Integrate or centralise to a virtual operating environment

Companies that wish to capitalise on their rich storehouses of information to increase productivity, reduce response times, or improve customer service are faced with two choices for their data management. The traditional approach is to centralise structured data into one source (for example, a centralised database) and believe it can do everything. Perhaps a small enterprise has two databases and wants to standardise. To centralise these makes business sense: it uses existing infrastructure in a cost-effective manner and will deliver effective data management for a small organisation.

The second approach to data management is to integrate all data sources — a method that moves beyond structured information in a database to capture unstructured information such as e-mail, voice files and word processing documents. This way you leverage your current IT investment by integrating data sources in a real-time, virtual environment. This evolution is now coming to the fore as more and more industrial strength solutions come to market.

There are three drivers for integrating all data sources. The first is cost. An integrated approach to data management uses your existing infrastructure. The cost comparison between an integrated approach versus centralising databases will get the attention of your CIO real fast, because it saves the cost of ripping out existing infrastructure and replacing with the organisation’s new chosen standard platform. There’s no comparison in terms of total spend or return-on-investment.

The second is the ability to handle all forms of information including unstructured data from different data sources — not just databases — and integrate it.

The final reason customers are carefully examining integration as the data management approach is because it can scale with the organisation’s growth.

This is the end point for both approaches to data management, as both require a virtual operating environment — infrastructure that is integrated, open, dynamic and adaptive. The benefits of such an operating environment include greater/faster return on-investment, the ability to scale, and lower costs.

Brett Vincent is business unit executive, data management, IBM Australia and New Zealand

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