Category Archives: Cloud Application Integration
The technology you use in your business can either help or hinder your business objectives.
In the past, slow and manual processes had an inhibiting effect on customer services and sales interactions, thus dragging down the bottom line.
Now, with cloud technology and customers interacting at record speeds, companies expect greater returns from each business outcome. What do I mean when I say business outcome?
Well according to Bluewolf’s State of Salesforce Report, you can split these into four categories: acquisition, expansion, retention and cost reduction.
With the right technology and planning, a business can speedily acquire more customers, expand to new markets, increase customer retention and ensure they are doing all of this efficiently and cost effectively. But what happens when the data or the way you’re interacting with these technologies grow unchecked, and/or becomes corrupted and unreliable.
With data being the new fuel for decision-making, you need to make sure it’s clean, safe and reliable.
With clean data, Salesforce customers, in the above-referenced Bluewolf survey, reported efficiency and productivity gains (66%), improved customer experience (34%), revenue growth (32%) and cost reduction (21%) in 2014.
It’s been said that it costs a business 10X more to acquire new customers than it does to retain existing ones. But, despite the additional cost, real continued growth requires the acquisition of new customers.
Gaining new customers, however, requires a great sales team who knows what and to whom they’re selling. With Salesforce, you have that information at your fingertips, and the chance to let your sales team be as good as they can possibly be.
And this is where having good data fits in and becomes critically important. Because, well, you can have great technology, but it’s only going to be as good as the data you’re feeding it.
The same “garbage in, garbage out” maxim holds true for practically any data-driven or –reliant business process or outcome, whether it’s attracting new customers or building a brand. And with the Salesforce Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud you have the technology to both attract new customers and build great brands, but if you’re feeding your Clouds with inconsistent and fragmented data, you can’t trust that you’ve made the right investments or decisions in the right places.
The combination of good data and technology can help to answer so many of your critical business questions. How do I target my audience without knowledge of previous successes? What does my ideal customer look like? What did they buy? Why did they buy it?
For better or worse, but mainly better, answering those questions with just your intuition and/or experience is pretty much out of the question. Without the tool to look at, for example, past campaigns and sales, and combining this view to see who your real market is, you’ll never be fully effective.
The same is true for sales. Without the right Leads, and the ability to interact with these Leads effectively, i.e., having the right contact details, company, knowing there’s only one version of that record, can make the discovery process a long and painful one.
But customer acquisition isn’t the only place where data plays a vital role.
When expanding to new markets or upselling and cross selling to existing customers, it’s the data you collect and report on that will help inform where you should focus your efforts.
Knowing what existing relationships you can leverage can make the difference between proactively offering solutions to your customers and losing them to a competitor. With Salesforce’s Analytics Cloud, this visibility that used to take weeks and months to view can now be put together in a matter of minutes. But how do you make strategic decisions on what market to tap into or what relationships to leverage, if you can only see one or two regions? What if you could truly visualize how you interact with your customers? Or see beyond the hairball of interconnected business hierarchies and interactions to know definitively what subsidiary, household or distributor has what? Seeing the connections you have with your customers can help uncover the white space that you could tap into.
Naturally this entire process means nothing if you’re not actually retaining these customers. Again, this is another area that is fuelled by data. Knowing who your customers are, what issues they’re having and what they could want next could help ensure you are always providing your customer with the ultimate experience.
Last, but by no means least, there is cost reduction. Only by ensuring that all of this data is clean — and continuously cleansed — and your Cloud technologies are being fully utilized, can you then help ensure the maximum return on your Cloud investment.
Learn more about how Informatica Cloud can help you maximize your business outcomes through ensuring your data is trusted in the Cloud.
A friend of mine recently reached out to me about some advice on CRM solutions in the market. Though I have not worked for a CRM vendor, I’ve had both direct experience working for companies that implemented such solutions to my current role interacting with large and small organizations regarding their data requirements to support ongoing application investments across industries. As we spoke, memories started to surface when he and I had worked on implementing Salesforce.com (SFDC) many years ago. Memories that we wanted to forget but important to call out given his new situation.
