Impact of Unified Data Integration: Enhanced Data Flow and Fortified Governance


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A comprehensive data integration strategy complete with strong governance and oversight is more important than ever — especially in times of uncertainty. Business environments need to be prepared for rapid changes, which is only possible when decision-makers have high-quality data readily available. This knowledge brief explores the characteristics of data integration leaders as well as the enhanced business outcomes these companies produce.

Table of Contents

The Ties That Bind Integration and Governance

As business systems are rapidly advancing in the specificity of data that they capture, it is more important than ever to have a unified view of all available information to support timely critical decisions. 

  • Having an effective approach to data integration positions companies for success — especially as a centralized strategy or philosophy that allows for the secure and time-efficient sharing of data, from multiple areas within the organization, and with extended partners and systems outside the organization. In this type of sophisticated approach, employees and business units can access, analyze, and distribute critical information to drive the business forward. 
  • Aberdeen research demonstrates several key components that characterize this type of effective strategy, one of which is data governance. An established governance framework supported by a technology platform to ensure security and compliance is crucial for businesses to manage and integrate their data properly. For this reason, Aberdeen defines data integration leaders as those who have a holistic strategy that leverages Best-in-Class aspects of data governance (see sidebar). 
  • As the importance of the relationship between integration and governance becomes more apparent, more companies will look to fortify their data management environments and transition to integration leader status. To help businesses see the impact of becoming a data integration leader, this knowledge brief will discuss the strategies and services that leaders utilize as well as how these strategies address current challenges with data management and result in improvements in performance metrics.Definitions In the context of this research, Data Integration Leaders are defined by a comprehensive data strategy that includes sophisticated data integration capabilities and a well-defined, non-invasive approach to data governance.

Challenges in Today’s Data Environment

  1. As the volume of data being accessed or stored increases and the window for obtaining necessary information decreases, businesses are struggling to get the right data to the right people at the right time. Quality and speed of information delivery stand out as the top two most challenging aspects of data management that companies are facing today (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Challenges with Data Governance

Poor data quality can arise due to the transfer of data between incompatible systems, improper data governance, a lack of communication between IT teams and business processes, etc. Using poor-quality data to inform decisions can contribute to missing crucial opportunities and over or underestimating required actions — giving competitors the advantage. 

2. Poor data quality can also impact subsequent processes, preventing downstream business systems from reaching their maximum ROI. Fast information delivery, data exchange, and access to data are vital to monitoring product and market changes to outmaneuver competitors.  

Overcoming these challenges is integral to confidently making data-driven decisions in a timely manner. Comprehensive data integration strategies can combat many of the challenges that companies are facing. One method for implementing strong integration capabilities is to invest in a unified platform for data integration with well-defined data governance capabilities. Data integration leaders who have strong integration and governance strategies are utilizing these types of platforms. 

They provide a single source of truth for employees to access data; increasing trust in data and time-to-decision. A unified platform allows integration and governance initiatives to properly support business decisions and maximize opportunities by increasing quality, accessibility, and speed while housing all data in a single, secure location.

The Importance of Technology-Supported Governance

1. Examining how data integration leaders are incorporating governance into their integration initiatives will help companies better understand how to position their governance strategies. Aberdeen’s latest data management survey shows that data integration leaders are turning to technology-supported data governance strategies (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Data Governance Strategies

2. Few companies are mature in their data integration efforts, but those who are have begun to see value in supporting their governance policies with a technology specifically designed to handle governance and integration. The 9% margin between leaders and others among strong policies indicates that integration strategies coupled with technology-supported governance work most effectively. 

3. A secure, comprehensive integration and data environment enables companies to focus on the usage of data rather than focus on concerns with data collection and storage. This is evident from data-points that show data integration.

4. Data integration leaders with strong governance capabilities also allow companies to expand the volume of data used for analytics. Investing in data governance capabilities in addition to integration has a measurable impact on the volume and quality of data companies can sustain as well as the fluidity of accessibility and speed of decision making.

Impact of Cloud Platforms and Managed Services

Cloud-based integration platforms can be beneficial for many organizations. Data integration leaders are more likely to utilize cloud and hybrid data environments than on-premise, with 55% of leaders using cloud or hybrid compared to only 45% using on-premise.

Benefits of a cloud integration platform include scalability and accelerators, which are cost effective for companies planning to increase their volume of business data. Data integration leaders have secure, holistic data environments that inspire a growth in data collection, which aligns to their tendency to lean toward cloud and hybrid platforms. In the Cloud, companies can integrate data from a variety of global systems. 

