Recently I wrote a blog outlining a relatively new offering, Informatica Cloud. I questioned how many companies understood the need for data management and whether they would turn to a cloud-based solution to meet their needs. It seems that my doubts have been addressed with the rapid adoption of it in 2010. At salesforce.com’s recent Cloudforce event in London, I learned that Informatica Cloud now has more than 1,000 customers and that it is the application most often downloaded from salesforce’s AppExchange. Basically, Informatica Cloud allows business users to extract data from one or more systems and have it integrated into another system. Business people pick the systems they want to use and define rules for how integration should take place; the process then happens automatically. All the technology resides “in the cloud” so after a little help getting started from IT, business users can handle their own data integration requirements.
This is an important capability. One of Informatica’s primary targets is users of salesforce.com, and all that data sits out in the cloud. So it is easy for users to manage and view this single source of data. But it also can help users who want a broader picture of their customers: for example, someone in customer services who is designing an outbound campaign and wants to target high-value customers with outstanding balances. To identify them, the individual needs data from salesforce.com and other enterprise applications. My research into customer experience management shows that in many companies even now, this person would have to locate reports from both systems, manually cut and paste the needed data into a spreadsheet, and look there to see the “integrated” data. An alternative, typically for larger companies, is to ask IT to build a report using the company’s enterprise data warehouse and BI system. While this approach will in the end produce a more automated and reliable method, such projects typically take a long time to finish and are difficult to adapt for changing requirements.
Informatica Cloud addresses this task in a straightforward way. Once IT has created the metadata (field definitions) for the two files and given the user access permission, the person can use the tools to drop and drag the required fields into an integrated file and quickly create a file containing the required data and the reports needed in going forward. Should the requirements change, the user can adapt them quickly. Informatica has made it even easier to adapt to data sources with its new software plugs that my colleague recently assessed (“Informatica Simplifies Cloud Integration with New Data Plugs“).
This pragmatic approach to data integration has no long period of defining the requirements and no long development cycle but instead a quick and secure way to meet specific business needs. In my area of focus this can be especially useful when it comes to handling customer interactions and providing customer service. The salesforce Service Cloud 2 does allow people handling customer interactions to view their salesforce CRM data and interactions from other channels such as social media. But it doesn’t do as well in showing customer data from other systems. To return to the previous example, to let agents know that a caller has an outstanding account balance needs data from ERP and maybe the company’s billing system. Informatica Cloud can bring this information together and display it in the Service Cloud window. The same is true in providing customer service. Many factors can come into play here, for example, how quickly a service engineer can be sent to the site. This requires data about customer, contract, engineer and location, integrated from different systems to provide the complete picture.
My one reservation about a company’s taking this approach derives from my research into customer information management, which shows that customer data sits in many different systems. Using this approach has the potential to add to that number and thus make it even more difficult for companies to control and analyze their customer data and information. However I also know that the cut-and-paste method happens because users don’t have a real alternative that is not time-consuming and is cost-effective. Some companies might find Informatica Cloud so helpful that they transition to a more rigorous approach using the full Informatica PowerCenter data integration suite. For others, Informatica Cloud provides a practical way to resolve a burning business issue. Do you have issues getting the customer view you need for your job? If so, please let me know.
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Richard Snow – Global VP & Research Director