The self-service movement throughout the data landscape predicated on empowering the business end user is a reality. The numerous analytics and Data Discovery options designed to give the business more ownership and access to their data and data integration techniques with an unparalleled degree of swiftness largely attests to this fact.
Nonetheless, a number of nagging concerns persist and must be addressed in order to increase the utility of this while reducing its inherent risks regarding privacy, security, and other facets of Data Governance.
One of the most viable means to preserve this balance between business empowerment and IT authorization is the emerging trend towards self-service data integration, in which end users are free to integrate with data sources, applications, and other organizations – all under the vigilant auspices of IT in its contemporary role as champion, and not denier, of the business.
According to Deepak Singh, President and Chief Technology Officer of Adeptia (which offers a self-service integration platform called Adeptia Connect) the advantages of self-service data integration not only include those pertaining to speed of access, agility, and cost, but also much valued governance in a climate in which the sheer amounts of data that organization are managing are ever increasing. “IT should provide the ability for business users to create integration, but in a secure, controlled and managed way,” Singh noted. “That’s the compromise between the two.”
Self-service integration platforms facilitate the integration of data of virtually any source—although there are typically restrictions on how much data can be integrated at one time. By providing a secure browser-based application with which end users can aggregate and exchange data, which is overseen by key IT personnel and deployed in the Cloud, end users are able to vastly accelerate integration processes that formally took substantial amounts of time by eschewing IT involvement.
The most dramatic cost benefits to this faster form of integration are illustrated in a use case with an exceedingly well known and pervasive payroll services provider. Prior to implementing Adeptia’s self-service method, adding new customers would require a lengthy meeting process between the IT departments of both organizations and aligning methods of data sharing that could take as many as 17 months. According to Singh, however, with the self-service method payroll services provider has expedited that process to 10 minutes. “The big benefit to the company is they can immediately start getting revenue from that new customer. The revenue’s not delayed because until they start service they can’t charge the customer. So instead of waiting four months to charge the customer while all this discussion happens, now they can start charging the customer from the next payroll.”
Data Integration Evolution
The evolution of data integration from a lengthy process backdated by IT requests to an automated process done on demand parallels a number of key developments across the data landscape and business climate of the last several years. Most eminently, these include:
- The Speed of Business: Technologies such as Big Data and the sort of ubiquitous connectivity and constant access to data they require have drastically impacted the need to accelerate the rate at which integration processes occur—simply to take advantage of what otherwise are fleeting opportunities. Singh observed: “Companies need to be very dynamic and flexible to in order to deal with new business opportunities that are coming up and that they face every day. Going to the IT people to create these connections is very slow.”
- Reduced IT Departments: The rate at which IT is able to work on typical business requests, such as adding new sources and integrating data was also impacted by the economic downturn that began in earnest last decade, as many IT departments were downsized to accommodate for the stifling economy. “Data connections and data integrations kind of go to the bottom of the long list of things that IT has to do,” Singh stated.
- Cloud and Mobile: The proliferation of the Cloud and mobile technologies is also responsible for the need to integrate data sources less expensively and faster than before. The combination of these two technologies is responsible for many more applications than enterprises previously accessed, which in turns requires more integration of what amounts to different sources of data.
Governance Implications: Shadow IT
Cloud-based self-service data integration platforms are an excellent means of reinforcing governance roles, responsibilities, and policies because they allow centralized governance personnel (which can include IT but also others in stewardship roles and on governance councils) to oversee and shape a number of different factors including user access, user privileges and permission, and role-based security measures. They also include more conventional IT responsibilities such as provisioning system access via application connectors, provisioning features, testing connections, and moving them into production. They also aid in determining who can update, edit, and change connections. Other factors that are able to be controlled for individual users from a centralized platform include options for encryption and data storage.
Additionally, the integration of data sources (particularly when involving external sources with internal, proprietary data) is the launching point for ensuring that such data is conforming to governance protocols. The centralized capabilities of self-service integration options are able to greatly reduce the instance of what has come to be known as shadow IT, while still enabling individual end users to integrate sources themselves. “Shadow IT is this trend where the business goes around IT and then they start creating things,” Singh remarked. “That is not good because shadow IT can cause data privacy problems because you can lose data through bad people. It causes data integrity problems because data can get corrupted.”
Aside from integrating disparate data sources throughout the enterprise, one of the most cogent use cases for self-service data integration is Software Oriented Architecture and the myriad services rendered through the Cloud. The Cloud-based architecture for platforms such as Adeptia Connect enables end users to readily exchange data with service providers without involving IT other than to monitor and manage the overall platform. The ease and expedience of this approach, combined with its reinforced security and governance protocols can possibly improve the viability of the Cloud for enterprise data. Singh commented on this possibility:
“When you’re working with a new service provider you need to send them data so that they can provide that service to you. Earlier that was not possible because you couldn’t get them your data; IT had to create that. Now that problem can be eliminated so you can take more advantage of business opportunities that present themselves.”
Ultimately, the induction of self-service data integration to the burgeoning number of self-service options throughout the contemporary Data Management sphere merely reinforces the growing trend of empowering the business while reducing dependency on IT. With end users now able to help themselves to data integration and any assortment of Data Discovery and analytics options that they can leverage on their own, IT departments are able to shift their focus to governance and management issues which allow them to concentrate on more pressing issues that affect the enterprise as a whole. The best aspect of this evolving relationship is that critical facets of governance and security are still maintained while the business utilizes its newfound autonomy to better achieve objectives.
“That’s the main thing,” Singh acknowledged. “The end users can [integrate data] without involving IT day to day. IT still manages the platform, but the day to day use is done by business users and that’s the key difference. It doesn’t matter if you’re connecting your own applications or if you’re connecting with other companies. What really matters is who does it. We’re saying that should be a self-service capability for business users.”