In the journey from a single-purpose cloud CRM app to the behemoth that it is today, Salesforce has made many smart acquisitions. However, the recent purchase of RelateIQ may have just been its most ingenious. Although a relatively small startup, RelateIQ has gained a big reputation for its innovative use of data science and predictive analytics, which would be highly beneficial to Salesforce customers.
As relevant from the acquisition, there is little doubt that the cloud application world is making a tectonic shift to data science and the appetite for Big Data to be pieced together to fuel the highly desired 360-degree view is only growing stronger.
But while looking ahead is certainly important, those of us who live in the present have much work yet still to accomplish in the here and now. For many, that means figuring out the best way to leverage data integration strategies and the Salesforce platform to gain actionable intelligence for our sales, marketing and CRM projects – today. Up until recently, this has involved manual, IT-heavy processes.
We need look no further than three common use cases where typical data integration strategies and technologies fail today’s business users:
Automated Metadata Discovery
The first, and perhaps most frustrating, has to do with discovering related objects. For example, objects, such as Accounts, don’t exist in a vacuum. They have related objects such as Contacts that can provide the business user – be it a salesperson or customer service manager, with context of the customer.
Now, during the typical data-integration process, these related objects are obscured from view because most integration technologies in the market today cannot automatically recognize the object metadata that could potentially relate all of the customer data together. The result is an incomplete view of the customer in Salesforce, and a lost opportunity to leverage the platform’s capability to strengthen a relationship or close a deal.
The Informatica Cloud platform is engineered ground up to be aware of the application ecosystem API and understand its metadata. As a result, our mapping engine can automatically discover metadata and relate objects to one another. This automated metadata discovery gives business users the ability to discover, choose and bring all of the related objects together into one mapping flow. Now, with a just a few clicks, business users, can quickly piece together relevant information in Salesforce and take the appropriate action.
Bulk Preparation of Data
The second instance where most data integration solutions typically fall short is with respect to the bulk preparation of data for analytic runs prior to the data transformation process. With the majority of Line-of-Business (LOB) applications now being run in the cloud, the typical business user has multiple terabytes of cloud data that either need to be warehoused on-premise or in the cloud, for a BI app to perform its analytics.
As a result, the best practice for bringing in data for analytics requires the ability to select and aggregate multiple data records from multiple data sources into a single batch, to speed up transformation and loading and – ultimately – intelligence gathering. Unfortunately, advanced transformations such as aggregations are something that is simply beyond the capabilities of most other integration technologies. Instead, most bring the data in one record or message at time, inhibiting speedy data loading and delivery of critical intelligence to business users when they need it most.
Alternatively, Informatica has leveraged its intellectual property in the market-leading data integration product, PowerCenter, and developed data aggregation transformation functionality within Informatica Cloud. This enables business users to pick a select group of important data points from multiple data sources – for example, country or dollar size of revenue opportunities – to aggregate and quickly process huge volumes in a single batch.
In-App Business Accelerators
Similar to what we’ve experienced with the mobile iOS and Android platforms, there recently has been an explosion of new, single-purpose business applications being developed and released for the cloud. While the platform-specific mobile model is predicated on and has flourished because of the “build it and they will come” premise, the paradigm does not work in the same way for cloud-based applications that are trying to become a platform.
The reason for this is that, unlike with iOS and Android platforms, in the cloud world, business users have a main LOB application that they are familiar with and rely on packaged integrations to bring in from other LOB cloud applications. However, with Salesforce extending its reach to become a cloud platform, the center of data gravity is shifting towards it being used for more than just CRM and the success of this depends upon these packaged integrations. Up until now, these integrations have just consisted of sample code and have been incredibly complex (and IT-heavy) to build and very cumbersome to use. As a result, business users lack the agility to easily customize fields or their workflows to match their unique business processes. Ultimately, the packages that were intended to accelerate business ended up inhibiting it.
Informatica Cloud’s Vibe Integration Packages (or VIPs) have made the promise of the integration package as a business accelerator into a reality, for all business users. Unlike sample code, VIPs are sophisticated templates that encapsulate the intelligence or logic of how you integrate the data between apps. While VIPs abstract complexity to give users out-of-the box integration, their pre-built mapping also provides great flexibility. Now, with just a few keystrokes, business users can map custom fields or leverage their unique business model into their Salesforce workflows.
