The Embarrassing Reality of Data Integration
As much as hand-coding is decried as a pointless waste of time when it comes to data integration, there are far worse approaches. These approaches are the truly manual data integration that goes on in every department in every company and organization across the globe. This is Excel-based, manual data integration, where people within a business unit pull together data exports—“extract”—from various systems, manually clean and merge the data—“transform”—then send it in an email—“load”—to the “target” user of that data. This is the most rudimentary of all “ETL” (Extract-Transform-Load) approaches. Often the people performing this data integration are not particularly skilled at using Excel, using some self-defined “process” not even a best-practice for Excel, and which they don’t repeat from one time to the next. This is the true nadir of data integration and ETL, and yet it is probably its most common incarnation.
We are All Data Integrators
At the heart of this problem is not inaccessible Enterprise software, over-worked ICCs, or over-extended Enterprise IT groups. At the heart of this problem is a failure of these people to identify the work they do as data integration, and to understand that data integration is a key part of their job, and as such needs to be a core competency they seek to develop. But if data integration is to be a core competency developed by the tens of millions of office workers manually integrating data, there must be an evolution in the tools they use—in price, quality and usability.
ETL Tools Everywhere, but Where’s the One for Me?
To make data integration something that is embraced and practiced by millions, entry-level data integration/ETL tools must be accessibly priced—in-line with the Office suite of products at the most. Open source tools have made a great contribution to pushing pricing in this direction. But open source tools lack the quality and ease of use that will foster this level of adoption.
The current crop of enterprise ETL tools, while high quality and fit for enterprise volumes and complexity bring too much functionality for this use case. The hordes of manual data integrators need sophisticated tools, but they need to be able to easily navigate them, not get bogged down in functionality defined for long-tail use cases.
PowerCenter Express: The Antidote to Excel-Based ETL
PowerCenter Express, Informatica’s free data integration (ETL) and profiling software provides a solution to this problem. It offers Informatica’s mature PowerCenter product, complete with a full transformation library, workflow, and even in-line data profiling. PowerCenter Express though, has streamlined functionality to ensure ease of use. Installation is easy taking less than ten minutes, and requiring no configuration. Contextual cheat sheets, embedded tutorials, and full access to Informatica’s online MySupport portal guarantee even true novices will succeed with data integration.
It will take a while before these people realize that they are acting as “data integration hubs.” When they do, and when they realize they are at the heart of their own complicated data integration hairball, PowerCenter Express will be there to help them to extricate themselves.