We worked together for a large mortgage lending software vendor selling loan origination solutions to brokers and small lenders mainly through email and snail mail based marketing. He was responsible for Marketing Operations, and I ran Product Marketing. The company looked at Salesforce.com to help streamline our sales operations and improve how we marketed and serviced our customers. The existing CRM system was from the early 90’s and though it did what the company needed it to do, it was heavily customized, costly to operate, and served its life. It was time to upgrade, to help grow the business, improve business productivity, and enhance customer relationships.
After 90 days of rolling out SFDC, we ran into some old familiar problems across the business. Sales reps continued to struggle in knowing who was a current customer using our software, marketing managers could not create quality mailing lists for prospecting purposes, and call center reps were not able to tell if the person on the other end was a customer or prospect. Everyone wondered why this was happening given we adopted the best CRM solution in the market. You can imagine the heartburn and ulcers we all had after making such a huge investment in our new CRM solution. C-Level executives were questioning our decisions and blaming the applications. The truth was, the issues were not related to SFDC but the data that we had migrated into the system and the lack proper governance and a capable information architecture to support the required data management integration between systems that caused these significant headaches.
During the implementation phase, IT imported our entire customer database of 200K+ unique customer entities from the old system to SFDC. Unfortunately, the mortgage industry was very transient and on average there were roughly 55K licenses mortgage brokers and lenders in the market and because no one ever validated the accuracy of who was really a customer vs. someone who had ever bought out product, we had a serious data quality issues including:
- Trial users who purchased evaluation copies of our products that expired were tagged as current customers
- Duplicate records caused by manual data entry errors consisting of companies with similar but entered slightly differently with the same business address were tagged as unique customers
- Subsidiaries of parent companies in different parts of the country that were tagged again as a unique customer.
- Lastly, we imported the marketing contact database of prospects which were incorrectly accounted for as a customer in the new system
We also failed to integrate real-time purchasing data and information from our procurement systems for sales and support to handle customer requests. Instead of integrating that data in real-time with proper technology, IT had manually loaded these records at the end of the week via FTP resulting in incorrect billing information, statement processing, and a ton of complaints from customers through our call center. The price we paid for not paying attention to our data quality and integration requirements before we rolled out Salesforce.com was significant for a company of our size. For example:
- Marketing got hit pretty hard. Each quarter we mailed evaluation copies of new products to our customer database of 200K, each costing the company $12 per to produce and mail. Total cost = $2.4M annually. Because we had such bad data, we would get 60% of our mailings returned because of invalid addresses or wrong contact information. The cost of bad data to marketing = $1.44M annually.
- Next, Sales struggled miserably when trying to upgrade a customer by running cold call campaigns using the names in the database. As a result, sales productivity dropped by 40% and experienced over 35% sales turnover that year. Within a year of using SFDC, our head of sales got let go. Not good!
- Customer support used SFDC to service customers, our average all times were 40 min per service ticket. We had believed that was “business as usual” until we surveyed what reps were spending their time each day and over 50% said it was dealing with billing issues caused by bad contact information in the CRM system.
At the end of our conversation, this was my advice to my friend:
- Conduct a data quality audit of the systems that would interact with the CRM system. Audit how complete your critical master and reference data is including names, addresses, customer ID, etc.
- Do this before you invest in a new CRM system. You may find that much of the challenges faced with your existing applications may be caused by the data gaps vs. the legacy application.
- If they had a data governance program, involve them in the CRM initiative to ensure they understand what your requirements are and see how they can help.
- However, if you do decide to modernize, collaborate and involve your IT teams, especially between your Application Development teams and your Enterprise Architects to ensure all of the best options are considered to handle your data sharing and migration needs.
- Lastly, consult with your technology partners including your new CRM vendor, they may be working with solution providers to help address these data issues as you are probably not the only one in this situation.
