Disconnected data is a drag on innovation

By Scott Behles

What do you consider to be a business’ most valuable asset? Is it the cash it holds? Product inventory? Property perhaps? In the pre-internet age, these traditional assets may have supported businesses and could be easily accounted for on an organization’s balance sheet, but the lifeblood of the 21st-century organization is, without question, data.

Whether it’s customer data, financial data, or increasingly machine data, the insights that can be gleaned from an organization’s data repository are invaluable in developing new products and services, deciding the future roadmap for a business, and gaining competitive advantage.

But are businesses taking full advantage of the data at their fingertips? Particularly in larger enterprises with multiple departments, global offices, and disparate IT systems, data often remains relegated to the department that is considered its primary owner. The finance department handles the accounting data while customer data stays with the marketing and sales teams, for instance.

It’s an antiquated way of handling things, and one that means company leaders and other business decision makers rarely see the full picture of what’s going on across the organization, leading to stifled innovation, unforeseen market threats, and missed opportunities.

Convincing business leaders that this is a serious problem can be a tough sell though. Unless you can assign a dollar figure to how significantly disconnected data is negatively impacting a business, you’ll likely not get much of a reaction.

Thankfully, our new Disconnected Data research has done just that.

We surveyed 500 businesses users and IT decision makers in large businesses across the US and UK and found that the wasted time and resources, duplication of work, and missed opportunities caused by disconnected data is collectively costing businesses $140 billion annually.

That stat alone might raise eyebrows, but when we dug a little deeper we uncovered that this issue in large businesses is likely having a far greater impact.

First, more than one-fifth were unaware of what data other departments actually held and one in six didn’t even know how many data sources actually existed. Against this backdrop, it’s even more surprising to learn that, on average, workers were spending more time searching for, acquiring, entering, or moving data than actually analyzing and making decisions on the data. Workers spending most of their time collecting some but not all data, and at the expense of possibly not incorporating it into their decision-making, paints less than a rosy picture for large businesses’ data-driven strategies.

To their credit, most of our respondents are aware of this problem. More than half (57%) admitted that their organization is struggling with data silos and nearly the same percentage said that data silos are a barrier to meeting their organization’s business objectives.

The business objectives most affected? Seizing new opportunities and driving innovation. A shocking 72% felt that siloed data was causing their business to miss out on opportunities, and a third stated that it was holding back innovation in product and services.

For us here at SnapLogic, that last stat is the real stinger. We firmly believe that innovation should be priority #1 for any business that wants to succeed and thrive in today’s fast-moving digital era. Without innovation, products and services won’t evolve which means customers won’t benefit from the latest developments and will start to look elsewhere. If a business can’t innovate, then its days are numbered. If disconnected data is standing in the way of that innovation, it’s a problem that must be solved. And quickly.

To read our complete study on “The High Cost of Disconnected Data,” to get all the details.

Scott Behles is Head of Corporate Communications at SnapLogic. Follow him on Twitter @sbehles

HR transformation: Four takeaways from HR Tech World San Francisco

Diletta D'OnofrioBy Diletta D’Onofrio

Some might argue data is an organization’s most valuable asset. Others will unequivocally say it’s your people. But few will debate this: those companies who manage to bring together the latest in technology with the best of the employee will outperform the competition and be the leaders in the marketplace.

This intersection of people and tech was on full display last week at HR Tech World in San Francisco. I had the privilege of attending the two-day event, where I mingled with Human Resource Officers (HROs), learned from keynote speakers and thought leaders, and tested the latest tech solutions at the vendor booths. From SAP SuccessFactors to Workday, IBM to Cornerstone, Deloitte to ADP – they were all there, making this conference a must-attend for those like me who are interested in exploring the latest ideas, best practices, and technologies to transform HR in the digital era.

Here are a few of my takeaways from my two days at HR Tech World:

