How clear and consistent is the data your organisation relies on for decision making and planning?
Is it helping you communicate with customers effectively, manage operations efficiently, and plan new products and services knowing they match demand?
Or are you struggling with a mass of disparate data sitting in multiple applications, unable to pull together complete and accurate information or uncover useful insights?
Data should be one of your most valuable assets. But to exploit the value in data, it’s vital to be able to bring everything you know relevant to a particular context together in one place. And that’s why so many of today’s most successful organisations put data integration at the heart of their business processes.
Data integration is the process of taking information from multiple datasets, combining it into a single, centralised source of data, and presenting it as a unified view. As part of the process, data gets restructured into compatible formats. Data quality processes such as de-duplication can be built-in. From customer records to supply chain detail, HR to finance, integration allows you to produce a single source of truth across the organisation.
Why integrate data?
As more people get access to robust information, analysis and insights, you see smoother operations, faster, better decisions, and more reliable future planning.
In turn, you can boost revenue, cut costs, create new business opportunities, and reduce risk.
Without integration, records continue to sit in silos. You can’t build a complete view of any type of data, and you’re having to look in different systems for different elements. There’s no confidence in data for decision-making, and discrepancies and duplication are common, leading to mistakes and unnecessary costs.
Added challenges arise if you’ve been part of a merger or acquisition, and you’re required to bring two or more formerly separate operations together – or if you suddenly find yourself responsible for legacy data that’s never been looked after properly.
And if you’ve recently implemented a new tech product or platform, then integrating data will be an integral part of incorporating the new tech into your systems effectively.
Why use a recognised platform integration tool?
A recognised platform integration tool (such as Talend) simplifies the integration process and allows for automation.
Manual processing is both high risk and time-consuming – if it’s feasible at all, given the rapidly-growing volumes of data faced by most organisations. Where you do have humans moving data, you can’t avoid mistakes and duplication. In addition, it’s impossible to guarantee data moved manually is handled in a standardised way.
Hand-coding may occasionally be appropriate (typically for one-off tasks), but leaves your data vulnerable to human error, duplication and ultimately, data distrust. For frequently repeated processes, ready-made data integration software can in most circumstances automate the activity.
The advantages of using a recognised integration tool include:
1. Faster development life cycle
When hand-coding, developers put significant time and effort into making sure one set of data can be understood by the second system before they even start building the application. An integration platform usually offers an intuitive user interface for set-up which requires little or no code. Often, it is a simple drag and drop experience.
2. Easier maintenance
Integration tools can be easily updated to reflect new business needs or changes in data sources. Any amendments made by developers can be easily documented for future reference and collaboration. Tools also often allow you to schedule notifications when human intervention is needed to maintain data quality.
3. Easier deployment
A tool will come with consistent and user-friendly interfaces and ready-made connectors, so both developers and business users can get up to speed fast. Talend, for example, has over 1200 out-of-the box connectors. Further Talend advantages include a plethora of training opportunities for teams, alongside helpful user groups and forums for ongoing discussion and support. A partner such as Qbase can set everything up for you and help you get the best value from your investment.
4. More cost-effective
Paying for an integration tool set up and subscription might seem expensive. But compare this to paying a team of developers to write your integrations from scratch, and it soon becomes clear that in the long term, the tool is the more cost-effective option – especially when you also factor in the time and cost savings on maintenance and ongoing development.
5. Less pressure on IT
As vendors introduce self-service and collaborative tools, more people can access the data and integrations they need without the involvement of full-stack developers.
6. Better data governance
Tools provide consistency, so you can be sure standardised data quality rules are implemented and data quality is upheld.
What sort of tools are available?
Tools to help with data integration can be broadly divided into two types: pipeline tools, and data integration tools.
(Not to be confused with sales pipeline tools).
Pipeline tools allow you to send data directly from A to B. Processing then takes place once the data hits location B. This technology is described as extract, load, transform (ELT).
The advantages of using a pipeline tool are:
- You need less or no developer/tech input – tools are usually set up ready to go with a user friendly interface.
- Large volumes of data can be moved quickly because there is less processing involved.
Data integration tools
Data integration tools take an extract, transform, load approach (ETL), where data is processed while in transit between platforms. This means that when the data arrives at its destination, it’s already in the right format to be loaded.
The advantages of using a data integration tool are:
- There’s greater functionality, giving you more freedom to move data and transform it in the exact way you need
- You have more control, because integrations can be customised and more choices and connectors are available
Talend – our recommended integration technology
In managing data integrations for clients, we’ve found Talend offers a complete package for both ELT and ETL approaches. With self-service tools and data quality embedded at every step, Talend simplifies every aspect of data integration to meet the needs of data professionals and business users alike.
Interested in a demo? Get in touch.
Keen to know more about data management in general? Take a look at Taking the pain out of data management.
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