Data Integration and What to Know Before Starting a Project
Within an enterprise, data is coming from every angle imaginable. Various sources are sending different types of data, in all shapes and sizes, and the onus is on enterprise IT to integrate that data in an easy-to-manage way. So how exactly does a business handle all this data in a modern manner? More often, organizations choose to deploy a data integration solution that flexibly connects the systems and applications powering their critical information flows.
What is Data Integration?
Data integration is the process of combining data from several different sources into one unified view, to make the data more actionable and valuable to an enterprise. Data integration achieves consistent access and delivery of data across different business processes to meet information consumption requirements of all applications.
While there is not universal approach that is a one-size-fits-all fix to data integration, most solutions feature a few common traits, such as a network of data sources, one master server, and clients that access data from said master server.
Benefits of Data Integration
Data integration tools efficiently aggregate data and then make it available to anyone that needs it. There are many various benefits for a company using a data integration solution.
- Different types of data mean different levels of specialty that the dataset gains. Each set of data has unique attributes, everything ranging from metadata, structure, and schema. Integration solutions support all such datasets and attributes.
- Specialized applications serve a variety of business information needs, but they also open new opportunities to take advantage of data in new ways. Data integration enables users to convert between formats and open data in legacy or cloud applications and leverage the information these systems provide.
- Data becomes less complex. Data integration manages the complexity that comes from a data migration and streamlines those connections to make it easy to deliver that data to any system.
- Data becomes more valued than ever. Users can now break down their internal data and merge it with external data, and combine structured and unstructured data from many different sources.
- Data is more centralized. By centralizing data, it becomes simple for anyone in the company to access it. Centralized data also means data is more easily transformed than it was prior to data integration.
- Collaboration within data also becomes improved because of its accessibility. Now employees can share data with one another internally or across their organization more easily.
- Data accuracy is much improved. It becomes more consistent and is mostly free of errors to ensure that the data is valid and viable.
These are some of the ways that an enterprise can truly take advantage with a legitimate data integration strategy. Without a set plan in place, it becomes much more difficult to manage, but with the right strategy, companies realize significant business value from a data integration solution.
Typical Business Use Cases for Data Integration
What are some of the ways you can put data integration into action and realize the promise that makes it so appealing in the first place? Here are a few ways savvy organizations use data integration solutions:
Leverage Big Data
Big data analytical solutions offer a way to gather valuable information from your structured, unstructured, and semi-structured data. Big data integration allows enterprise IT to integrate and combine all data at once and prepare it for analysis and help gain insights necessary to make valuable business decisions that affect the bottom line.
It doesn’t matter what kind of data that IT needs to break down and analyze, whether it’s traditional data, machine-generated data, social media, data from the web, or data from the Internet of Things networks, data integration allows for real-time, quick ingestion of data.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
One popular way that enterprises take advantage of data integration is through customer relationship management (CRM) software. A CRM allows an enterprise to capture and gather information about their customers who are interested in your products. Through data integration, it is easier for an enterprise to identify and target their customers and also reap value-generating benefits, including up-to-date records that reflect accurate customer information, managing a database of sales leads that can be tracked and monitored throughout the process, and identifying future opportunities to approach or partner with customers.
Visibility, Visibility, Visibility
It is often difficult to recognize the true value that a single piece of data represents. But thanks to data integration, it’s easier to track and monitor data throughout an entire business process, and the business value from data is readily visible. A business user, for example, can see a complete customer view –
from the ordering process through fulfillment – that was built within a data integration solution in the form of data synchronization. Data integration takes all that customer’s information and it collects, prepares, and delivers said data in a way that is easy to digest and follow, no matter what kind of data it is.
Effective business intelligence has a certain number of requirements, so data that goes into a data warehouse needs to be repurposed a fair amount in order to successfully create an aggregated and calculated data set. Data integration tools collect data and transform it to meet all these required structures so that a business intelligence solution can run the way it is supposed to. In doing so, data integration also leverages key business processes such as business performance management, reporting, dashboards, and advanced analytics to enable some valuable strategic and tactical strategies.
Types of Data Integration Approaches
There are multiple ways that a company can choose to utilize data integration technology, with approaches that each represent a functionality that the others do not. Which approach you choose to take to data integration will depend entirely on your requirements and what it is you want to get out of data integration.
Since within an enterprise, the amount of data that needs to be moved and transformed can become so large, it also becomes heavier and more complex, which requires more resources. So, enterprises must have the ability to consolidate in order to simplify the data access.
Data integration also can be part of a data warehouse, another way to synchronize and consolidate data. This specifically comes in handy for business intelligence users by providing them with adequate data for further analysis that can separate online analytical processing (OLAP) from online transaction processing (OLTP).
Extract, Transform, Load (ETL)
Much of a data that an enterprise needs to integrate are extracted, transformed, and loaded (ETL). This approach coincides with data warehousing because the data warehouse pulls in all the data from various sources and then converts it into a common format so each set of data is compatible with the other. From there, the new data is loaded into its new database. Once the query has been submitted, the data warehouse finds the data, retrieves it, and delivers it to the user in an integrated view.
Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)
An iPaaS – or Integration Platform as a Service – provides a centralized console to manage, govern, and integrate cloud-based applications, using tools that connect cloud applications and services and control integration flows. Companies use iPaaS solutions to scale performance needs, add product functionality, and structure application integrations, all to increase the value of their business relationships.
Enterprise Service Bus (ESB)
An enterprise service bus (ESB) is a critical component of internal data integration. An ESB is designed to integrate various applications together over what is a “bus-like” infrastructure. An enterprise service bus usually is located somewhere between the framework and a suite as another way to perform application integration. An ESB is a middleware tool that distributes tasks among the connected components that make up an application.
Challenges of Data Integration
While there are many benefits to using a data integration solution, regardless of what kind of approach and style that a business selects, there are some challenges. The average business would not be considered a data integration specialist, and there are some pratfalls that must be avoided in order to truly reap the rewards that come from data integration.
Because an environment filled with data from all kinds of different sources can be so complex, that presents an inherently difficult challenge to manage. With data coming from every direction and in a variety of formats, data mapping is critical to synchronize your data successfully without a bunch of custom code and without overwhelming your internal resources. Data transformation technology automatically maps data from one source to another to facilitate communication and integrate each application.
Additionally, over time, data sources updated at different intervals can lead to invalid data that’s of little use to the business. Programming your integration solution to aggregate data from multiple sources into a usable product requires common consistency among definitions and rulesets.
And thus, it’s critical to select a trusted data integration solution provider for your integration projects that can clear obstacles and overcome challenges that tend to disrupt business. An expert partner will help manage all the complexities and potential hiccups – from deployment to implementation – and help you keep sight of what it is you want to do with all the data you’re integrating.
Why Businesses Choose Cleo Integration Cloud
Key to a successful digital transformation strategy, data integration can reshape how your business uses technology to interact with customers, vendors, suppliers, and applications. The functionality gained from such a powerful business solution provides the operational efficiency to rapidly and securely exchange data among internal systems and external trading partners.
Cleo Integration Cloud (CIC) enables the world’s leading organizations to accelerate cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground integration processes to easily integrate applications, storage repositories, and business platforms. Through Cleo data integration, all your data is connected in an elegant way that better powers your cloud, on-premise, or hybrid environments and delivers more value to your business and to your end customers.