Analyst Questions Gartner's Tips for Cutting Data-Integration Costs


Seth Grimes isn't impressed with Gartner's recent pronouncement that companies could save $500,000 on data-integration costs by eliminating redundant tools and adopting a shared-services model.


"Wow! What a laughably simplistic assertion," Grimes sniped in an Intelligent Enterprise column on Monday.


His criticism caught my eye because I referred to this item from Gartner in passing last week, after reading it in an Indian trade publication. This week, Intelligent Enterprise ran an article based on the original press release, in which Gartner analyst Ted Friedman explained that companies often have redundant data-integration tools, for which they are paying software licenses, maintenance fees and other associated costs. He estimated companies could save $250,000 per tool annually by consolidating these tools.


But Grimes isn't buying it. Grimes, an analytics strategist who consults on data-management and analysis systems, was annoyed by the whole thing for, by my count, three reasons:

  1. He thinks it's too vague about several points, including how much you'd need to spend to reap these savings.
  2. He's skeptical about how many organizations could actually realize this level of savings, considering that Gartner says its findings apply only to organizations that have "implemented substantial data-integration architectures." He suspects that's a very small number of organizations.
  3. He disagrees with the process Gartner outlines, arguing it advocates focusing on data integration and saving money rather than the job at hand and what the business users need.


David Linthicum also found the Gartner advice tedious, but for a slightly different reason. He compares the news to announcing that fire is hot, though he does add:

Gartner is talking about a dirty little secret in the world of data integration, the fact that the data integration technology in place is based on generations of data integration technology being layered in the enterprise over the years. Thus, technology that was purchased to solve data integration problems, and reduce costs, is actually making the data integration problem more complex and no longer cost efficient.


I'm glad Grimes raised the red flag about the potential cost savings, since the Gartner report did receive wide coverage and it does seem unlikely many organizations would reap the predicted savings of $500,000 annually. But while his criticism is valid on its face, I tend to think most IT people know - as I pointed out in my earlier post - that Gartner's research targets global enterprises. Its numbers seldom, if ever, apply to mom-and-pop operations. But that doesn't mean mom-and-pop shops can't benefit from the core advice-eliminate redundant tools-and still find savings.


And while tool consolidation may not be breaking news, it doesn't mean it's not worth repeating. The admonishment to pursue IT/business alignment or update your antivirus definitions aren't news either, and yet, companies and individuals still forget to take these obvious steps. Reminders can be helpful.


I'm also suspicious of the accusation that Gartner is overly focused on cost savings. I've interviewed Gartner analysts and read many Gartner reports. They know the value of architecture and IT/business alignment. I suspect the focus is more a function of the press release, rather than actually advocating saving money over all else.


On the other hand, I can't feel too sorry for Gartner, which is charging a nice $195 for the full report.


If you're a Global 2000 company, it's probably no big deal to pay that fee. But if you're a mom-and-pop shop, you might just decide to make due with Linthicum's take on the topic:

... what Gartner is saying here is that you really need to take a hard look at the number and types of data integration solutions, and take steps to normalize those solutions around extraction, transformation, and loading, as well as replication and data federation. For each integration pattern, pick a tool and stick with it.