In today’s businesses, data should underpin every decision. It can be your most valuable enterprise asset if it is processed, stored, managed, and shared in ways that your employees can find, use, and interpret it. To do this, you need a data integration strategy.
When thinking about how to use data to better serve your customers and improve business operations through data integration, there are numerous factors to consider. Where will your infrastructure be housed? What kinds of technologies will your customers use to interact with you tomorrow, next year, or five years from now? Who in your organization will want access to your data? And if the answer is “everyone,” how will you make sure they’re getting correct data to analyze? How will you comply with not only current data protection regulations, but ones coming online in the future?
This is why data integration isn’t only a matter of selecting the right software or even the right project; it’s a holistic business strategy that impacts your company’s capacity to innovate and grow. In order to become a data-driven company, it’s essential to understand your organization’s business goals, needs, available resources, as well as the overall direction of the data management market. This will help you create a future-proof data integration strategy that sets you up for success.
The four pillars of a data integration strategy
A common mistake when embarking on a data integration project is to neglect thinking about how integration plans may evolve beyond their initial integration projects.
Your organization’s data integration strategy is critical to your ability to grow as a data-driven organization, which often determines your ability to act on data-driven insights before your competitors. As your company’s business needs grow, your data needs will grow as well. You need to make sure that your strategy takes that growth into account.
When developing your data integration strategy, consider these four key factors:
- What are the long-term goals of your department and your company beyond the initial data integration project? Many companies see a data integration project as just the first step on the way to something much bigger. For example, you may be looking to move your Salesforce data into a cloud data warehouse today, but the end goal may be to have a master data management system that maintains the “golden record” of all of your customers. Make sure that the people choosing and implementing your integration technology know enough about your larger business goals to make a choice that will be smart for the business today and tomorrow.
- How will you embrace emerging technologies (even the ones you haven’t heard of yet)? Most organizations would like to think that they will take advantage of any new technology that will bring their business some tangible improvement. However, some data integration strategies—like manually building your integration stack— will be less capable of enabling you to use new technologies without an enormous amount of development time or procuring a new tool. If you know that you will want to have flexibility in your data environment and the technologies you leverage — for example, accommodating cloud applications and infrastructures — you will need to have an integration strategy that is flexible enough to handle those changes easily. One advantage of using open source integration technologies, is that they tend to be able to work with new data technologies very easily—especially since many of the new innovative data technologies are based on open source projects themselves.
- What quantifiable business value is this data integration strategy supposed to bring your company? While this guide contains many reasons why data integration strategy is important to most organizations profiled here, it is essential to map out how an integration strategy will impact your particular organization. Understanding the clear business value of an integration platform will help you prioritize which features should be most important to you when evaluating different integration methods and vendors. Also, communicating your business goals to your technical teams will help them more efficiently create the data infrastructure that your entire business needs.
- Do you have the people and technical resources to affect the change you seek in your organization? Obviously, you will need technical resources to develop, maintain, and scale your integration initiatives. However, the strategies that enable a data-driven company go beyond a single technical project. Instead, they require cultural and organizational change that encompasses all company functions, not just the technical ones. If your integration project is meant to change the data landscape for your company, be sure to work with other stakeholders to envision what those changes mean to IT and the business units who are working with the data.
This way of thinking about data integration — as a holistic business strategy rather than simply a tooling question — is a different approach than many businesses usually take. But, integrating data means turning it into a valuable business asset. Tim Derrico, the director of global analytics at Johnson Controls notes, “Data agility means procuring, integrating, and enriching data and turning that into business value, on any platform, anywhere, anytime.”
Learn more about how to turn your data into your most valuable business asset in the Definitive Guide to Data Integration.