Business men working on laptopBy now, you may have heard of how self-service data preparation will transform the data integration and information management space. It started out as a cool concept – to simplify data integration by making it accessible by non-technical users. And now it has grown to a fever pitch movement with dozens of offerings from established vendors to startups. With so many choices, how do you determine the right ones for your business?

At first glance many of the solutions out there offer low-cost price points that can be bought with a credit card, fast time-to-value via the Cloud, and an intuitive user interface designed for non-technical business users. Therefore, these all sound like sure bets, right? The answer is, “Not so fast.” In reality, you need and deserve more. In this blog, we’ll explore why.

How Did We Get Here?

Let’s start with a walk down memory lane. Traditional data integration solutions started with extract, transform, and load (ETL) tools that came to market in the 1990s. Over time, data integration vendors built or acquired other styles of data integration (like federation, replication) and data quality tools to grow their portfolio. Typically, these complex and highly technical solutions are based on legacy architectures and technologies designed for on-premises deployment.

However, in the past few years, the insatiable demand for businesses to leverage their data from social, mobile, and Cloud helped usher in new approaches to analytics where business users can bypass IT and gain instant gratification in visualizing their data. Quickly following this self-service analytics trend, we saw it spread to the data integration world. As users were able to see their data through easy-to-use data visualization offerings, they realized that they also wanted to combine data from multiple sources and make corrections to improve their data. The good and bad news is that you now have choices in selecting an offering for self-service data preparation. Here are points to consider before you swipe your credit card.

Be Cautious of Buying a Feature

It’s easy to be lured by a simple solution that provides an intuitive user interface and is available via the cloud. Many offer low entry price-points that let business users buy with their credit card or operations budget from their line of business. You should consider if the tool can handle the processing of very large data volumes, integrate with your enterprise applications for analytics and business processes, and rationalize and operationalize the data preparation results so that you don’t end up with hundreds to thousands of versions of the truth. Ultimately, self-service data preparation must connect with your enterprise data integration and governance strategy and infrastructure.

Be Cautious of Legacy Technology

Solutions that are based on the architectures of legacy data integration platforms unfortunately miss the mark on what users want and need. In today’s business environment, you need a solution that can:

  • Deliver instant access via the Cloud or on premise
  • Handle large data sets with ease
  • Deliver instantaneous response rates that business users crave from their experiences as a consumer
  • Support for all sources and types of data

Be Cautious of Removing IT Completely

Yes, you want to empower your business users to prepare data without IT. This is greatly beneficial for your business because it reduces IT costs and resources and speeds your team’s ability to take action from business insight. However, IT has a role in the enterprise to help the organization find synergies and optimize the way people prepare data.

If IT knows that certain data sets were frequently used, they can prioritize their investments in supporting this data domain. They can crowdsource the data prep work from the business and rationalize it in order to drive new data preparation jobs that can be applied to future datasets, reducing the need for the business to start from scratch every time.

With IT’s ability to monitor and operationalize data preparation, it will help your business scale and perfect the quality of your information. Furthermore, IT can help you easily connect your data preparation in support of applications such as analytics, business processes, and governance.

Self-Service Data Preparation – Bottom Line

In summary, self-service data preparation is here and is transforming the information management space. Businesses will have more agility to own their data and get the most value out of their information assets at the speed of their business. Hopefully, these points can help you evaluate the right self-service data preparation solutions for your organization.

For more information on self-service data preparation tools visit www.sap.com/data-preparation.

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