  • “Breaking HR”:  So much has changed in the last five years, say nothing of the last 30 years. And yet, as Cisco Chief People Officer Francine Katsoudas explained in her presentation, many global, Fortune 100 organizations are still running HR processes and technologies that were developed for a 1970’s workplace. Katsoudas argued that to capitalize on the promise of the digital age companies must think and work differently, which means incremental HR improvements may need to be pushed aside in favor of a complete overhaul. In other words, we must have the courage to “break HR” if we want to truly lead the Future of Work.
  • Put people at the center: An organization’s digital transformation initiative cannot succeed without effective workforce transformation. Internal processes need to follow the employee experience and not the other way around. Tech-native millennials have new expectations around what makes for a great workplace. Saddling them with archaic processes or legacy systems is a recipe for failure, a sure-fire way to doom any transformation effort. As HR thought leader, author, and LeapGen CEO Jason Averbook noted on stage, “HR technology drives culture,” so invest in the best tech.
  • Tech is getting smarter, faster, easier: It seems like just yesterday that vendors at events such as this one were touting their cloud capabilities as a tech differentiator, but now the cloud is table stakes. Today, the new tech battleground is around artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – you couldn’t walk five feet without hearing new vendor strategies and technology capabilities to help automate and accelerate routine tasks that were once the domain of only humans. “Rethink processes with machine learning,” demanded Yvette Cameron, SVP and Global Head of Strategy at SAP SuccessFactors, in her presentation. She asked, “are your systems and processes ‘continuous, connected, intelligent, and live?'”
  • Data integration – The keys to unlocking HR transformation: To be honest, I got lost a few times in the Exhibition Hall, what with the dozens of vendor booths touting their solutions for recruiting and onboarding, payroll and compensation, learning and development, performance management, workforce planning and analytics, and more. While many vendors offer “HR suites,” with several applications that are said to seamlessly work together, I spoke with several HROs who admitted they’ve got dozens of HR applications in place across their enterprise, and often from multiple vendors. Maybe ADP for payroll, Cornerstone for performance management, Workday for talent management, and so on. Getting them all to work together remains a struggle for most companies, putting a strain on budgets, resources, productivity, and time-to-value. Time and again, I heard – “Integration, integration, integration!” – the companies I met, across all industries and of all sizes, repeatedly said it was a top priority to find better, faster ways to integrate apps and data sources across complete, end-to-end business processes, such as hire-to-retire, for example.

It was a great two days. Lots learned, and lots to do as we continue to help our customers in HR integrate their applications and data sources to accelerate HR transformation. I look forward to next year’s HR Tech World event.

Diletta D’Onofrio leads the Digital Transformation Group at SnapLogic. Follow her on Twitter @ddonofrio13.

Why citizen integrators are today’s architects of customer experience

By Nada daVeiga

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about customer experience (CX) and the most direct, most effective ways for companies to transform it. As I recently blogged, data is the centerpiece – the metaphorical cake, as it were, compared to the martech frosting – of creating winning customer experiences.

That being said, which internal organization could possibly be better than marketing, to shape customer experience?

Nearly every enterprise function shapes CX

As it turns out, there are many teams within the modern enterprise that serve as CX architects. Think of all the different groups that contribute to customer engagement, acquisition, retention, and satisfaction: marketing, sales, service, and support are the most obvious, but what about product development, finance, manufacturing, logistics, and shipping? All of these functions impact the customer experience, directly or indirectly, and thus should be empowered to improve it through unbridled data access.

This point of view is reflected in SnapLogic’s new white paper, “Integration in the age of the customer: The five keys to connecting and elevating customer experience.” From it, a key thought:

[W]ho should corral the data? The best outcomes from customer initiatives happen when the business takes control and leads the initiative. The closer the integrators are to the customer, the better they can put themselves in their customers’ shoes and understand their needs. Often, they have a clear handle on metrics, the business processes, the data, and real-world customer experiences, whether they’re in marketing, sales, or service, and are the first to see how the changes they’re making are improving customer experience — or not.

Democratizing data integration

Because most departmental leaders in sales, service, and marketing are typically not familiar with programming, they look for integration solutions that provide click-not-code graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that enable a visual, intuitive process to democratize customer data integration. SnapLogic believes that GUI-driven, democratic data integration is an essential first step in empowering today’s CX architects to gain the analytic insight they need to improve customer experience.

In short, we believe that “citizen integrator” is really just another name for “citizen innovator;” fast, easy, seamless data integration shatters stubborn barriers to CX innovation by igniting exploration and problem-solving creativity.

To learn how to design your integration strategy to improve customer experience across the organization, download the white paper, “Integration in the age of the customer: The five keys to connecting and elevating customer experience.” In it, you’ll find actionable insights on how to optimize your organization’s data integration strategy to unlock CX innovation, including:

  • Why you need to ensure your organization’s integration strategy is customer-focused
  • How to plan around the entire customer lifecycle
  • Which five integration strategies help speed customer analytics and experience initiatives
  • How to put the odds of customer success in your favor

Nada daVeiga is VP Worldwide Pre-Sales, Customer Success, and Professional Services at SnapLogic. Follow her on Twitter @nrdaveiga.