CRM systems have come a long way in today’s Big Data and Cloud Era. Many firms are adopting more flexible solutions offered through the Cloud like Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, and others. Regardless of how old or new, on premise or in the cloud, companies invest in CRM not to just serve their sales teams or increase marketing conversion rates, but to improve your business relationship with your customers. Period! It’s about ensuring you have data in these systems that is trustworthy, complete, up to date, and actionable to improve customer service and help drive sales of new products and services to increase wallet share. So how to do you maximize your business potential from these critical business applications?
Whether you are adopting your first CRM solution or upgrading an existing one, keep in mind that Customer Relationship Management is a business strategy, not just a software purchase. It’s also about having a sound and capable data management and governance strategy supported by people, processes, and technology to ensure you can:
- Access and migrate data from old to new avoiding develop cost overruns and project delays.
- Identify, detect, and distribute transactional and reference data from existing systems into your front line business application in real-time!
- Manage data quality errors including duplicate records, invalid names and contact information due to proper data governance and proactive data quality monitoring and measurement during and after deployment
- Govern and share authoritative master records of customer, contact, product, and other master data between systems in a trusted manner.
Will your data be ready for your new CRM investments? To learn more:
- Download Salesforce Integration for Dummies
- Download a new Whitepaper on how to Maximize Integration ROI with a Hybrid Approach
- Consolidating Multiple Salesforce Orgs: A Best Practice Guide
- Sign up for a 30 Day Trial of Informatica Cloud Integration
Follow me on Twitter @DataisGR8
With the Winter 2015 Release, Informatica Cloud Advances Real Time and Batch Integration for Citizen Integrators Everywhere
The first of these is in the area of connectivity and brings a whole new set of features and capabilities to those who use our platform to connect with Salesforce, Amazon Redshift, NetSuite and SAP.
Starting with Amazon, the Winter 2015 release leverages the new Redshift Unload Command, giving any user the ability to securely perform bulk queries, and quickly scan and place multiple columns of data in the intended target, without the need for ODBC or JDBC connectors. We are also ensuring the data is encrypted at rest on the S3 bucket while loading data into Redshift tables; this provides an additional layer of security around your data.
For SAP, we’ve added the ability to balance the load across all applications servers. With the new enhancement, we use a Type B connection to route our integration workflows through a SAP messaging server, which then connects with any available SAP application server. Now if an application server goes down, your integration workflows won’t go down with it. Instead, you’ll automatically be connected to the next available application server.
Additionally, we’ve expanded the capability of our SAP connector by adding support for ECC5. While our connector came out of the box with ECC6, ECC5 is still used by a number of our enterprise customers. The expanded support now provides them with the full coverage they and many other larger companies need.
Finally, for Salesforce, we’re updating to the newest versions of their APIs (Version 31) to ensure you have access to the latest features and capabilities. The upgrades are part of an aggressive roadmap strategy, which places updates of connectors to the latest APIs on our development schedule the instant they are announced.
The second major platform enhancement for the Winter 2015 release has to do with our Cloud Mapping Designer and is sure to please those familiar with PowerCenter. With the new release, PowerCenter users can perform secure hybrid data transformations – and sharpen their cloud data warehousing and data analytic skills – through a familiar mapping and design environment and interface.
Specifically, the new enhancement enables you to take a mapplet you’ve built in PowerCenter and bring it directly into the Cloud Mapping Designer, without any additional steps or manipulations. With the PowerCenter mapplets, you can perform multi-group transformations on objects, such as BAPIs. When you access the Mapplet via the Cloud Mapping Designer, the groupings are retained, enabling you to quickly visualize what you need, and navigate and map the fields.
Additional productivity enhancements to the Cloud Mapping Designer extend the lookup and sorting capabilities and give you the ability to upload or delete data automatically based on specific conditions you establish for each target. And with the new feature supporting fully parameterized, unconnected lookups, you’ll have increased flexibility in runtime to do your configurations.
The third and final major Winter release enhancement is to our Real Time capability. Most notable is the addition of three new features that improve the usability and functionality of the Process Designer.
The first of these is a new “Wait” step type. This new feature applies to both processes and guides and enables the user to add a time-based condition to an action within a service or process call step, and indicate how long to wait for a response before performing an action.
