App Integration vs Data Integration – Who Will Win?

I was at Starbucks the other day (surprise, surprise) with my friend Matt whose company was getting ready to invest significant time and money to integrate the ERP systems of a company that they had just acquired. I asked him why bother integrating operational systems (except to ensure that the different operational systems are using the same customer, product, store, and other master files), unless there is significantcost savings.

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Instead of trying to integrate the operational systems, why not invest in integrating the data that comes out of those operational systems? As long as you can enter orders and pay people in a timely manner, who cares if you can capture an order a sub-second faster or pay someone seconds faster than before? Is integrating your transactional data capture really the best place for IT to invest their precious resources in today’s competitive world?

ERP is so old school. I wish I had known back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s what I know now:  that trying to create competitive differentiation within or across packaged, monolithic ERP, MRP, CRM, SFA, and other operational systems only benefits the ERP vendors and the systems integrators whose business models are built on the endless customizations to those ERP systems.

If you’re an organization considering an ERP system upgrade or integration, you seriously need to consider how much you want to invest in customizing that ERP system that, at best, just delivers business parity. Or should you invest your time, money, and human resources in building customer-facing apps that provide unique customer value, business differentiation, and competitive advantage?

Integrate the Data, Not the Applications

The graphic below nicely summarizes the value creation transformation occurring within IT organizations (see Figure 1). Organizations are realizing that the business value of their operational systems doesn’t lie in their ability to capture an order faster than their competitors, but instead lies in the depth and breadth of data that can be integrated and mined to capture new insight into customers, products, and operations.

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Figure 1: Value transition from app-centric to data-centric

It’s a transformation from application-centric mentality (trying to create value in the deployment and customization of monolithic operational application) to a data-centric mentality (mining value out of the wealth of data held captive in those systems).

Figure 2 below shows a typical IT operational environment. Multiple operational systems manage the transaction processing for various business functions like manufacturing, distribution, inventory, payroll, human resources, finance, call centers, sales force automation, etc.

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Figure 2: Traditional monolithic operational apps

You can buy these applications from a mega-vendor (who has probably acquired numerous other vendors in order to create a “ransom note” of loosely connected applications), or you can select a best-of-breed approach where a systems integrator tries to tie these applications together. Either approach leads to a brittle, hard-to-scale, expensive-to-maintain architecture and a significant investment in systems integration and consulting resources to keep these “Franken-architectures” running. And what do you get in the end? Nothing more than business parity.

This quote from a Business Week article titled “Plex Systems: Detroit’s New Dashboard” summarizes the ERP value challenge quite well:

Inteva Chief Information Officer Dennis Hodges explains that because each [of their] offices had its own ERP system running on a local server, managers in Michigan had no way of knowing what was happening in Alabama, Mexico, or Poland. The company was spending more than half a million dollars a month on an ERP product that didn’t allow management to look at revenue and margins across the company.

See my blog “Developing Competitive Differentiation” for more thoughts about where best to invest your precious IT resources to deliver competitive differentiation.

The Role of the Data Lake

Don’t invest (waste?) time and money to integrate your disparate operational applications. Instead, invest in a data architecture (see Figure 3) that allows you to integrate all of the data across those disparate operational applications and is able to capture the other 90%+ of the corporate and external data needed to achieve business differentiation.

That investment in data architecture will enable you to differentiate with superior customer service, successful new product introductions, campaign marketing excellence, fraud elimination, predictive maintenance, revenue loss minimization, increasing market basket margins, reducing the number of hospital-acquired infections, lowering hospital readmissions, etc.

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Figure 3:  Integrate all of your internal and external data in the data lake

See my blog “How I’ve Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Data Lake” for advice about how to leverage Hadoop to create a data lake. The data lake not only supports the integration of data across your operational applications, but also enables the integration of other internal data sources (consumer comments, email conversations, clinical studies, technician notes, prescriptions, web logs, etc.) with external data sources (social media, mobile, blogs, newsfeeds, third-party data, data.gov, etc.).

Embracing an Analytics (Data Science) Culture

But collecting the data isn’t enough. You also need a corporate culture that seeks to deploy data science within your key business functions; analytics integrated into your key business processes to uncover new insight into the “strategic nouns” of your business—your customers, products, partners, campaigns, stores, wind turbines, jet engines, ATMs, trucks, etc.

You need a modern architecture that supports your traditional data warehouse and business intelligence environment, while expanding your data and analytic assets to include advanced analytics and data science capabilities.

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See my blog “Modernizing Your Data Warehouse Part 2” for more details about how to leverage Hadoop to modernize your data warehouse environment while adding a complementary, advanced analytics sandbox architecture.

Monetizing Customer, Product, and Operational Insights

In the end, the best way to achieve competitive differentiation and uncover new monetization opportunities lies in how you are delivering the insights that you gain from your data lake and advanced analytics environment (see Figure 4).

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Figure 4: Analytics powering the Third Platform and the Internet of Things

The rise of the “Third Platform,” those pervasive smartphones and mobile tablets, are enabling organizations to deliver actionable insight to customers, partners and front-line employees alike. It’s enabling organizations to optimize key business processes and capitalize on new monetization opportunities. And for many leading organizations, it’s the culmination of IT becoming a strategic partner to the business. Instead of replicating existing business processes within your transactional systems, it enables IT to transform those key business processes and empower new business models.

For an example, see my blog “The Actionable Retail Manager Dashboard:  Next Generation BI,” which talks about how to integrate the insight gleaned from your advanced analytics system to create the next-generation dashboard—a dashboard that not only delivers business insight, but transforms the dashboard from a passive monitoring tool to a prescriptive recommendation engine to help empower front-line employees and management.

