares a roadmap for making it happen.


First, you have to admit that what you've been doing hasn't worked, writes Sherman. On the contrary, as he sees it, the status quo has just created different silos. That means, among other things, canceling your subscription to the acronym-of-the-year club - the CDIs, the MDM, the BI and DW:


"Many enterprises are blind to their integration silos. All they see is their investments in ERP, DW, BI, CPM, MDM, CDI, SOA and PIM applications and the resulting databases with terabytes of data stored in them. Smug with the knowledge that they have all the data that the business needs, they're not even aware of the data silos surrounding them created by their integration silos."


Instead, he suggests in the third post of the series, you should view each of these pieces as part of an "integration investment portfolio" for building an enterprise-wide infrastructure.


But more important than how you approach integration technology is how you approach data integration itself. Sherman advocates viewing data integration from a political/organizational perspective.


This means establishing data integration as a "fundamental business problem that needs to be addressed," writes Sherman.


Okay, enough with the preachy. You get it: Stop treating data integration as a technical requirement in other projects, and create a more strategic approach.


This is where I think Sherman's series starts to get interesting. He explains how you can justify this approach. Spoiler: It involves costs and benefits. Then he lists three steps for rallying business support for holistic data integration:


  1. Appoint a data integration evangelist, "who preaches that there is a problem and that something must be done about it," writes Sherman. We'll call this your bishop.
  2. Find a champion. This is someone who has the ear of the CIO, CFO or other relevant CXO and can champion the business case for a strategic approach to data integration. We'll call this your knight.
  3. Involve the sponsors. This means getting the CIO and CFO-your King and Queen, if you will-signed on and providing organizational support. Sherman writes that this support can take different forms, ranging from a single data integration budget to a "more realistic approach of budgetary reviews of all projects with data integration components."


These steps aren't revolutionary-in fact, you've probably seen these steps recommended for many strategic IT projects and initiatives.


And therein lies the exciting, potentially revolutionary, core of Sherman's vision. Data integration would be treated as a single, strategic initiative, rather than a series of unrelated techical requirements.


This is a fascinating perspective on data integration, from a veteran in the data warehousing field. I've long respected Sherman's writings, from back in the days when he wrote for DMReview, one of my favorite IT publications.


In an upcoming post, Sherman promises to explain how you would pull it all together with an enterprise integration infrastructure and an Integration Competency Center.