When used in combination with the Boundary timer event variation, the Wait step can be added to a service call step or sub-process step to interrupt the process or enable it to continue.
The second is a new select feature in the Process Designer which lets users create their own service connectors. Now when a user is presented with multiple process objects created when the XML or JSON is returned from a service, he or she can select the exact ones to include in the connector.
An additional Generate Process Objects feature automates the creation of objects, thus eliminating the tedious task of replicating hold service responses containing hierarchical XML and JSON data for large structures. These can now be conveniently auto generated when testing a Service Connector, saving integration developers a lot of time.
The final enhancement for the Process Designer makes it simpler to work with XML-based services. The new “Simplified XML” feature for the “Get From” field treats attributes as children, removing the namespaces and making sibling elements into an object list. Now if a user only needs part of the returned XML, they just have to indicate the starting point for the simplified XML.
While those conclude the major enhancements, additional improvements include:
- A JMS Enqueue step is now available to submit an XML or JSON message to a JMS Queue or Topic accessible via the a secure agent.
- Dequeuing (queue and topics) of XML or JSON request payloads is now fully supported.
Amazon Web Services and Informatica Deliver Data-Ready Cloud Computing Infrastructure for Every Business
At re:Invent 2014 in Las Vegas, Informatica and AWS announced a broad strategic partnership to deliver data-ready cloud computing infrastructure to any type or size of business.
Informatica’s comprehensive portfolio across Informatica Cloud and PowerCenter solutions connect to multiple AWS Data Services including Amazon Redshift, RDS, DynamoDB, S3, EMR and Kinesis – the broadest pre-built connectivity available to AWS Data Services. Informatica and AWS offerings are pre-integrated, enabling customers to rapidly and cost-effectively implement data warehousing, large scale analytics, lift and shift, and other key use cases in cloud-first and hybrid IT environments. Now, any company can use Informatica’s portfolio to get a plug-and-play on-ramp to the cloud with AWS.
Economical and Flexible Path to the Cloud
As business information needs intensify and data environments become more complex, the combination of AWS and Informatica enables organizations to increase the flexibility and reduce the costs of their information infrastructures through:
- More cost-effective data warehousing and analytics – Customers benefit from lower costs and increased agility when unlocking the value of their data with no on-premise data warehousing/analytics environment to design, deploy and manage.
- Broad, easy connectivity to AWS – Customers gain full flexibility in integrating data from any Informatica-supported data source (the broadest set of sources supported by any integration vendor) through the use of pre-built connectors for AWS.
- Seamless hybrid integration – Hybrid integration scenarios across Informatica PowerCenter and Informatica Cloud data integration deployments are able to connect seamlessly to AWS services.
- Comprehensive use case coverage – Informatica solutions for data integration and warehousing, data archiving, data streaming and big data across cloud and on-premise applications mesh with AWS solutions such as RDS, Redshift, Kinesis, S3, DynamoDB, EMR and other AWS ecosystem services to drive new and rapid value for customers.
New Support for AWS Services
Informatica introduced a number of new Informatica Cloud integrations with AWS services, including connectors for Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), to complement the existing connectors for Amazon Redshift and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS).
Additionally, the latest Informatica PowerCenter release for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) includes support for:
- PowerCenter Standard Edition and Data Quality Standard Edition
- Scaling options – Grid, high availability, pushdown optimization, partitioning
- Connectivity to Amazon RDS and Amazon Redshift
- Domain and repository DB in Amazon RDS for current database PAM (policies and measures)
To learn more, try our 60-day free Informatica Cloud trial for Amazon Redshift.
If you’re in Vegas, please come by our booth at re:Invent, Nov. 11-14, in Booth #1031, Venetian / Sands, Hall.
With Informatica Cloud, we’ve long tracked the growth of the various cloud apps and its adoption in the enterprise. Common business patterns – such as opportunity-to-order, employee onboarding, data migration and business intelligence – that once took place solely on-premises are now being conducted both in the cloud and on-premises.
