Editor’s Note: We continue our Smarter Computing Breakthrough series this week with the first of two posts on Information Integration from Distinguished Engineer and Chief Architect Dan Wolfson. This series of posts will help introduce you to the key technological breakthroughs that are the unsung heroes of the IT infrastructure that enables a Smarter Planet. You can find links to previous Breakthroughs posts at the bottom of this page.
Information Integration: Assembling Information Supply Chains
How can you get the highest business value from your data?
Information is a critical asset for an organization. And as with any asset, organizations naturally want to get the highest possible return on investment they can from it, over its complete lifecycle.
Consider that information is both the source of most business strategies and the eventual yardstick by which those strategies are measured, and you’ll see how critical it really is, if managed well.
What does “managing well” mean, though?
We can describe it simply in these terms: delivering the right information to the right place (and people) at the right time at the right cost. To do this takes careful design, implementation and processes. It requires a strong architectural foundation, effective project management – and, of course the right middleware used in the right way.
Most organizations, however, find it hard to create such an idealized information flow. To see why, think of information as a supply chain. Just as with any supply chain, careful design is needed to ensure that material flows smoothly and is processed correctly. Improperly implemented changes to the supply chain can lead to incorrect or questionable results.
And, for example, just as a car manufacturer wants to be able to streamline their supply chain, to make the highest quality cars in the shortest time, and ultimately improve its business outcome, so, too, should organizations want to refine the information supply chain to deliver quality information to consuming applications and users. By doing so, they can both improve their business results and manage operational costs. An effective information supply chain can improve customer satisfaction by providing a complete view of the customer, can support analytics to better plan and manage operations, and can facilitate regulatory compliance. An efficient information supply chain reduces redundant data and leverages infrastructure resources in a cost-efficient way.
Data, however, arrives in many formats, from many sources, and is used in different ways by different business groups and technical silos. This diversity and complexity makes establishing and operating information supply chains difficult – both from a technical as well as organizational perspective. .
And as organizations grow and change over time — perhaps by acquiring or merging with other companies, perhaps simply by expanding their services and products to address more customer needs — information supply chains need to evolve appropriately.
Evolving an information supply chain takes careful management and governance. For unlike a car manufacturer that temporarily suspends a manufacturing line so that they can retool for a new car model, information supply chains must continue to run for the organization as a whole to operate. So planning for and executing change with minimum disruption is a critical aspect to information supply change management.
Look for a solution portfolio that reflects best practices and extensive, cross-industry expertise
The broad diversity of information needs leads inevitably to a wide number of information supply chain patterns and implementation styles. Collecting call data records from a phone switch for real-time marketing provides a different set of challenges from supporting daily compliance reporting at a bank.
The fact that these challenges apply to virtually every organization, in every business sector, only makes the need for information integration solutions that much more pressing. To really provide a unified, trusted information supply chains of the kind I’ve been discussing, integration solutions should be able to discover, evaluate and cleanse data;, integrate it with other data as appropriate to form a unified, trusted source and finally deliver it where, when and how it’s needed.
This, in fact, is the thinking behind our own data integration portfolio — a set of tools that interact through a common foundation and metadata repository to execute on every one of those points. What IBM offers is the industry’s leading platform to
- Understand information: Discover and profile information to understand the relationships, the quality and content of information sources is an essential early step.
- Integrate and Cleanse: Improve the quality of data by standardizing and de-duplicating the information to prevent that information from spreading throughout the organization and minimize the negative business impact that might otherwise occur.
- Transform and move information: Increase the speed at which data can be utilized to positive effect, by unifying and integrating it across applications, services, sources and formats in the ways that make the most business sense in any given context.
- Deliver information: Put trusted, synchronized information into the right hands (or systems) at the right times for best effect.
Be sure to check back next week for part two of this series, where we will share some new ways to look at the information lifecycle. You can also read another of my posts on analytics over at the Smarter Analytics blog or read our previous Breakthroughs post at the link below:
- Middleware Optimized Systems (6/4/12)
Tell us how are YOU transforming your IT efforts for efficiency and more impact? Let us know! Leave a comment on the Smarter Computing blog below or connect with us on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. If you tweet, be sure to include the #TransformITnow hashtag.
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