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Integration on the Edge: Data Explosion & Next-Gen Integration

Hollis Tibbetts

Cloud Data Integration: Real-Life Experiences and Best Practices

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I took advantage recently of an opportunity to listen in on a panel discussion sponsored by data integration heavyweight Informatica. It was hosted by THINKstrategies' Jeff Kaplan, with panelists from Astadia, D&B, Informatica and PSA Financial Services.

I wrote a few days ago about the panel's observations on the current state of cloud integration. Now I'd like to continue with an overview of the "words of wisdom."

Integration Lessons and Best Practices

Jeff Kaplan (THINKstrategies), Andrew Bartels (Director of IT, PSA Insurance & Financial Services), Tom Carlock (VP of Product and Data Strategy, Dun & Bradstreet), Aaron Mieswinkel (Principal Architect, Astadia) and Darren Cunningham (VP of Marketing, Informatica Cloud) shared some best practices and "lessons learned" with regard to data integration.

Andrew Bartels: Integration Makes Systems More Valuable

The cloud and Salesforce.com have become the center of attention at PSA Insurance & Financial Services, Bartels said.

The company's biggest cloud mistake was to attempt to implement Salesforce.com as a stand-alone system back in 2008. As a stand-alone system, it was a burden to the users, rather than an advantage. Users were required to input a lot of data, but got little "value-add" back. As a result, the implementation was widely considered to be unsuccessful.

The company's second attempt to implement Salesforce.com was tremendously successful, and the difference was Integration. Using the Informatica Cloud, PSA was able to automatically enrich Salesforce.com data from various internal and external data sources.

When users, for example, entered a new prospect into Salesforce, information automatically flowed onto the screen that benefitted the user, such as interactions that other people at PSA may have had with other people at the prospect's company. When someone enters a customer in salesforce, they immediately know all relationships with that customer--as a result of cloud integration.

As a result, users began to see Salesforce.com as a useful and powerful tool that would benefit them.

By connecting Salesforce to other external and internal data points, so that whenever a user enters prospect or customer information the data are immediately enriched, provides users with value massively increased the adoption curve.

Cloud integration is used at PSA to do more than enrich Salesforce data. It's bi-directional in nature. It moves data from the data center and Salesforce and from salesforce back into back-end systems.

Workflow processes extend from legacy systems to cloud and back again, aligning data and systems with business processes has allowed them to be successful. Not only is data correct and accurate, but the individual systems become more useful and valuable.

Tom Carlock: Integration Changes the Nature of Data

Dun & Bradstreet is using cloud integration to transform the nature of data and the way businesses use information, Carlock said. The company is working to dramatically change things, transforming data into information with data services.

D&B is partnering with key partners in the industry such as Salesforce, Microsoft, Oracle and others, and embedding data services in software. D&B has created a database with comprehensive and highly accurate information on over 150 million businesses. Using Cloud Integration (a partnership with Informatica Cloud was announced in 2010), keeps data updated and synchronized automatically. Applications can quickly retrieve, enrich and aggregate information and provide it instantly back to the user.

Aaron Mieswinkel: Integration Enables Solutions to Support the Organization

As a solutions consulting company, Mieswinkel said, Astadia focuses on things from a business process perspective--that is, what do users need to do their jobs better?

Business processes are rarely accomplished entirely within a single system. Therefore, making things work properly requires integration. The focus should be on building a unified and cohesive solution to support the organization. For example, Salesforce users shouldn't have to jump between applications to find data or look up information on spreadsheets or email. Users should have the benefit of a friction-free and efficient experience that adds value to their efforts.

Secondly, a cohesive system to support the enterprise must be measurable. Advanced cloud analytics is ready for prime time and is increasingly a better solution than older on-premises BI stacks. These analytics are critical for accomplishing tasks such as finding better ways to look at marketing and sales performance or how an organization can better reach their customers.

Integration is key to the connected enterprise as well as making use of big data.

Better collaborating with customers via social media requires integration and breaking down the barriers between marketing, sales and service/support.

Darren Cunningham: Making it Simple Empowers Organizations

Data is growing at astonishing rates. New forms of data such as social media are increasingly being integrated into the enterprise, and new applications are easier to deploy than ever. With such high rates of growth, It's more important than ever to empower organizations to get full value from their data.

The key to making this happen: delivering integration in a fashion that's simple to implement, deploy and manage. Ease of use is a key goal--yet that can't come at the expense of functionality or scalability. A key benefit of Informatica's Cloud Integration is that it is unified with the core data integration platform for performance and scalability.

Different Voices, Similar Themes

Although the panelists each had a different perspective on Integration - with one being an IT director, one being a consultant and architect, one being an application provider and one being an integration vendor, they were united about one key issue: Businesses run on data. And for businesses to take full advantage of that data, it must be shared across many application and data silos. That sharing makes employees and systems more valuable. That sharing must be easy to implement, manage and deploy, and it must be cost-effective.

And cloud-based integration is the way to do that.

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This blog offers an informed and informative perspective on the ongoing explosion of data and the technologies used to turn this data explosion into assets and competitive advantages.

Hollis Tibbetts

Hollis Tibbetts, or @SoftwareHollis as his 50,000+ followers know him on Twitter, is listed on various “top 100 expert lists” for a variety of topics – ranging from Cloud to Technology Marketing, Hollis is by day Evangelist & Software Technology Director at Dell's Global Software Group. By night and weekends he is a commentator, speaker and all-round communicator about Software, Data and Cloud in their myriad aspects. His latest communication venture is http://OnlineBackupNews.com - a free resource site to help organizations protect their data, applications and systems by providing online backup best practices, technology insights, strategies, real-world examples and various tips and techniques from a variety of industry experts.

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