Six Reasons to Build a Data Integration Portfolio


It's a lazy Friday in my neck of the woods. The skies are overcast, you can feel the rain coming and I'm feeling pretty uninspired to do the things I should be doing.


So when I first read Rick Sherman's most recent post in his series on the People, Process and Politics of data integration, all I could think was, "Man, that sounds like a lot of tedious work."


In the first two posts, Sherman focused on building political support for an enterprise-wide - even, dare I say, holistic - approach to data integration. But at some point, you have to actually start doing the work of creating this enterprise-wide approach, and that means digging through a lot of old and existing projects to figure out where you stand. And that's where an integration portfolio comes into play, says Sherman.


Like I said-it seems like a lot of work. First, you've got to inventory all the data integration currently happening in your organization. This is trickier than it sounds, because as I'm sure you know, data integration hides in a ton of projects, most of which go by three-letter acronyms. He specifically suggests you peek into the following projects:


  • Master Data Management (MDM)
  • Customer Data Integration (CDI)
  • Product Information Management (PIM)
  • Enterprise Information Management (EIM)
  • Corporate Performance Management (CPM)
  • Data Warehousing (DW)
  • Business Intelligence (BI)


And then there are all those nasty little spreadsheets business users love to harbor. Don't forget those. It's an awesome task to contemplate. Why would you go to all this trouble, just to make a list of data integration projects?


Actually, Sherman gives a lost of compelling reasons for why creating an integration portfolio is worth the effort:


  1. It's the best way to ensure you're funding the right projects, because when you know what's going on, you can set priorities, figure a budget and monitor ROI.
  2. You'll be able to figure out if these projects have overlap or complementary components which, in turn, could reduce work time and eliminate redundant costs.
  3. Once you've prioritized, you can plan out future data integration projects.
  4. You'll be able to identify the low-hanging fruit and harvest it for a quick display of business value and/or payback-assuming you believe in the value of going after low-hanging fruit first.
  5. If you're not a low-hanging fruit kind of leader, then an integration portfolio will help you see how your integration projects fit into your broader information architecture and systems. Of course, this is also true even if you are a low-hanging fruit person.
  6. You can use the portfolio to create a "roadmap to move from your existing data silos to your desired information architecture," which will help you plan new capabilities when you're tackling silos.

Portfolios are always a ton of work, but they're a best practice for a good reason. As Sherman points out, "Enterprise data is a key investment, so treat data integration projects like investment portfolios."


You might just find there's gold in them there data mines.