The fact is that we are well on our way to a world where our business needs are best met by a mix of on-premises and cloud applications. Regardless of what we do or make, we can no longer get away with just on-premises applications – or at least not for long. As we become more reliant on cloud services, such as those offered by Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, NetSuite, Workday, we are embracing the reality of a new hybrid world, and the imperative for simpler integration it demands.
So, as the ground shifts beneath us, moving us toward the hybrid world, we, as business and IT users, are left standing with a choice: Continue to seek solutions in our existing on-premises integration stacks, or go beyond, to find them with the newer and simpler cloud solution. Let us briefly look at five business patterns we’ve been tracking.
One of the first things we’ve noticed with the hybrid environment is the incredible frequency with which data is moved back and forth between the on-premises and cloud environments. We call this the data integration pattern, and it is best represented by getting data, such as price list or inventory from Oracle E-Business into a cloud app so that the actual user of the cloud app can view the most updated information. Here the data (usually master data) is copied toserves a certain purpose. Data Integration also involves the typical needs of data to be transformed before it can be inserted or updated. The understanding of metadata and data models of the involved applications is key to do this effectively and repeatedly.
The second is the application integration pattern, or the real time transaction flow between your on-premises and cloud environment, where you have business processes and services that need to communicate with one another. Here, the data needs to be referenced in real time for a knowledge worker to take action.
The third, data warehousing in the cloud, is an emerging pattern that is gaining importance for both mid- and large-size companies. In this pattern, businesses are moving massive amounts of data in bulk from both on-premises and cloud sources into a cloud data warehouse, such as Amazon Redshift, for BI analysis.
The fourth, the Internet of Things (IOT) pattern, is also emerging and is becoming more important, especially as new technologies and products, such as Nest, enable us to push streaming data (sensor data, web logs, etc.) and combine them with other cloud and on-premises data sources into a cloud data store. Often the data is unstructured and hence it is critical for an integration platform to effectively deal with unstructured data.
The fifth and final pattern, API integration, is gaining prominence in the cloud. Here, an on-premise or cloud application exposes the data or service as an external API that can be consumed directly by applications or by a higher-level composite app in an orchestration.
While there are certainly different approaches to the challenges brought by Hybrid IT, cloud integration is often best-suited to solving them.
First, while the integration problems are more or less similar to the on-premise world, the patterns now overlap between cloud and on-premise. Second, integration responsibility is now picked up at the edge, closer to the users, whom we call “citizen integrators”. Third, time to market and agility demands that any integration platform you work with can live up to your expectations of speed. There are no longer multiyear integration initiatives in the era of the cloud. Finally, the same values that made cloud application adoption attractive (such as time-to-value, manageability, low operational overhead) also apply to cloud integration.
One of the most important forces driving cloud adoption is the need for companies to put more power into hands of the business user. These users often need to access data in other systems and they are quite comfortable going through the motions of doing so without actually being aware that they are performing integration. We call this class of users ‘Citizen Integrators’. For example, if a user uploads an excel file to Salesforce, it’s not something they would call as “integration”. It is an out-of-the-box action that is integrated with their user experience and is simple to use from a tooling point of view and oftentimes native within the application they are working with.
Cloud Integration Convergence is driving many integration use cases. The most common integration – such as employee onboarding – can span multiple integration patterns. It involves data integration, application integration and often data warehousing for business intelligence. If we agree that doing this in the cloud makes sense, the question is whether you need three different integration stacks in the cloud for each integration pattern. And even if you have three different stacks, what if an integration flow involves the comingling of multiple patterns? What we are noticing is a single Cloud Integration platform to address more and more of these use cases and also providing the tooling for both a Citizen Integrator as well as an experienced Integration Developer.
The bottom line is that in the new hybrid world we are seeing a convergence, where the industry is moving towards streamlined and lighter weight solutions that can handle multiple patterns with one platform.
The concept of Cloud Integration Convergence is an important one and we have built its imperatives into our products. With our cloud integration platform, we combine the ability to handle any integration pattern with an easy-to-use interface that empowers citizen integrators, and frees integration developers for more rigorous projects. And because we’re Informatica, we’ve designed it to work in tandem with PowerCenter, which means anything you’ve developed for PowerCenter can be leveraged for Informatica Cloud and vice versa thereby fulfilling Informatica’s promise of Map Once, Deploy Anywhere.
