With digital transformation of business, companies are learning about the importance of data when fueling their digital business processes. Data from on-premises, cloud, infrastructure systems, Internet of Things (IoT) and the edge all have parts to play to enable decision-making and the efficient performance of business processes. Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), blockchain and IoT, are increasing the demand for real-time data integration and harmonization.
However, machine learning and AI capabilities won’t help you make informed decisions if they don’t have access to quality data.
This begs an interesting question for data management professionals and IT staff, “How do I know what I need to connect?” With hybrid-integration platforms like Actian DataConnect, companies have the capability to empower anyone to connect anything, anytime, anywhere.
Before you connect anything, you should have a plan; assess your data integration needs; and determine what data sources you have and what systems you have in place on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid environment. Just because you can connect everything, doesn’t mean you should – at least all at once.
You may achieve this goal eventually and it’s okay to use that as your North Star vision, but data integration (like digital transformation) is a journey and every journey must start somewhere.
Start with a foundation of core data
Every company has a core set of master data that is used throughout the organization.
Customer records, product records and employee records are great examples of master data that is used in many different places, but there is only one real source of truth. There are also likely a few core transactional platforms, such as sales, customer service, manufacturing and finance systems, that are critical for enabling operational decision-making. Master data and core platforms are a great first step when building a foundation of connected data to support your digital business processes.
Every company wants to achieve a 360-degree customer view to understand better the customer behavior to improve service for them. A 360-degree customer view starts with master data or a single view of the master data. Master data is a result of clean quality data. Data integration is the underlying technology/foundation or process to achieve that end goal. The data must be gathered from many difference sources; cleaned, transformed and harmonized; and then distributed.
Focus on solving specific problems
Once a foundation is established, it is tempting for IT staff to start compiling and prioritizing lists of source systems that should be connected and made available throughout the company. Unfortunately, this “build-it-and-they-will-come” approach often leads to increased implementation and maintenance costs in addition to adoption issues. Alternatively, successful companies have learned that it is better to focus on how data is consumed, not where it is being created – what business questions must be answered and what data is needed to provide actionable insights? By prioritizing connection activities that support addressing specific questions, the ROI of data-integration activities will be clear and adoption won’t be an issue.
Look for cross-technology integrations
A great benefit about using a hybrid-integration platform like Actian DataConnect is the ability to integrate components built on different technologies. This was difficult during the past, but to leverage fully the power of digital transformation, you must remove the cross-technology barriers. As you still keep in mind the idea of solving specific business problems, look for opportunities to gather data from different types of components.
For example, if your manufacturing system is already connected, then consider adding data from your logistics-related IoT devices to provide visibility to the end-to-end supply chain.
Enabling Digital Ecosystems
Most companies today don’t do everything in-house – they leverage a digital ecosystem of suppliers and partners to support some business activities. Often, these third parties have their own systems for managing service delivery. Connecting 3rdparty systems with your hybrid-integration platform can allow you to see what’s occurring throughout your business ecosystem (regardless of who is doing the work).
Examples of this include component suppliers, transportation companies, facilities services, cloud service providers and reseller sales partners.
Focus on value, not volume
There is no right answer to what systems you should connect with your hybrid data-integration platform. Actian DataConnect provides an unlimited set of possibilities and the tools to make establishing new connections and managing existing ones simple. The key to a successful data-integration journey is focusing on value instead of volume. Find your biggest business problems and help solve those first! Near-term successes will provide momentum for future growth.