The world that once had mainly centralized data sources is more fragmented than ever, and cloud integration platforms can promote the growth of connections between disparate systems. The Cloud can connect teams around the world through data, accelerating time-to-value and building a cohesive community. 

Developing strong data integration coupled with data governance strategies in a fluid, expansive cloud environment enables decision-makers to empower a global workforce. Similar to the benefits of the Cloud, managed services for integration and governance can also improve scalability. Managed services providers are equipped to scale as needed and apply required security protocols depending on the needs of the enterprise, allowing users to bring more data sources into the ecosystem without the fear of compromising the safety of confidential data. Data integration leaders are trusting managed service providers for various functionalities (Figure 3, next page). Security and risk mitigation rank as the top reason for utilizing a unified data integration and governance through a managed services provider. Leaders see the value in outsourcing their governance responsibilities and how coupling external security measures with unified integration can provide decision-makers with peace of mind.55%of data integration leaders are handling their data management in the cloud or in a hybrid environment.

Figure 3: Reliance on Managed Services

Scalability is an additional factor in data integration leaders’ decisions to utilize managed services. With the ability to swiftly compile data from a myriad of technologies and vendors, managed service providers excel in data integration. These integration capabilities paired with the strong governance capabilities that managed services offer could be the reason why so many data integration leaders are looking to outsource their data management systems.Managed services do not have to be restrictive — in fact, companies using managed services say a greater percentage of their data sources are readily accessible for analysis and that it takes 12 days less, on average, to fully integrate a new data source into their BI system. Thus, companies still have the freedom to access their data quickly and trust that it is high-quality when using managed services.

Data Integration Leaders Excel in Key Metrics

Data integration leaders utilize a variety of resources when designing their data integration and governance strategies, including technology platforms, the Cloud, and managed services. But how are all those tactics translating to business outcomes? Aberdeen’s most recent data management survey data presents the large margins data integration leaders have over their competitors in key performance metrics (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Business Results for Data Integration Leaders

The 15% margin in workforce productivity indicates that employees at leading companies can access data more quickly to make decisions in the ever-decreasing decision window. Improvements in operating profit and revenue showcase the impact of using cost-effective, time-saving methods such as the Cloud and managed services. The differences in customer satisfaction and customer base prove that, overall, data integration leaders are successful in keeping their clients happy by having the necessary data at the right time to develop meaningful relationships.

Key Takeaways

The pace of business and the flow of data within organizations and their partners are both accelerating, while the economic environment is becoming more unpredictable with each passing business cycle. Organizations that are proactive in developing a more cohesive data strategy that is centered on data integration are seeing benefits that extend beyond just the immediate IT or data related metrics. 

Among the most important takeaways from Aberdeen’s research are the following:

  1. Unified integration offers a remedy to today’s data challenges. Having a comprehensive technology approach, supported by strong policies and procedures is a proven way to mitigate the most pressing data-related issues that companies today face. A unified platform can improve data integration and governance by providing a single approach for all data collection systems to communicate and remain secure. This addresses quality and accessibility issues as users now only need to access one platform where the data is already cleaned and stored securely.
  2. Governance initiatives strengthen trust in data. Data integration leaders are taking advantage of technology-supported governance, driving further toward automation of data oversight during critical stages of the data value chain including collection and storage. Whether managing a rapidly growing data environment or simply looking to put more responsible controls in place, those that leverage sound governance procedures within a larger data integration strategy will set themselves up for more fluidity in the data environment, greater trust among users, and more salient opportunities for business performance. 
  3. A holistic approach to data integration positions companies well in times of uncertainty. As the business environment becomes more unpredictable, those with a flexible, scalable, and well-governed data environment will be an advantageous position. In times of uncertainty, business opportunities will still arise but the time window for executing against those opportunities will be shorter. Companies need an environment that allows them to access multiple flavors of data across different areas of the organization, bring harmony to that data and generate actionable insight. The research demonstrates that companies with a leading approach to data integration that incorporates sound data governance and a strong services methodology not only helps mitigate this type of uncertainty but offers tangible business results as well.

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Aberdeen Strategy & ResearchOpens a new window , a division of Spiceworks Ziff DavisOpens a new window , with over three decades of experience in independent, credible market research, helps illuminate market realities and inform business strategies. Our fact-based, unbiased, and outcome-centric research approach provides insights on technology, customer management, and business operations, to inspire critical thinking and ignite data-driven business actions.