Launching a new coverage line? Moving accounts off the mainframe? Taking over a smaller company?

Let's not mince words: data integration is hard work. There are a lot of data sources that need to be vetted, cleansed, transformed and brought into the fold.

Perhaps there is a way to establish a system flexible enough to absorb any and all new data that comes its way. In a recent webcast, I had the opportunity to join Dr. Claudia Imhoff and John Schmidt, VP of global integration services at Informatica Corporation, in a discussion of the best practices that will enable more seamless data integration as organizations change.

What's required is an adaptable architecture — something we call a next-generation data integration architecture — which can grow and change, while enabling “one-click integration” as new data sources are brought in.

John Schmidt, who is also co-author of "Lean Integration," painted the vision of what such an architecture should look like.

For example, data integration becomes a business process, not an IT activity. This is an important step to achieving more important value from integration activities. IT still plays a key role as an enabler of the process, however. The key is that data integration is baked into the business and is fairly automated, rather than being a special or one-off activity that needs to be started from scratch every time a new data set is brought into the business. Rather, data integration needs to be a repeatable process that occurs almost without any prompting.

John borrows a term from management guru Jim Collins, describing the elevation of data integration to an enterprise process as a “Big Hairy Audacious Vision.” As he puts it: “data integration is a business process just like sales, marketing, order fulfillment, invoicing, etc. Data Integration encourages business user self-service, where IT is an enabler and provides technical support and validation just like for other business processes.”

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

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