Smart Integration in Seven Steps

    Any data integration vendor will tell you, its No. 1 competitor is hand-coded integration. Our Loraine Lawson talked with IT leaders who say it’s just simpler to write a few lines of code – they don’t need a “data integration platform.” But how much do those few lines of code – and the problems they create later, when there’s no documentation on the integration – cost them in the long run?

    Sometimes, change can be worthwhile. The key is knowing what’s worth pursuing and what’s not. One way to tell the difference is to see what emerges time and again as a best-practice recommendation, from various sources. With that in mind, Loraine Lawson identified seven integration steps that experts say are worth the time and money. (For more on these pointers, be sure to check out Loraine’s blog).

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    Click though for a step-by-step guide to implementing change that works.

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    This isn’t a throw-away suggestion. Companies that solve ongoing integration problems and find innovative and strategic ways to approach integration are those that deliberately decide, ‘What we’ve done in the past isn’t working. Let’s fix it.’ Instead of handling integration on a project-by-project basis, they focus on the actual integration process.

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    IT silos can hurt in two ways. First, they can contribute to too many tools and too many different approaches to integration. Second, data integration is slipping out of the data warehousing domain. Even application developers now have to manage data-and the potential issue is that they’ll be more focused on getting the application to work than getting the data right.

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    This is always a good idea for IT, but it’s easy to forget when you’re dealing with something as technical as integration. But business analysts are increasingly handling integration. And business users can provide valuable feedback on what’s working, what’s not working, as well as any unmet information requirements.

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    Rick Sherman suggested organizations do this in his “People, Process & Politics” series last year. ‘Creating the integration portfolio involves assessing where you are, determining where you want to be and how you are going to close the gap,’ wrote Sherman.

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    Getting IT and business to agree on an integration plan will be long, hard work. An ICC is the way you put the plan into action by setting standards, sharing best practices and continuing the discussion. If you think ICCs are only for global conglomerates, think again: The benefits of an ICC are worthwhile, even at small organizations.

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    We all know standards aren’t a panacea, but a lack of data standards can cost you significantly-although you may not realize it, as SOA architect and integration specialist Akiva Marks explains in a recent blog post. If you don’t have standards, you’re creating what Marks calls ’embedded expense in the integration process.’

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    Time and time again, the experts say it’s worth the investment. Philip Russom, senior manager of research and services at The Data Warehousing Institute, says a tool pays for itself quickly because it substantially reduces the time your six-figure programmer takes to code data integration from scratch. But these tools don’t just simplify integration-they can help you with data governance and data quality as well.

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