In closing, I invite you to visit us at the Informatica booth at Oracle Open World in booth #3512 in Moscone West. I’ll be there with some of my colleagues, and we would be happy to meet and talk with you about your experiences and challenges with the new Hybrid IT world.
What I love about the cloud is it has something of value to offer practically any government organization, regardless of size, maturity, point of view, approach. Even for the most conservative IT shops, there are use cases that just plain make sense. And with the growing availability of FEDRAMP certified offerings, it’s becoming easier to procure. But, thinking realistically, for reasons of law, budget, time, architecture, we know the cloud will not be the solution for every public sector problem. Some applications, some data will never leave your agency’s premises. And here in lies the new complexity. You have applications and data on-prem. You have applications and data in the cloud. And you have business requirements that require these apps to work together, to share data.
So, now that you have a hybrid environment, what can you do about? Let’s face it, we can talk about technology, architecture and approaches all day long, but, it always comes down to this, what should be done with the data. You need answers to questions such as; Is it safe? Is it accessible? It is reliable? How do I know if the integrity has been compromised? What about the quality? How error-prone is the data? How complete is the data? How do we manage it across this new hybrid landscape? How can I get data from a public cloud application to my on-prem data warehouse? How can I leverage the flexibility of public IaaS to build a new application that will need access to data that is also required for an on-prem legacy application?
I know many government IT professional are wrestling with these questions and seeking solutions. So, here’s an interesting thought. Most of these questions are not exactly new, they are just taking on the added context of the cloud. Prior to the cloud, many agencies discovered answers in the form of a data integration platform. The platform is used to ensure every application, every user has access to the data they need to perform their mission or job. I think of it this way. The platform is a “standardized” abstraction layer that ensures all your data gets to where it needs to be, when it needs to be there, in the form it needs to be in. There are hundreds of government IT shops using such an approach.
Here’s the good news. This approach to integrating data can be extended to include the cloud. Imagine placing “agents” in all the places where your data needs to live, the agents capable of communicating with each other to integrate, alter or move data. Now add to this the idea of a cloud-based remote control that allows you to control all the functions of the agents. Using such a platform now enables your agency to tie on-prem systems to cloud systems, minimizing the effect of having multiple silos of information. Now government workers and warfighters will have the ability to more quickly get complete, accurate data, regardless of where it originates and citizens will benefit from more effectively delivered services.
How would such an approach change your ideas on how to leverage the cloud for your agency? If you live near the Washington, DC area, you may wish to drop in on the Government Cloud Computing and Data Center Conference & Expo. One of my colleagues, Ronen Schwartz will be discussing this topic. For those not in the vicinity, you can learn more here.
Informatica Cloud Summer ’14 Release Breaks Down Barriers with Unified Data Integration and Application Integration for Real Time and Bulk Patterns
This past week, Informatica Cloud marked an important milestone with the Summer 2014 release of the Informatica Cloud platform. This was the 20th Cloud release, and I am extremely proud of what our team has accomplished.
“SDL’s vision is to help our customers use data insights to create meaningful experiences, regardless of where or how the engagement occurs. It’s multilingual, multichannel and on a global scale. Being able to deliver the right information at the right time to the right customer with Informatica Cloud Summer 2014 is critical to our business and will continue to set us apart from our competition.”
– Paul Harris, Global Business Applications Director, SDL Pic
When I joined Informatica Cloud, I knew that it had the broadest cloud integration portfolio in the marketplace: leading data integration and analytic capabilities for bulk integration, comprehensive cloud master data management and test data management, and over a hundred connectors for cloud apps, enterprise systems and legacy data sources.. all delivered in a self-service design with point-and-click wizards for citizen integrators, without the need for complex and costly manual custom coding.
But, I also learned that our broad portfolio belies another structural advantage: because of Informatica Cloud’s unique, unified platform architecture, it has the ability to surface application (or real time) integration capabilities alongside its data integration capabilities with shared metadata across real time and batch workflows.
