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Master Data Management

Data Integration: Why It Matters to Your Business

What are the Benefits of Data Integration?

Data integration is the technological process by which information collected from different sources is combined and reconciled to provide a more extensive view of a situation. At a time when the amount of data available to businesses is growing exponentially, it’s more important than ever to establish reliable data integration processes.

Data Integration Powers Business Analytics

Data integration is one component of a company’s master data management program. Business analytics programs are fully dependent upon accurate data being fed in for review, but many companies ingest data from disparate sources. Data integration preserves the integrity of the information even while it’s being combined and processed to allow for further examination.

Due to the complexity of modern business operations, data measuring the same metric or key performance indicator (KPI) often must be tracked through different programs or vendors. While insights can still be gleaned by looking at individual data streams, data integration allows users to see the bigger picture. Without a reliable data integration method, businesses are left with only partial views of their company’s position in the marketplace.

How Data Integration Works

It’s important to understand that “data integration” refers to a process, not an individual method. And various data integration toolkits are available to service both the diversity of data being collected and the needs of individual businesses.

Let’s outline a basic data integration process:

  • Data is ingested from two or more databases with different organizational structures (heterogeneous databases). Even though two or more databases may house logically structured data, they would not normally be able to communicate with one another.
  • The disparate data is stored in a data warehouse. It’s run through a predefined schema, or set of rules and classifications, designed to reconcile the various ways the information is referenced among databases.
  • The governing schema allows users to submit queries based upon a universally understood system, meaning that multiple data sources can be explored in concert.

The steps above describe data integration in its simplest form. The demands being placed on data integration technologies are expanding. Unstructured data, such as information contained in text comments, often requires the mediating schema to understand semantic links between entities. This adds a level of complexity to the process and represents the cutting edge of data management technology.

Don’t worry if this all sounds a bit daunting. There are many commercially available tools that, with minimal modifications, can elegantly handle data integration for your business, including cloud-based data solutions for the enterprise. Data integration software frees decision-makers to spend their time building strategies based on clean, integrated data – something computers cannot yet tackle.

Data Integration Checklist for Businesses

Data integration is an automated process, but the rules governing it are written by humans. Business users need to be clear about their needs and requirements when approaching the IT department for help. Here are several issues to consider about your data integration efforts:

  • What business questions are you trying to answer by using data integration?
  • By clearly defining your business needs, you’ll better understand whether data integration can provide a solution to the problem.

  • Which data needs to be ingested, and what are the sources to be reconciled?
  • Bringing extraneous data into the equation can complicate the efforts and slow the progress of your IT department.

  • How often is new data available? Is data updated hourly, daily, or weekly?
  • You need to make sure that everyone understands the needs of the end-user. This helps determine the resources and computing power that will be required to get the information you want in a timely fashion.

  • Who needs access to the data, and which software applications will be used to review it?
  • Data needs to be delivered to the right people through specific applications. Your IT staff needs to know these details ahead of time.

Data integration enables businesses to get more from the information they already collect. Ensuring quality throughout the data value chain will lead to more relevant results, analysis, and strategies.

Dun & Bradstreet publishes master data products for the enterprise. These solutions allow companies to integrate their data with our comprehensive business information database.

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