An ever-expanding volume of data within an organization presents unique challenges for data analysts. As the number of different data sources grows, analysts must find ways to bring this data together and prepare it for analysis and reporting, all with fewer resources.
When businesses are better able to make sense of their data, productivity and collaboration improve. But that’s only if they can put that data to use — businesses increasingly need to overcome data silos through data integration. More than 80% of enterprise Business Operations leaders state that data integration is critical to their ongoing operations.
When data is combined successfully, analysts can feed it into business intelligence (BI) tools to get actionable insights and reports.
But what exactly goes into data integration? How can you combine data from disparate sources into a centralized hub? That’s what we’ll cover in this article.
Data integration is a part of the data management process that focuses on extracting data from a variety of disparate sources and combining it into a single, unified view for analysis and management. Data integration takes raw data and transforms it into a standard format so you can easily analyze big data for insights to drive better business decisions.
Data integration has unique requirements for every business, depending on the software you use and how you store and handle data in different departments. As you continually add more tools to solve different business problems, data integration is an ongoing process.
The most common data integration technique is ETL (Extract, Transform, Load). Here, datasets are brought together from different data sources and harmonized, then loaded into a target data warehouse or database.
Alternatively, businesses can take advantage of the more flexible ELT (Extract, Load, Transform) approach. Here, the data is delivered into a large data system and transformed at a later stage, giving you room to adapt your approach in real time.
You could hire data integration architects to write code to automate the data integration process. Or, you can take advantage of specialized data integration platforms that do most of the work for you.
Instead of manually building the software solutions needed to integrate their data, businesses can take advantage of the data integration solutions available on the market. This saves a lot of time and resources, as it allows analysts to focus on what they do best — analyzing the data.
The data integration tools available include Fivetran, which is built for securely connecting to all the databases and applications that underpin your business. With a huge selection of fully managed connectors, Fivetran allows you to focus on obtaining insights as its pipelines automatically and continuously update.
But why do you need to integrate your data in the first place? What does that help you achieve? The two main use cases for enterprises boils down to better analytics and robust automation.
More accurate data analytics
Data analytics consists of discovering insights and using patterns and trends to support decisions. Examples include forecasting demand or recommending particular changes to product and sales strategies.
Data analysis tools include data dashboards and data models. Their uses range from ad hoc reporting to using data as a product (see our Ultimate Guide to Data Integration for more details). At its most advanced, analytics can take the form of predictive modeling and artificial intelligence.
Robust, accurate data integration means you can say goodbye to departmental data silos. It also means mixing and matching data from across your enterprise. For instance, it allows you to examine the total business impact of product and marketing changes, thus seeing trends that might not be obvious from simply looking at profit and loss statements.
Data analytics also saves departments from hiring developers they might otherwise have needed to meet custom data programming needs. With effective data integration, workers in every department should be able to produce reports, analyze data and identify trends without recruiting outside help.
Process automation aims to make your day-to-day tasks more efficient. Examples include automating tasks like creating monthly reports and processing payroll. With data integration, this data can be easily produced and moved to where it’s most useful without manual intervention — and this is what enables data to be used in near-real time.
Eventually, robust data integration will enable a new generation of data-driven products through artificial intelligence and machine learning. Data can be used to train predictive models for advanced, automated decision support, as well as autonomous agents, such as chatbots, to respond to customer queries.
Data integration ensures that your datasets are complete — automatically imported from a comprehensive array of source systems and centralized into one place. This reduces the chance of errors arising from incomplete datasets and it also ensures that your data is always up to date.
Employees can collaborate much more effectively when they have access to the broad range of data sources the business has to offer. Instead of having to get access to tools that other departments use, data integration unifies your data sources and makes them readily available. This means that an analyst can access vital data and use it to improve business processes, regardless of their department.
Organizations that prioritize data integration save a lot of time and resources that would otherwise be spent on manually collating data to do analysis and make reports. Employees can skip straight to analysis and generate reports much faster.
By using a data integration platform like Fivetran, you can use more resources for business-critical activities. Analysts no longer need to spend time hand-coding the tools necessary for data integration — these tools are already at their fingertips.
This is a big part of why 67% of enterprises — the majority — rely on data integration to support analytics and BI platforms. Your business will be in good company if it adopts specialized data integration tools.
Businesses that make the most of data integration are more likely to remain competitive. It’s especially important to take advantage of customer data integration and offer a satisfying customer experience, as this leads to higher profits.
You can access much more accurate BI when your data sources are properly integrated. And for that, you need the right integration tool, such as Fivetran. If you’re interested in a trial, don’t hesitate to contact one of our representatives today to find out how Fivetran can work for you.