With the Summer 2014 release, we’ve brought our application integration capabilities to the forefront. We now provide the most-complete cloud app integration capability in the marketplace. With a design environment that’s meant not for just developers but also line of business IT, now app admins can also build real time process workflows that cut across on-premise and cloud and include built-in human workflows. And with the capability to translate these process workflows instantly into mobile apps for iPhone and Android mobile devices, we’re not just setting ourselves apart but also giving customers the unique capabilities they need for their increasingly mobile employees.
“Schneider’s strategic initiative to improve front-office performance relied on recording and measuring sales person engagement in real time on any mobile device or desktop. The enhanced real time cloud application integration features of Informatica Cloud Summer 2014 makes it all possible and was key to the success of a highly visible and transformative initiative.”
– Mark Nardella, Global Sales Process Director, Schneider Electric SE
With this release, we’re also giving customers the ability to create workflows around data sharing that mix and match batch and real time integration patterns. This is really important. Because unlike the past, where you had to choose between batch and real time, in today’s world of on-premise, cloud-based, transactional and social data, you’re now more than ever having to deal with both real time interactions and the processing of large volumes of data. For example, let’s surmise a typical scenario these days at high-end retail stores. Using a clienteling iPad app, the sales rep looks up bulk purchase history and inventory availability data in SAP, confirms availability and delivery date, and then processes the customer’s order via real time integration with NetSuite. And if you ask any customer, having a single workflow to unify all of that for instant and actionable insights is a huge advantage.
“Our industry demands absolute efficiency, speed and trust when dealing with financial information, and the new cloud application integration feature in the latest release of Informatica Cloud will help us service our customers more effectively by delivering the data they require in a timely fashion. Keeping call-times to a minimum and improving customer satisfaction in real time.”
– Kimberly Jansen, Director CRM, Misys PLC
We’ve also included some exciting new Vibe Integration packages or VIPs. VIPs deliver pre-built business process mappings between front-office and back-office applications. The Summer 2014 release includes new bidirectional VIPs for Siebel to Salesforce and SAP to Salesforce that make it easier for customers to connect their Salesforce with these mission-critical business applications.
And lastly, but not least importantly, the release includes a critical upgrade to our API Framework that provides the Informatica Cloud iPaaS end-to-end support for connectivity to any company’s internal or external APIs. With the newly available API creation, definition and consumption patterns, developers or citizen integrators can now easily expose integrations as APIs and users can consume them via integration workflows or apps, without the need for any additional custom code.
The features and capabilities released this summer are available to all existing Informatica Cloud customers, and everyone else through our free 30-day trial offer.
Since the survey was published, many enterprises have, indeed, leveraged the cloud to host business data in both IaaS and SaaS incarnations. Overall, there seems to be two types of enterprises: First are the enterprises that get the value of data integration. They leverage the value of cloud-based systems, and do not create additional data silos. Second are the enterprises that build cloud-based data silos without a sound data integration strategy, and thus take a few steps backward, in terms of effectively leveraging enterprise data.
There are facts about data integration that most in enterprise IT don’t yet understand, and the use of cloud-based resources actually makes things worse. The shame of it all is that, with a bit of work and some investment, the value should come back to the enterprises 10 to 20 times over. Let’s consider the facts.
Fact 1: Implement new systems, such as those being stood up on public cloud platforms, and any data integration investment comes back 10 to 20 fold. The focus is typically too much on cost and not enough on the benefit, when building a data integration strategy and investing in data integration technology.
Many in enterprise IT point out that their problem domain is unique, and thus their circumstances need special consideration. While I always perform domain-specific calculations, the patterns of value typically remain the same. You should determine the metrics that are right for your enterprise, but the positive values will be fairly consistent, with some varying degrees.
Fact 2: It’s not just about data moving from place-to-place, it’s also about the proper management of data. This includes a central understanding of data semantics (metadata), and a place to manage a “single version of the truth” when it comes to dealing massive amounts of distributed data that enterprises must typically manage, and now they are also distributed within public clouds.