Data integration: The key to operationalizing innovation

md_craig-BW-1443725112By Craig Stewart

It’s not just a tongue twister. Operationalizing innovation has proven to be one of the most elusive management objectives of the new millennium. Consider this sound bite from an executive who’d just participated in an innovation conference in 2005:

The real discussion at the meeting was about … how to operationalize innovation. All roads of discussion led back to that place. How do you make your company into a systemic innovator? There is no common denominator out there, no shared understanding on how to do that.[1]

The good news is that, in the 12 years since, cloud computing has exploded, and a common denominator clearly emerged: data. Specifically, putting the power of data – big data, enterprise data, and data from external sources – and analytics into users’ hands. More good news: An entirely new class of big data analysis tools[2] has emerged that allows business users to become “citizen data analysts.”

The bad news: There hasn’t been a fast, easy way to perform the necessary integrations between data sources, in the cloud – an essential first step that is the foundation of citizen data analytics, today’s hottest source of innovation.

Until now.

The SnapLogic Enterprise Integration Cloud is a mature, full-featured Integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) built in the cloud, for the cloud. Through its visual, automated approach to integration, the SnapLogic Enterprise Integration Cloud uniquely empowers both business and IT users, accelerating analytics initiatives on Amazon Redshift and other cloud data warehouses.

Unlike on-premises ETL or immature cloud tools, SnapLogic combines ease of use, streaming scalability, on-premises and cloud integration, and managed connectors called Snaps. Together, these capabilities present a 10x improvement over legacy ETL solutions like Informatica or other “cloud-washed” solutions originally designed for on-premises use, accelerating integrations from months to days.

By enabling “citizen integrators” to more quickly build, deploy and efficiently manage multiple high-volume, data-intensive integration projects, SnapLogic uniquely delivers:

  • Ease of use for business and IT users through a graphical approach to integration
  • A solution built for scale, offering bulk data movement and streaming data integration
  • Ideal capabilities for hybrid environments, with over 400 Snaps to handle relational, document, unstructured, and legacy data sources
  • Cloud data warehouse-readiness with native support for Amazon Redshift and other popular cloud data warehouses
  • Built-in data governance* by synchronizing data in Redshift at any time interval desired, from real-time to overnight batch.

* Why data governance matters

Analytics performed on top of incorrect data yield incorrect results – a detriment, certainly, in the quest to operationalize innovation. Data governance is a significant topic, and a major concern of IT organizations charged with maintaining the consistency of data routinely accessed by citizen data scientist and citizen integrator populations. Gartner estimates that only 10% of self-service BI initiatives are governed[3] to prevent inconsistencies that adversely affect the business.

Data discovery initiatives using desktop analytics tools risk creating inconsistent silos of data. Cloud data warehouses afford increased governance and data centralization. SnapLogic helps to ensure strong data governance by replicating source tables into Redshift clusters, where the data can be periodically synchronized at any time interval desired, from real-time to overnight batch. In this way, data drift is eliminated, allowing all users who access data, whether in Redshift or other enterprise systems, to be confident in its accuracy.

To find out more about how SnapLogic empowers citizen data scientists, and how a global pharmaceutical company is using SnapLogic to operationalize innovation, get the white paper, “Igniting discovery: How built-for-the-cloud data integration kicks Amazon Redshift into high gear.

Craig Stewart is Vice President, Product Management at SnapLogic.

[1] “Operationalizing Innovation–THE hot topic,” Bruce Nussbaum, Bloomberg, September 28, 2005. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2005-09-28/operationalizing-innovation-the-hot-topic

[2] “The 18 Best Analytics Tools Every Business Manager Should Know,” Bernard Marr, Forbes, February 4, 2016. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2016/02/04/the-18-best-analytics-tools-every-business-manager-should-know/#825e6115d397

[3] “Predicts 2017: Analytics Strategy and Technology,” Kurt Schlegel, et. al., Gartner, November 30, 2016. ID: G00316349

How to get valuable insights on data stored in Azure Data Lake Store

In a previous blog post, I discussed major trends in the data integration space and customers moving from on-prem to cloud. I’d like to focus on one trend which involves moving data from on-premises or cloud data analytics platforms to a Data Lake technology such as Azure Data Lake.

What is a Data Lake?

The Data Lake is a term coined for storing large amounts of data in its raw native form, including structured and unstructured data in one location. This data can come from various sources, and the Data Lake can act as a single source of truth for any organization. From the architecture standpoint, the data is first stored in data swamp/data acquisition, then cleansed/transformed as part of data transformation, and later published to gain business insights.