Summary of Best Practices

  1. Leave your operational systems in their silos. Don’t waste time and effort trying to integrate your disparate monolithic operational applications, except to ensure that they are using the same product, customer, store, and other master files.
  2. Integrate the data from your operational applications into a data lake that simplifies the integration problem (it’s easier to integrate data than applications). Focus your IT resources (people, time, and money) on those areas of data integration that create business differentiation, not just business parity.
  3. Augment the value of your operational data by adding new structured and unstructured data (both internal and external) to your data lake. And in the process, develop a corporate hunger for grabbing and integrating data into the data lake, even if you’re not yet sure how you might leverage that data.
  4. Finally, focus on:  building differentiated products; optimizing key business processes; monetizing key customer, product, and operational insights; delivering a more compelling, more engaging customer experience; and empowering front-line employees to make decisions that drive business value.

https://infocus.emc.com/william_schmarzo/app-integration-vs-data-integration-who-will-win/

Duckie.me – Rubber ducking as a service

Rubber ducking is a nickname given to the process of brainstorming.. I can’t describe how may times.. I have tried giving technical explanations to nontechnical users.. And throughout that verbal process.. I always learned things I couldn’t have imagined.

The concept of ‘rubber ducking’ means.. That instead of WASTING THE TIME of your best customers.. It is more efficient to NOT waste the time of another person.. They didn’t really contribute anyways.

We are taught to describe our problems to an inanimate object.. In the hopes that we can still produce the valuable insights.. Merely by talking to an inanimate object.

I have used this thought process to help me understand many problems that SEEM insurmountable. Rubber ducking is what keeps me SANE.

NICE TO SEE THAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE PAYING THE SAME RESPECT TO THIS CONCEPT.

http://duckie.me/

http://reddit.com/r/programming/comments/2ba5q6/duckieme_rubber_ducking_as_a_service/

Why can’t I *SEARCH* for a particular Virtual Machine across all HOSTS??

I have hundreds of virtual machines.. Literally.. Hundreds.  I was looking to kick off a project today.. and I couldn’t for the LIFE of me.. find the VM that I’m looking for.  That is just SAD.

I honestly.. currently.. only have FIVE host machines..  I think that I found the right next almost-free machine for virtualization.

Being able to get up to 32gb RAM for just another $160.. that’s what I’ve bene waiting for ALL my life.  Getting it up to a couple of TB ALL SSD.. This sweet cheap server has NINE Sata Ports. And PLENTY of room for expansion.

I really need to get into an E5 sometime. BAD.

The last couple of PCs I bought.. out of Portland.. 5 HP Proliant ML150 G5 for 300 total.

Looking forward to spending more time on Docker. and Routing.. Proxies.

 

Docker 1.0 – The Biggest Disruption in Tech for 2014

I think that Docker is clearly the most important piece of software to come out in the past 20 years. I look forward to using Docker for automation, deployments, continuous integration.. Docker is a fascinating tool.. Really look forward to using it everywhere I go.

https://opsbot.com/hello-docker/

http://reddit.com/r/docker/comments/2av66p/docker_10_the_biggest_disruption_in_tech_for_2014/

Remembering Reed Jacobson

Yes. I remember going to  sales meeting in Bellevue in July 2001… When I was in the restroom, I said something to him about how impressed I was with Analysis Services.

He ended up getting me a waiver for my first class at SqlSoft.com and I met with him once or twice after that.

He loved the Roast Beef and Chipotle from Briazz. Cheers Reed. Thanks for everything.

Aaron Kempf

http://sqlserverbiblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/remembering-reed-jacobson/

France to force programming teaching starting at age 10

Looks to me like France.. Of ALL COUNTRIES.. Is forcing kids to learn how to program.  This is fascinating. I was about 10 when I started programming.  I just wish that my programming education continued through to today.

I learned on BASIC. I love BASIC.  Realistically.. I am sure these kids will be learning Python.. Not BASIC.

I wish that there were more programming offerings everywhere. Not even Tacoma Community College has any REAL options for me to expand my programming knowledge.

I firmly believe that EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE WORLD should know how to program.  Maybe I am egocentric in this belief. I don’t care.

Most people look down on programming as something nerds do. Maybe through mandatory conscription of everyone.. Will help to get MOST PEOPLE better in tune with the needs of their employers.

http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2014/07/13/l-apprentissage-du-code-informatique-sera-propose-au-primaire-en-septembre_4456197_3224.html

http://reddit.com/r/programming/comments/2alkgq/france_to_enforce_basic_programming_teaching/

SQL SERVER – How to setup Database mail using FREE mail accounts

Aaron Kempf:

great article.. LOVE doing this.

Originally posted on SQL Server Portal:

Database mail is one of the best features shipped in SQL Server 2005. It allows us to send mails without writing even a single line of script. However, there is a general perception that you must have your own mail server to configure Database Mail in the SQL Server and frankly speaking, to configure a mail server,  a good amount of expertise is required. Due to the lack of expertise in mail server configuration in new bie of SQL Server, they usually avoid learning, testing and implementing this nice feature.

However, one of the benefits of SQL Server Database mail is that,  it is NOTmandatory that you must have your own mail server, you can easily configure, test and implement it on any FREE mail servers like Gmail, Yahoo & Hotmail etc. and it is just a  matter of few clicks.

In this article, I will demonstrate step by step how to configure…

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