Most of those who manage enterprise data, cloud or no-cloud, have no common mechanism to deal with the meaning of the data, or even the physical location of the data. While data integration is about moving data from place to place to support core business processes, it should come with a way to manage the data as well. This means understanding, protecting, governing, and leveraging the enterprise data, both locally and within public cloud providers.
Fact 3: Some data belongs on clouds, and some data belongs in the enterprise. Those in enterprise IT have either pushed back on cloud computing, stating that data outside the firewall is a bad idea due to security, performance, legal issues…you name it. Others try to move all data to the cloud. The point of value is somewhere in between.
The fact of the matter is that the public cloud is not the right fit for all data. Enterprise IT must carefully consider the tradeoff between cloud-based and in-house, including performance, security, compliance, etc.. Finding the best location for the data is the same problem we’ve dealt with for years. Now we have cloud computing as an option. Work from your requirements to the target platform, and you’ll find what I’ve found: Cloud is a fit some of the time, but not all of the time.
SAP’s Jam social platform has generated a great deal of buzz since its release last May – and for good reason. As detailed by Alan Lepofsky in his coverage for ZDNet, the new Jam reboot included the kind of things, such as out-of-the-box integration, workflow templates and simplified developer tools, that make both IT and business users very happy.
However, the complexity of SAP’s Business Suite (or ECC as it’s called) does not easily lend itself to integration with other applications. The code underlying it is built on a proprietary language called ABAP – a combination of COBOL and Open SQL with some object-oriented features– that requires specialized knowledge and skill not easily found outside of the SAP ecosystem. Up until now, the typical integration project required the involvement of a specialized SAP consultant to develop custom ABAP code or map complex BAPI/IDoc structures as well as a BASIS administrator to transport the ABAP code from development to QA to production. The result was expensive and manually intensive. Integration projects took a few months or longer to complete and were not agile enough to handle ongoing requirements or even field changes.
Today, Informatica Cloud offers business a more innovative approach to SAP data extraction – ultimately, promoting agile development and enabling rapid deployment with the following three important features.
Automatically Generating ABAP Code
At the core of Informatica’s solution is the Cloud Connector for SAP. While the face of the Connector is a simple, wizard-based, drag-and-drop interface, under the hood it uses a Remote Function Call (RFC) to dynamically generate ABAP code (based on user choices) to connect with SAP and access the data through the application layer.
Drag and Drop Design Palette
The wizard guides the user through the steps necessary to extract the data from SAP and send it to any application where it is needed. Using Informatica Cloud’s drag-and-drop design palette, one can simply choose SAP – like any other application endpoint – and select what is needed to connect to the target, without ever having write specialized code.
Because of the dynamically generated ABAP code, SaaS application administrators trying to connect to SAP don’t have to deal with the SAP transports (and the lengthy development cycle) for each extract, reducing the time from months to weeks for an individual project, as well as the load on the BASIS administrators. The increased agility enables end users to respond to business demands by acquiring related data extracts, field and feature changes and/or additions – in near real time. Informatica also reduces the load on both the admin and the server – even further by eliminating the need for transports and sending the data in packets, and by running the extracts in the background. And since no data is staged or buffered on the SAP server, there is never a risk of compromising the system’s or online users’ performance.
Speedy Development Through Vibe Integration Packages
Informatica’s solution also includes a technology bundle to speed up development time and reduce the user’s learning curve. The bundle, or Informatica Vibe integration package, consists of downloadable templates that help the user to understand and use the complex SAP interfaces. Future roadmap releases will contain resources for additional SAS endpoints.
In his review mentioned above in the opening, Lepofsky notes the importance of integration and the partner ecosystem to the Jam platform. The same can be said of the SAP Business Suite and the specialized LOB cloud apps that orbit it. Without ready and real-time access to SAP’s data, even the most feature-rich app is of little use to anyone. With Informatica’s Cloud Connector for SAP, business users, like Informatica customer Addivant, now have a simple and efficient way to solve the most pressing problems presented by SAP to cloud app integration.
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