What Does ‘Enterprise-wide Data Integration Strategy’ Mean?

    I’m catching up on my reading this week and what did I discover but this piece by David Linthicum suggesting three data integration resolutions for 2013. “Create a holistic data integration strategy for my enterprise,” topped the list.

    That caught my eye, because I’d just finished a piece on SaaS application integration and, lo, it also suggested you use a “corporate-wide integration strategy.”

    I see that recommendation a lot, actually, as a way to cut integration costs, speed up the time table for integration and just generally make life better for everyone.

    “If you don’t have a good integration strategy and are not sure how integration is supported by the solution, the end result will be a lot of point-to-point, one-off implementations and one-off integrations,” warns Chris Dancy, a director in the Office of the CTO for BMC Software, in the Information Management article. “Over time, these one-offs begin to look like tangled spaghetti.”

    We all know that’s not good, but what does it mean to have an enterprise-wide, holistic integration strategy? And just how much of a headache would that be?

    Linthicum is the CTO and founder of Blue Mountain Labs, but he’s also a consultant who’s written a number of books on SOA, cloud and data management. In his resolution post, he’s pretty specific about what it means:

    This means we understand most systems, including semantics, and we’ve mapped the exchange of information between them.  Finally, have a roadmap to implement data integration solutions over the years, and define the value that this technology will bring to the business.

    Linthicum also suggests another resolution that I would consider a foundational piece for creating an enterprise-wide integration strategy: Create an Integration Center of Excellence.

    An ICC will also help shift you away from integration-by-project thinking to understanding how you can take a broader, ahem, enterprise-wide approach to integration, (dare I say an enterprise integration strategy), as Forrester analyst Ken Vollmer explained.

    “While the increasing capability of tools to cross integration silos is a significant development, the main thrust behind holistic integration efforts inside of enterprises should be focused on bringing together the disparate integration teams (for application, B2B, process, and data integration) to create a comprehensive enterprise integration strategy and implementation plan,” Vollmer wrote. “These teams have traditionally operated in isolation, but that has to change if we really want to make progress in improving the success of integration efforts.”

    Another way an ICC can move you toward a holistic integration strategy is by documenting the approaches and solutions you’re already using. That can save you money by ensuring you’re not paying for redundant solutions and that you’re using the right integration tool for future integration projects.

    As for Dancy, he doesn’t really explain how you might go about creating a corporate-wide integration strategy, but he sees it as an even more important step to take as companies adopt SaaS and cloud computing.

    He does offer a few clues, however, noting that it should align with business initiatives and be built into your IT service management solution. To be fair, though, he also offers four other steps, several of which would help lay the groundwork for a holistic integration strategy, including:

    • Identify the people and processes, including how the data moves.
    • Understand how you’re processing and integrating data, aka, know your infrastructure
    • Know what objects you’re passing back and forth between internal and external systems.

    I’m sure there are other steps involved to creating a holistic or enterprise-wide integration strategy — and I’d love to hear your ideas about that. But the point is, it sounds pretty intimidating, until you break it down. Then, it starts to sound a little less like intimidating “consultant speak” and a bit more manageable.

    And as we all know, that’s the key to keeping resolutions, integration or otherwise: Set small, measurable goals and work toward them.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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