Knowledge in Motion
Knowledge only works when it’s in motion – being consumed, or expressed, or else being analyzed, sorted and ordered. The data components of knowledge arise out of motion, and are captured by information systems.
The greatest technical challenge for the development of enterprise-wide knowledge management lies with integration of legacy systems and newer information tools.
Key tools in this effort are ETL products. ETL (extract, transform and load) refers to the extraction of data from active systems, classically for importation into a data warehouse for cleansing and (re)processing, but generally for any reason, such as a mashup or entry into another application for further recalculation on the fly.
“the reality of BI for most enterprises is far murkier, with massive investments in technology for data warehousing, data integration, and analytics, but payoffs that are sparse or hard to calculate. What’s needed, experts agree, are better tools for integrating data from legacy systems and disparate data stores.” – Talend: Data integration for the masses!
In the enterprise arena, integration is a key measure of strength for ETL products. Microsoft, for example, has a massive installed base, and is developing a variety of methods to integrate and repurpose data from its own products such as Office, and exposing this data to open standards and Web technologies, producing business intelligence (BI) for small business. But it is not among the strongest enterprise vendors since it doesn’t focus on the spaghetti of legacy systems that require dedicated and expensive integration tools.
Consultant Vincent McBurney has drawn together Forrester’s latest Wave Evaluation of enterprise ETL products for Q2 2007 with the analyst’s 2004 Wave Evaluation, to create a comparison of vendors and a look at trends.
“The Forrester research company has evaluated Enterprise ETL products with IBM and Informatica still in the lead and Oracle and Business Objects entering the Leaders circle.
“[Microsoft] Integration: Unix, Linux, Mainframe where are you? Oh and don’t get me started on ODBC connectivity. Forrester says ‘it significantly lacks the heterogeneous platform support and source to target connectivity options provided from the other Leaders and Strong Performers evaluated here’” – Forrester ETL Wave from 2004 to 2007
So Microsoft will never be a systems integrator. But at Dovetail Software we find the .NET platform and our seamless integration with the all-pervasive MS Office products goes a very long way towards integrating important data, and producing actionable knowledge.
Dovetail CRM is created using open standards, which alone affords massive advantages for the Amdocs Clarify owner, who can now step away from proprietary code, and tie the CRM system into the rest of the stack.
The Dovetail applications retain the robust Clarify database, with all its legacy and current data, and open the way to a lot of integration that was simply impossible before. Dovetail installs of the thin-client replacement for the Amdocs legacy applications have been successfully integrated with a large variety of systems.
So there are many roads to integration. Unless you’re an integrator, good perspective requires not getting too caught up in the spaghetti.
”’To IT, BI means reporting, query tools, multidimensional analysis, OLAP tools, and maybe data mining,’ he says. ‘To an end-user, it could mean anything that supports their decisions.’ By treating BI as a set of technologies, most organizations veer off track, building ever-more-complex systems that fail to meet user needs – while what’s really needed is a better understanding of the underlying data and business requirements.” Rethinking business intelligence
It’s true that enterprise integration has to deal with thirty years of legacy systems, much of which is still processing current data, and all of which increasingly needs to come into wider service. The legacy systems are gradually being brought into the current stream, and business intelligence is developing, with a long way still to go.