Five Integration Thanksgivings for IT Leaders

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7 Steps to Smarter Integration

Sometimes, change can be worthwhile. The key is knowing what's worth pursuing and what's not.

It's Thanksgiving in the U.S., a holiday where we stuff ourselves stupid on turkey (oddly enough, once nominated for the position of national bird), potatoes, various kinds of carbohydrates, including pumpkin pie. The holiday commemorates a historical moment of peace and collaboration, when the Pilgrims held their own harvest feast with the Native Americans who helped them survive their move to Plymouth Rock.


Things pretty much went downhill from there between these two groups, but that's not the point. The point is to be thankful for what went right - and considering how often we focus on what's going wrong, it's well worth taking one day to focus on the positive.


Last year, in the great tradition of giving thanks, I shared five integration trends for which we could be thankful:

  1. The demand for integration, which meant jobs for integration developers and experts.
  2. More people outside IT realized the value of integration.
  3. New frontiers for integration, including open APIs and Hadoop.
  4. Integration via the cloud became easier.
  5. SOA selling itself.


To continue the tradition, I scanned last year's list and happily found each one is still relevant. I noticed, however, it's a very integration-worker-focused list.


So this year, I looked more broadly at what's happening in and around data management to come up with five reasons why IT and business leaders should give thanks:


1. IT leaders gained new allies for data management. Key business leaders seem to finally be getting the point that quality data matters. In the past year, I've shared how CFOs, the finance department and marketing are all keenly interested in data management initiatives that will require things like better integration, better data quality and data governance.


For instance, a Kern Organization survey showed 90 percent of marketing leaders said they want more and better integration between off- and online data. Finance wants more and better integration for reporting and CFOs are enamored with BI solutions.


Now is the time to talk to these groups about how you can support their needs. Winning the support of the CFO alone would be reason for thanksgiving, but adding the entire finance division and marketing, too? All I can say is you've earned another slice of pumpkin pie.


2. The integration of integration tools. To win over business, IT is going to have to provide more than straight integration. The data is going to have to rise to the level of information, meaning it has to be relevant, dependable, organized and filtered. One of the many complaints marketing has about data is that there's too much of it - and yet they want more. Why? They have too much of the wrong data and not enough of the right data. IT will need to convince them it can change that, a task made increasingly easy as data integration vendors integrate capabilities into their core solutions.


<strong>TDWI calls this the "next generation data integration</strong>," but, actually, vendors have already done a lot of consolidation, adding support for governance, data quality, master data, metadata and Big Data.


Plus, more vendors are offering more than just one approach to data integration, which gives you more flexibility and agility in solving integration problems, which brings me to


3. Data virtualization, which can help with a lot of pain-in-the-neck problems that nonetheless really matter to the business. I recently asked on Twitter what integration-related news people were thankful for, and both Composite Software (@CompositeSW) and Informatica's Ash Parikh (@parikhash) mentioned the growing use of data virtualization.


While that seems self-serving since they both offer data federation/virtualization solutions, IT leaders also have reasons to be grateful for data virtualization, which gives you the agility to quickly provide data without a full data integration project.


As Composite Software's CEO Robert Eve shared earlier this year, real companies are using data virtualization for:

  • Cloud integration
  • BI data federation
  • Data warehouse extensions
  • Enterprise data virtualization layer
  • Big Data integration


4. A plethora of niche solutions. While the big integration players are consolidating their tool sets, that hasn't (yet) translated into fewer integration solutions overall. Vendors may be disappearing from Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Data Integration, but there's still a long list of niche players, some of whom solve challenging, business-relevant integration problems. That's reason to give thanks because it means more options for you both in terms of tools and costs.


And, finally, here's a reason for all U.S. citizens (except maybe the conspiracy theorists) to be thankful:


5. Illumination in the dark corners of health care IT's archaic data integration practices. As integration experts shine a light on these problems, and slowly but surely resolve them, we'll receive more integrated, improved health care - and hopefully that will lead to a celebration of more Thanksgivings to come.