Data integration: Definition, tools, and other relevant information

online printingMaking the most out of Big Data became a goal for everyone out there, both individuals and companies. Data creates a big buzz in all companies at the moment, regardless of their size. Taking data-driven decisions seems to be needed every single day, as they influence business strategies entirely. That is the reason why researchers started to look for answers for each industry regarding how to process data. Thus, data integration tools were born, and they are currently transforming the way entrepreneurs handle their data. Analytics are more complex and the amount of data that is created every single moment is overwhelming, so people must find ways to reduce the time and workload that is required to handle this huge volume of data that is rapidly multiplying.

If you own a company, you already know how difficult it is to keep track of all the trends in terms of technological advancements. Data integration changed tremendously in the past few years, as the tools that companies can use at the moment can make everything easier, more efficient and safer. Approaching a data integration project can be done only by gathering enough information about this topic. Data integration involves a series of processes that combine both technical knowledge and business knowledge. Understanding the analytical trends of today will help you manage your business the proper way in the following years. This article should include all the information you need to get started.

An in-depth definition of data integration

In order to use data integration tools, you must first understand what they involve. Data integration represents a combination of multiple processes that are used to bring data from multiple sources into a unified view. The processes involved are ingestion, cleansing, mapping, transforming and others. Data integration is absolutely paramount in companies that have to deal with a great amount of data, considering the explosion of Big Data mentioned above.

Structured and unstructured data is difficult to manage if not applying the proper initiative. Modern businesses usually apply data integration initiatives to improve the data-driven decisions they make in the future, especially because the competition factor. Better, faster decisions represent the key to making more profit in a shorter time, which will propel the business to the top without much effort. The unified data can come from both internal and external sources, and the unified result can be used at its fullest by the company’s employees and owners. In simpler words, data integration – as the name says it – takes all the data that your business needs to function and combines it into one single pile of information, that is easy to work with.

What data integration tools represent?

Data integration tools do all the job for you. They handle your entire data volume by integrating it the proper way. What is truly important about data integration tools is that they are suitable for specific industries, data types or formats. To choose the best data integration tool for your business, you must address what things you need to change first. The processes that these software programs tackle are data integration, transformation, profiling, and mapping. Some programs are different from others and include more or fewer steps, but these are the basic ones.

These tools will help any business owner or employee to handle data easier. The processes are automated and you don’t need to understand what the mechanisms behind them are. You only need to understand the result and how it influences your work. Depending on the data integration tool that you choose, the unified data can be used differently. Basically, what a business needs from data integration are to increase the accessibility to the company’s data. This will visibly improve collaboration and efficiency across the company while reducing human errors.

The benefits of data integration tools

First of all, data integration saves a lot of time. Integrating data will lead to shortening the time needed to thoroughly analyze and work with it. A unified view will automatically eliminate the need of manually going through large amounts of data until finding what you are looking for. Employees will save a lot of time by not having to build connections on their own, with no starting point to begin with. Using the right data integration tools should save employees hundreds of hours of research.

Since they save this considerable amount of time, employees can focus on the tasks that can really influence the productivity and efficiency of the business itself, thus making it stand out from the crowd. Running reports is much easier when a data integration tool is able to generate them. Plus, data integration tool reports might offer valuable information that could have been missed when gathering it manually.

Wondering if data integration tools could increase your business ROI? Well, considering that the initial investment is not that considerable as people believe, the return on investment is huge. Data integration tools open doors that were previously inaccessible for the business industry. Accomplishing much more with fewer resources is the goal that businesses can now achieve through data integration. Increasing the competitiveness factor is a direct result of data integration because the decision-making accuracy is increased. Up-to-the-minute data is convenient for making fast decisions and sell on the spot, which means your company will be selected instead of your competition.

Misconceptions

Some businesses avoid data integration tools because of several misconceptions related to this topic. The biggest misconception is that IT managers sometimes consider that the data integration tools today are not different from the ones launched in the past. The truth is that data integration software has come very far in recent years, and upgrades are required to fully take advantage of the functionalities they have. If remaining stuck, it might be easier to say that data integration doesn’t do much difference, because you don’t get to see the benefits of real-time data integration and virtualization. Data cleansing and profiling tools are much more complex today, and people who don’t opt for upgrades can’t enjoy the features.

The second misconception has to do with manual SQL encoding. Some business owners consider that having their data manually handled through SQL is more efficient because you can perform the integration tasks more in-detail. The truth is that manual integration takes a lot of time and can be full of human errors. Manually written scripts are not scalable either, and – in time – they become so outdated that you can’t use them any longer. That’s not the case with data integration tools.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) explained

When a business fully relies on traditional methods of handling information, it doesn’t use its full potential to activate on the market. The appropriate method to handle data is by using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) software. EDI helps people get rid of all the paper and human interaction required in some companies and brings in a better way of handling data, with no paper or people involved. Data integration involves the automation of all processes related to a company’s data in the first place. Using EDI allows data exchange from computer to computer, with no need for human interaction in the process. All businesses should become paperless in the near future, and data integration, EDI and the other emerging technologies in the upcoming years will help the process.

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