However, the nature of data integration has evolved, and so has the way we define the value. The operational benefits are still there, but there are more strategic benefits to consider as well.
Data integration patterns have progressed from simple patterns that replicated data amongst systems and data stores, to more service-based use of core business data that is able to provide better time-to-market advantages and much better agility. These are the strategic concepts that, when measured, add up to much more value than the simple operational advantages we first defined as the ROI of data integration.
The new ROI for data integration can be defined a few ways, including:
The use of data services to combine core data assets with composite applications and critical business processes. This allows those who leverage data services, which is a form of data integration, to mix and match data services to provide access to core applications or business processes. The applications leverage the data services (typically REST-based Web services) as ways to access back-end data stores, and can even redefine the metadata for the application or process (a.k.a., Data Virtualization).
This provides for a compressed time-to-market for critical business solutions, thus returning much in the way of investment. What’s more important is the enterprise’s new ability to change to adapt to new business opportunities, and thus get to the value of agility. This is clearly where the majority of ROI resides.
The use of integrated data to make better automated operational decisions. This means that we’re taking integrated data, either as services or through simple replication, or using that data to make automated decisions. Examples would be the ability to determine if inventory levels will support an increase in sales, or if the risk levels for financial trades are too high.
The use of big data analytics to define advanced use of data, including predicting the future. Refers to the process of leveraging big data, and big data analytics, to make critical calls around the business, typically calls that are more strategic in nature. An example would be the use of predictive analytics that leverages petabytes of data to determine if a product line is likely to be successful, or if the production levels will likely decline or increase. This is different than operational use of data, as we discussed previously, in that we’re making strategic versus tactical use of the information derived from the data. The ROI here, as you would guess, is huge.
A general pattern is that the ROI is much greater around data integration than it was just 5 years ago. This is due largely to the fact that enterprises understand that data is everything, when it comes to driving a business. The more effective the use of data, the better you can drive the business, and that means more ROI. It’s just that simple.
Editor’s note: For more information on Data Integration, consider downloading “Data Integration for Dummies“