Enterprise and data integration: How urgent?

Enterprise and data integration have been on front burners for years. But a changing business landscape demands a redoubling of efforts.

Enterprise and data integration have been at the forefront of IT initiatives for almost two decades now. A lot of progress has been made, especially because of the web, but there's a lot that still needs to be done. And these days, the stakes are even higher.

National Gallery of Art Photo by Joe McKendrick
Image: Joe McKendrick

Enterprises that take an architectural approach to integration already have an advantage in that their organizations can more seamlessly accept new applications, interfaces, and data types without turning the IT department upside down with one-off projects. That was the essence of a recent webcast, in which I had the opportunity to join Dr Claudia Imhoff, John Schmidt, vice president of global integration services at Informatica, and Chris Parsons, senior solutions manager at Informatica, in a discussion of what a next-generation data integration architecture can bring to the table.

One of the questions Chris, moderator and host of the event, put to us was, basically, "why now?" What has changed that makes data integration so urgent? Here's my take:

The global economy has drastically changed the business landscape. There's no longer such a thing as a huge, stable business with fixed departments, steady product lines, and fixed revenues. Rather, the organization of today is a constantly evolving entity. Teams are assembled to solve problems or tackle new opportunities, then disassembled. New business units are formed or purchased, and others are spun off or dissolved.

Today's organizations are "loosely coupled" businesses, structured as sets of services either created and maintained in-house or brokered through outside service providers.

With this fluid state of existence, applications and data need to be constantly re-assigned, re-allocated, or repurposed to ever-changing processes and workflows. Data needs to be brought in from a newly acquired business unit, applied to new applications, or merged within a new data model.

Bigness, originality, or even nimbleness doesn't win the game in business anymore. Products and services are too easy to copy. The business that succeeds in today's global economy is a smart business, capable of employing data analytics that will enable it to know what customers want and what's around the corner in the marketplace. An organization can't achieve this with fragmented views from one department or another — it needs a well-rounded, holistic view of its surroundings. It needs to be able to sense and respond to any and all threats and opportunities.    

Disclosure: Joe McKendrick was compensated for his participation in the webcast.