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Six Ways to Save Money on Integration

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After the holidays, a lot of people experience a financial hangover. (Also, a weight hangover, a sugar hangover and more often than not, a plain-old hangover, but I digress.)

Of course, a lot of businesses were already experiencing a financial hangover well before the holidays, thanks to the recession. Regardless, it's a good time to focus on how you can save your company money. So, I decided to spend a little time digging through the archives for cost-cutting tips on integration. I found a mix of ways you can save money on integration projects or cut overall costs with an integration project.

Cost-Cutting Tip 1: Replace ad-hoc data-integration projects with mashups. Mashups are not a replacement for data-integration projects. But, they could be a good way to let users grab data for on-the-fly needs or what ZapThink's Ronald Schmelzer terms "situational data." You know these requests: Suddenly, you're suppose to drop everything to run a query for this new report request. It's not on-going, but it is information the business needs and now.

Schmelzer guesses moving these ad-hoc requests to mashups could cut out 80 percent of your data-integration headaches. How it saves money: Time is money. This step could reduce IT staff workload while giving business users faster access to business-critical information.

Cost-Cutting Tip 2: Make sure the person in charge of your integration projects understands business processes. Let's face it: IT is not known for its plethora of business-savvy workers. And data integration is so technical, it's easy to see why these projects would be headed by someone who is very technical. But, really, you can save money and time off a project if you get someone who understands the business processes and the data formats, mapping and data conversions, according to Mark Denchy, director of product management at data-integration company EXTOL International.

How it saves money: Denchy says a knowledgeable integration project leader can help reduce the project time, which means less money you'll spend on vendor and consultant fees.

What do you do if no one has the expertise you need? Denchy suggests you try short pilot projects, ensuring your staff is mentored by the consultant. Short projects give your staff time to learn, but reduce the time you're paying a consultant.

Cost-Cutting Tip 3: Consolidate or replace expensive data-integration tools. Gartner estimates that data-integration tools typically run $200,000 to $500,000 for software licensing alone, plus an additional $50,000 to $100,000 for annual maintenance. At prices like that, you can't afford to run multiple tools. Downsize by consolidating or replacing systems with less expensive solutions, recommends Gartner.

You might even want to investigate open source solutions, although there are some questions about the total cost of ownership for open source data-integration tools, according to Bloor Research.

How it saves money: Reduced licensing and maintenance fees now and in the future. I should note that was just one of eight cost-cutting tips issued in a March press release by the Massachusetts-based IT research firm. The full release is still available online, and the recommendations remain viable.

Cost-Cutting Tip 4: Dig out old ETL tools and put them to use elsewhere. Bloor Research Director Philip Howard discovered more companies are deploying ETL (extract, transform, load) tools outside the typical data-warehousing project.

During a TechTarget podcast, Howard shared that there are now four other common ways to use ETL tools:

  • Data migrations and conversions, which, when coupled with data warehousing, compose two-thirds of all ETL projects.
  • Application synchronizations.
  • Business-to-business for converting SWIFT, HIPAA and other messages.
  • Providing data services for SOAs.

How it saves money: Obviously, you're squeezing more use out of an existing investment, which means you're not having to buy a new solution. Hey, if it works for these other companies, why not you, too?

 

Cost-Cutting Tip 5: Form an integration competency center. An integration competency center is an acknowledged industry best practice-and yet few companies do it, leaving them to reinvent the wheel on integration projects. How it saves money: Forrester analyst and ICC expert Ken Vollmer explained it to me this way:

It's mistakenly seen as a luxury, when in fact it should be a necessity. It makes operations much more effective. So, people can think they're saving money and not fund an ICC - they're going to pay the piper in the long run.

Cost-Cutting Tip 6: Read this blog. Don't laugh. I'm being serious here. I've already given you five ways to save money in this one post alone.

 

But I'm not just talking about pieces like this. Last year, I found readers numerous research reports that had been made available, for free. For instance, two days after Gartner released its 2008 Magic Quadrant for Data Integration Tool, a 32-page document that costs $1,995, I posted where you could get it for free online.

 

I also point regular readers to free webinars, where they can hear some of the best experts in the industry and receive free help on hot topics such as SOA governance.

 

Plus, I like to think I'm occasionally fun and humorous to read, which, really, is priceless.

 

With the exception of tip number six, not all of these will work for every organization. Hopefully, this list helped jumpstart your brain on cost-cutting measures you can take with integration or another IT projects. As always, I'd love to hear your ideas.

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