A few paragraphs back I began this discussion with the recent acquisition of RelateIQ by Salesforce. While we can make an educated guess as to what that will bring in the future, no one knows for sure. What we do know is that, at present, Salesforce’s completeness as a platform – and source of meaningful analytics – requires something in addition to run your relevant business applications and solutions through it. A complete iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) solution such as Informatica Cloud has the power to make the vision into reality. Informatica enables this through the meta-data rich platform for data discovery, Industry leading data and application integration capabilities and business accelerators that put the power back in the hands of citizen application integrators and business users.
Join our webinar August 14 to learn more: Informatica Cloud Summer 2014: The Most Complete iPaaS
Once upon a time, database schema changes were rare and handled with scrutiny. The stability of source data led to the development of the traditional Data Integration model. In this traditional model, a developer pulled a fixed number of source fields into an integration, transformed these fields, and then mapped the data into appropriate target fields.
The world of data has profoundly changed. Today’s Cloud applications allow an administrator to add custom fields to an object at a moment’s notice. Because source data is increasingly malleable, the traditional Data Integration model is no longer optimal. The Data Integration model must evolve.
Today’s integrations must dynamically adapt to ever-changing environments. (Webinar HERE)
To meet these demands, Informatica has built the Informatica Cloud Mapping Designer. The Mapping Designer provides power and adaptability to integrations through the “link rules” and “incoming field rules” features. Integration developers no longer need to deal with fields on a one-by-one basis. Cloud Designer allows the integration developer to specify a set of dynamic “rules” that tell the mapping how fields need to be handled.
For example, the default rule is “Include all fields”, which is both simple and powerful. The “all fields” rule dynamically resolves to bring in as many fields as exist at the source at run time. Regardless of how many new fields the application developer or database administrator may have thrown in to the source after the integration was developed, this simple rule can bring in all the new fields into the integration dynamically. This exponentially increases developer productivity, as the integration developer is not making modifications just to keep up with changes to the integration endpoints. Instead, the integration is “future proofed”.
Link rules can be defined in combination using both “includes” and “excludes” criteria. The rules can be of four types:
- Include or Exclude All fields
- Include or Exclude Fields of a particular datatype (example: String, numeric, decimal, datetime, blob etc)
- Include or Exclude Fields that fit a name pattern (example: any field that ends with “_c” or any field that starts with “Shipping_”)
- Include or Exclude Fields by a particular name (example: “Id”, “Name” etc)
Any combination of the link rules can be put together to create sophisticated dynamic rules for fields to flow.
Each transformation in the integration can specify the set of rules that determine what fields flow into that particular transformation. For example, if I need all custom fields from a Salesforce source to flow into a target, I would simply “Include fields by name pattern : suffixed with ‘_c’” – which is the naming convention for custom field names in Salesforce. In another example, If I need to perform standardization of date formats for all datetime fields in an expression, I can define a rule to “Include fields by datatype – datetime”.
The dynamic nature of the link rules is what empowers a mapping created in Informatica Cloud Designer to be easily converted into a highly reusable integration template through parameterization.
For example, the entire source object can be parameterized and the integration developer may focus on the core integration logic without having to worry about individual fields. For example I can build an integration for bringing data into a slowly changing dimension table in a datawarehouse and this integration can apply to any source object. When the integration is executed by substituting different source objects for the source parameter, the integration would work as expected since the logical rules can dynamically bring in the fields regardless of what the source object structure is. Now all of a sudden, an integration developer is only required to build one reusable integration template for replicating multiple objects to the datawarehouse and NOT dozens or even hundreds of such repeated integration mappings. Needless to say, maintenance is hugely optimized.
With the power of logically defining field propagation through an integration combined with the ability to parameterize just about any part of the integration logic, the Cloud Mapping Designer provides a unique and powerful platform for developing reusable end to end integration solutions (such as Opportunity to Order, Accounts load to Salesforce, SAP product catalog to Salesforce, File load to Amazon redshift etc). Such prebuilt end-to-end solutions or VIPs (Vibe Integration Packages) can be easily customized by any consuming customer to adapt to their unique environments and business needs by tweaking only certain configurations but largely reusing the core integration logic.
What could be better than building integrations… building far fewer integrations that are reusable and self-adapting
To learn more, join the upcoming Cloud Spring release Webinar on Thursday, March 13.