Speaking with a supplier's customers tells me a great deal about the supplier, how products are being used and the suppliers customer service. This time, I've had the opportunity to communicate with Steven Mandelbaum of The Advisory Board Company about his organization's use of SnapLogic. Thanks for taking the time to provide thoughful and useful information, Steven.
Introduce yourself and your organization?
I’m Steven Mandelbaum, Managing Director of Information Systems at The Advisory Board Company, the leading provider of performance improvement services to the health care and education sectors. Our services include operational best practices and insights, business intelligence and analytic tools, management training, unbiased technology evaluation, and consulting support. My responsibilities span the integration of business processes and technology, as well as management of our travel program’s operations, technology, vendor selection, negotiation and contracting.
What were you doing that you need this type of technology?
Our 2,800 member organizations expect and deserve extreme efficiency and competency in The Advisory Board Company’s own services and operations. To help us continue meeting this expectation, we recently shifted our IT strategy from being on-premise software-focused towards a cloud computing model that can leverage the added flexibility, functionality, and faster deployments of cloud-based applications like Salesforce.com. While we are moving more and more into the cloud, our new solutions must work in tandem with our existing technology infrastructure on the ground.
We were looking for a cloud connection solution to help us migrate The Advisory Board Company’s member services management from Microsoft CRM and a variety of independent spreadsheets to our internally hosted data warehouse and reporting platform on Microsoft SQL Server, and then integrate that for bi-directional sync with our new Salesforce.com implementation. With information spread among more than two million records, several Salesforce.com objects (some projected to contain over 500,000 records), large data loads, and complex and diverse data sources and types, this was no simple task. Both our version of Microsoft CRM and our Salesforce instance were highly customized, but with different data models.
Our previous methods of integration just weren’t conducive to working with the cloud. In the past, we’ve used flat files to move information from one database to another, but when you’re working with APIs and metadata across the cloud, you need something more sophisticated.
What products did you consider before making a selection?
We considered a range of options before choosing a product to meet these challenges. We knew we could keep integrating systems using flat files, but that model was not well suited for the complex data and frequent updates we needed. Another option was to write our own code, but that would have been very time intensive because each time we added a new system, we’d have to write more code.
In terms of vendors, we looked at a pay-as-you-go integration service, but that also was not well suited for complex integrations, and it would’ve required us to pay more as we moved more data. We also considered a powerful on-premise integration tool, but it would’ve been very expensive and require lots of training and maintenance. We recognized that none of these choices would give us the flexibility and affordability we wanted, considering our plans to add more cloud applications to our IT portfolio in the future.
Why did you select SnapLogic?
We picked SnapLogic because it’s the right blend of flexibility, all-you-can-connect pricing, and power to enable our many complex business logic processes and data transformations. The power and ease of SnapLogic’s RESTful architecture and containerized connectors, or “Snaps,” make it the right-sized technology for us. It’s not as cumbersome as traditional enterprise integration tools, and we’ve found that it’s highly scalable for large and complex data.
We like that SnapLogic’s lightweight, reusable Snaps let us connect to different technologies easily, and that we can buy them as we need them in the SnapStore. The Salesforce and SQL Server Snaps, for example, each let us connect to any number of instances or databases all for one price, and they are incredibly intuitive, with wizards that inspect the metadata and automatically build out the appropriate structures. We love that SnapLogic gives us the right blend of buy-and-own with pay-as-you-go, ensuring more value as we add more cloud computing to our toolkit in the future.
One of the other things that attracted us to SnapLogic was the expertise of the founding team, because we knew they’d been successful building data integration solutions before.
What tangible benefits has your organization gotten through the use of this product?
An initial benefit was the speed at which we were able to migrate data from Microsoft CRM to our data warehouse and Salesforce.com. With SnapLogic’s concept of pipelines, we were building connections and moving data within 30 minutes of installing the software, and the development of our complex migration was completed in only 6 weeks.
We will also be using SnapLogic’s Snaps to keep our Salesforce.com data in sync with our on-premise SQL Server 2008 data warehouse for ongoing operational reporting and business intelligence analysis – enabling us to provide the timely and trusted data that is so crucial for our business. SnapLogic’s technology enables us to provide our experts with greater visibility into our data and saves them quite a bit of time by removing the need for them to hop from one system to another to find critical information.
Over time, we expect to gain even further efficiencies as we connect numerous additional cloud-based solutions, such as marketing automation, financial, and travel/expense applications.
What advice would you give others facing similar issues?
I’d encourage others to recognize the future benefits of designing a well-architected, scalable approach to integrating business information both in the cloud and across their existing technology infrastructure on the ground. Some methods of data and enterprise application integration contain hidden surprises and quickly become overly intricate, costly and burdensome. We’ve seen great dividends by finding a technology with standardized components that we can reuse again and again – that’s how all software should work.