Data Lake

As seen in the diagram above, enterprises have multiple systems such as ERP, CRM, RDBMS, NoSQL, IoT sensors, etc. The disparate data, stored in different systems makes, is difficult to pull data from. A Data Lake brings all the data under one roof (data acquisition) using one of the following services:

  • Azure Blob
  • Azure Data Lake Store
  • Amazon S3
  • HDFS
  • Others

Data stored in one of these services can then be transformed in the following ways:

  • Aggregate
  • Sort
  • Join
  • Merge
  • Other

The transformed data is then moved to the data publish/data access section (could be the same as data acquisition services) where users can utilize the following tools to query the data:

  • Microsoft’s U-SQL
  • Amazon Athena
  • Hive
  • Presto
  • Others etc.

The bottom line is that a Data Lake can serve as a platform to run analytics in order to provide better customer experience, recommendations, and more.

Azure Data Lake is one such Data Lake from Microsoft and the repository used to store all the data is Azure Data Lake Store. Users can run Analytics Service, HDInsight or use U-SQL – a big data query language on top of this data store to gain better business insights.

ADLSSource: Microsoft

Azure Data Lake Store (ADLS) can store any data in its native format. One of the goals of this data store is to bring data from disparate sources. The Snaplogic Enterprise Integration Cloud with its pre-built connectors called Snaps help by moving data from different systems to the data store in a fast manner.

ADLS provides a complex API, which applications use to store data in ADLS. Snaplogic has abstracted all these complexities via Snaps so users can now easily move data from various systems to ADLS without needing to know anything of the complexities of these APIs.

Use case

A business needs to track and analyze content to better recommend products or services to its customers. Its data – from various sources such as Oracle, files, Twitter, etc. – needs to be stored in a central repository such as ADLS so that business users can run analytics on top to measure customer buying behavior, their interests, and products purchased.

Here’s a sample pipeline that can address this use case using Snaps:

Using the File Writer Snap and choosing the Azure Data Lake account as shown below, one can store the data merged from various systems into Azure Data Lake with ease.

All in all, the Data Lake can be a one-stop shop of storage for any data, giving users more ways to derive insights from multiple data sources. And SnapLogic is ready to make it easier for users to move their data into the Data Lake (in this case, an Azure Data Lake Store) in a quick and easy way.

Pavan Venkatesh is Senior Product Manager at SnapLogic. Follow him on Twitter @pavankv.

Introducing SnapLogic Community

We are happy to announce that our new SnapLogic Community is live!

community-overview

Created by popular demand - it’s been running in alpha and beta for a few months – the community is a place where we encourage customers to ask questions about SnapLogic’s software integration tools and share their expertise and best practices. Whether you’re looking for help or have tips or tricks, the goal is to provide a community that helps each other.

community-categories

  • Want assistance configuring a particular Snap? Post a question in the Snap Packs category.
  • Interested in sharing a pipeline you have found to be particularly useful? Write about it in the Designing Pipeline category.
  • Want to build your own Snap Pack? Go to the Developing Snaps category.

And yes, we are involved. SnapLogic developers, product managers, field teams, and others review the posts as they come in and when they are updated, but we will rely on the community to support each other.

How to get started

The SnapLogic community is currently for SnapLogic customers only. If you’re a customer with a verified customer email domain, it won’t take us long to approve you and grant you access. 

Go to https://community.snaplogic.com/ to request access. 

When approved, look out for an email with further instructions.

Once you’re approved and logged in, take a look at the content already provided by customers and SnapLogic employees who took part in the alpha and beta releases. Find something particularly useful? Go ahead and “Like” the post. Want to contribute to a thread or have a question? Please do! This community is for you. You will help drive the direction the community takes as it evolves. As your Community Manager, I will occasionally ask for suggestions for the site, but feel free to post ideas that you might have as they come up to the Community Info category.

We’re looking forward to growing this community. Sign up today and let us know what you think.

Request access at  https://community.snaplogic.com/.

SnapLogic on 2016 DBTA 100: The Companies That Matter The Most In Data

SnapLogic has been listed on the Database Trends and Applications 100 2016 – The Companies That Matter Most In Data. This is the fourth annual DBTA 100 list, and this year’s list includes companies finding innovative solutions for the ever-changing IT industry. This list includes companies of all backgrounds and sizes, yet ultimately all address the new developments in the technology industry. It’s also great to see so many of our partners like Amazon.com, Cloudera, and Microsoft on the list.

SnapLogic is listed on DBTA 100 2016 - The Companies That Matter Most In Data
SnapLogic is listed on DBTA 100 2016 – The Companies That Matter Most In Data

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