Businesses can no longer afford IT to be a bottleneck in delivering authoritative and trustworthy information to the business. The business needs to be empowered to do more on their own through self-service. Self-service is the approach retail companies took years ago to eliminate wait times, reduce resource costs, and improve customer satisfaction. Consumers use self-service gas stations to pump their own gas, self-service checkout aisles to pay for groceries, self-service web sites to book travel, and more recently self-service using mobile devices to find the nearest restaurant or purchase tickets for a movie. Yet, businesses are still forced to wait months to access valuable information. And that wait often costs the business more than all of IT combined.
Enabling business self-service requires business -friendly tools that allow analysts to directly access information and perform related tasks while IT retains control for governance, compliance, and to prevent the business from making costly mistakes. For example, at a gas station, payment is first authorized before you can select your choice of gasoline and when your tank is full the pump automatically shuts off. The process is secure, efficient, and prevents you from spilling gasoline which could create a dangerous situation. Another example that many of us are familiar with is self-service software support. Personally, when I experience a problem with my computer, I first go to a tech support web-site and search a knowledge base for a resolution assuming that someone else has likely faced the same problem. The resolution may be as simple as downloading and installing a software patch.
With self-service becoming more commonplace in our daily lives can we also find ways to apply self-service to data integration? The answer is yes! Informatica 9.1 provides the business with an intuitive browser-based analyst tool to quickly find the data they need using business terms, define source-to-target mapping specifications, select from an inventory of pre-built business rules to transform the data (including ETL and data quality rules or creating their own rules on-the-fly), validate the rules meet the requirements, and preview the results of their specifications. An analyst is guided through the data integration specification process just like a consumer at a grocery store is guided through the process of scanning their items and authorizing payment. In fact, an analyst on their own can generate a federated SQL view for a BI report directly from a specification without the assistance of a developer. This is akin to using RFID technology to automatically scan your groceries and debit your bank account as you walk out of the store with your grocery cart. The specification the analyst creates is shared with developers, who can collaborate with the business as needed to get the work done faster or help with more complex data integration logic. Throughout the process IT retains control with role-based security, business-IT collaboration, and a central repository of specifications, business rules, mappings, and metadata to ensure compliance, standardization, and consistency.
How much of the bottleneck has self-service removed? Some early adopters have reduced new report creation down from months to days. It’s a difference that could move companies to leadership positions in their markets, and make traditional data integration, like the full-service gas station, part of the past.