Integration Guru Suggests Projects for New Year

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It's never too early to start making New Year's resolutions. If you're too busy to think of your own, just borrow a few from Rick Sherman's recent blog series on2008 Data Integration Plans.


Sherman knows his stuff. In fact, he's the integration guru who writes the "Data Integration Advisor" column for DM Review. He's the founder of his own data warehousing and business intelligence consulting firm, Athena IT Solutions. Before that, he worked with data warehouses and data integration as a director/practice leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting.


So, if he says you need to take on four data integration projects in 2008, you should probably listen. And as it turns out, each of his four recommendations offers payoffs beyond the mere thrill of integration.


Here are the data integration projects Sherman says should top your list in 2008:


Renovating or replacing a data shadow systems. Sherman defines data shadow systems as systems built by the business, updated manually and generally using Excel or Access as a front end. No, he's not recommending you go on a hunt and destroy mission -- tempting as that may be. Instead, he suggests you view these shadow systems as what they are -- an indicator the enterprise data warehouse isn't meeting the needs of the business. To fix this problem, you'll need to figure out which underlying business processes are supported by the shadow systems and which it would behoove you to replace. Then, he offers a diplomatic approach to replacing the targeted shadow systems.


Evaluating your reference data. He points out these projects may carry very technical project titles -- master data management (MDM), customer data integration (CDI) or product information management (PIM) -- but regardless of what you call it, you need to establish data consistency. To do this, he says you'll need three pillars -- data governance, an integration competency center and data integration.


Focus on using your service-oriented architecture to deliver data integration between applications. Sherman points out an infrastructure in and of itself won't deliver business value. If you want the business to see a payoff from its SOA investment, you should focus on how you can use services to offer application integration.


Real-time business intelligence. As of Dec. 11, he had not yet elaborated on this goal, but no doubt when he does, it will be linked from the home page, as well as the post on SOA.