As business becomes increasingly dependent on electronic data the demand to integrate multiplesources of data into a single application or report has driven market growth for software that can natively work with proprietary and open source data. Known as data integration, this software accesses data stored in incompatible formats to produce new data and reports.Combining data from across the corporation, some of which can be decades old, with other data contained in databases, emails, documents, spreadsheets, or applications requires specialized solutions capable of interfacing with the data preferably natively so that unintended alterations aren’t made to the date during conversion.
The bewildering number of data formats means writing a custom translator is limited to corporations with large budgets and in-house developed databases, although even in these situations it is often still economic to license third party data integration translator software. The best third party integration software understands major formats such as SAP, DB2, Oracle etc.
Due to the complexity of data integration products most are proprietary in nature with distinct benefits and their own disadvantages. Typically, each vendor will provide a basic system for mapping data, and each supported format requiring the installation of extensions or plugins. Whilst many corporate databases and other information are also proprietary, the decision to license further proprietary software is contentious.
Several of the more popular formats for communicating data are open source such as XML, and almost all data integration software will export using this format if required, thus allowing applications such as word processors to access and manipulate the data, a major use of data integration at senior management level.
On road salespeople, financial advisors, delivery personnel, and merchandisers using portable data assistants (PDA) and laptop computers are not always capable to connecting to the corporate servers resulting in data that needs to be synchronized once back in the office. Data integration software is an ideal solution allowing for existing software installed on the laptop or PDA to be used instead of paying for multiple licenses of new software.
Wifi and mobile Internet may allow the use of a web browser to access corporate data, which also allows the data to be accessed by customers, and is another use for data integration software.
Further options for data integration software include the growing range of open source products that can be downloaded and assessed without charge, offering the promise of obtaining software that can be customized in-house yet also offering community assistance that is not limited to the original vendor.
Choosing the correct data integration software might be an involved process, and decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly if any form of data cleansing is to be undertaken and the source data consigned to permanent backup such as when older software are being retired.
Retiring older software without retiring or corrupting the data is possible, and of course may give the information a new lease of life allowing for more detailed and longer term customer profiling. Cleansing is the process of converting old data into new formats that also clears redundancies, and reconciles the information against other sources of data with common indexes.