Data is everywhere, but the key is to extract relevant information from that data. A typical enterprise would have several business applications, each having its own data store. Now for making any business decision, information needs to be gathered across these disparate data stores, which is quite a handful task. Enterprise Information Management is a technique that makes this task simpler and provides a holistic view of an organization's information, panning across different applications and processes.
In today's competitive business environment, information exchange takes place quite frequently. Organizations should have the required tools to manage this information and take timely decisions to remain competitive. Unfortunately all this information is scattered across multiple systems which can't talk to each other. Moreover, data in these systems is inconsistent and at times not up-to-date. So, if you need to scour through multiple business applications, databases and spreadsheets to find relevant data for decision making, then you need an effective enterprise information management (EIM) solution to organize your data infrastructure.
Today most enterprises have adopted Business Intelligence solutions to help in decision making processes, but results from such solutions are as good as the data that is fed into them. Within an enterprise there are different functional information silos, like production, human resource, finance or CRM, each of which has valuable information. However, most reporting or BI solutions are bound to a particular package, thus having access to limited information. To maximize their performance, enterprises require timely and consistent access to trustworthy information which pans across the enterprise and is not bound to any particular information silo. To accomplish this task, organizations should have an Enterprise Information Management (EIM) strategy in place that combines technologies for data integration, data quality, data modeling and metadata management. With an EIM strategy in place, enterprises can integrate their BI solutions on top of it to have a deeper level of insight and visibility into the data.
What is EIM?
Enterprise Information Management as defined by Gartner is “an organizational commitment to define, secure and improve the accuracy and integrity of information assets and to resolve semantic inconsistencies across all boundaries to support technical, operational and business objectives of a company's enterprise architecture strategy.”
EIM will play, rather is playing a very important role in enabling
enterprises to accurately define the source of data, which derives
information. Take a classical example of three official entities - the
Customer, Employee, and Vendor. Can we categorize all the three into one
entity such as Business Associate?
EIM is not a packaged solution or a technology, but is a process wherein an enterprise implements services for organizing, structuring and managing their various information assets. The objective is to integrate the business goals of the organization with technology to help in management of information to simplify business processes, and enhance information visibility across different organizational functions. To architect an EIM strategy there are many components that can be implemented, including data warehousing, data governance and data integration technologies. And business intelligence has become an integral piece for a successful EIM implementation.
For any enterprise, there are various business applications that have their own information stores, and all these combined create the universe of data for an enterprise's business, so a lot more than just the ERP or a CRM system. To have proper information, an enterprise should look at its enterprise wide data universe and not just into a particular business application's data landscape. Also as enterprise data increases in leaps and bounds, there are instances where information gets replicated in different business applications, as there is absence of relationship management amongst them. A proper way of gathering, using and storing data can help in better information management for an organization. Most have already started to realize this. And EIM is the way to achieve this. It provides the ability to manage all information regardless of the format or location, taking all regulatory compliances into account.
The significance of a single customer view is to find out what relationship a customer is having with the organization, for instance if it's a telecom company, then a customer could be having an account for his mobile connection, at his residence he might also be having an Internet connection from the same company, and he could also be having an additional mobile connection by his wife's name. To bring such information together is what a single customer view is all about. So through a single window one can see all the relationships of a customer with the organization. In the absence of this single interface, a person would be required to fetch information manually from different silos to know about a customer. Therefore with a single customer view an enterprise can have governance in place. With a relationship model made for the organization's information architecture, when different silos or BI solutions want to access information, they get all relationships from the model. EIM helps in re-usability and interoperability of information between disparate data sources.
The mantra for a successful enterprise information management strategy is to have interoperability for information amongst different business applications and also re-usability of information. They must understand the interdependency of information in order to plan an effective EIM initiative. An EIM strategy will allow business users to have access to different types of information coming from multiple data sources across the enterprise. It is imperative for them to identify data stores for information, and then through data quality methodologies, that data should be cleansed, profiled and marked for relationships. With open standard formats, the integration of data amongst disparate business applications needs to be done. On top of it you need to provide a metadata management layer for information access and retrieval. The information thus accessed through an information portal can have data being fed from disparate operational data stores or silos rather than from one single information store (for instance ERP or CRM systems).
The initial phase for an EIM strategy is to have information metadata definition in place, followed by data consolidation strategies to gather data into one single repository, something like an enterprise data mart (EDM). The organization then can gradually move on to have Master Data Management where data collection, data updation, and data quality can be managed through one single interface. The final process in EIM is to disseminate the information gathered from various data silos and show it in a single window. This can be a dashboard view in a portal. EIM initiatives help an organization to improve understanding of business processes, organizational roles, data management and data ownership throughout the enterprise. This in turn promotes collaboration and cooperation required to create a single view of an enterprise's processes or services. As we said earlier, EIM is not a technology, but an architecture. It combines various methodologies, some of which include: data integration; data movement cross platform with ETL tools; data profiling; data quality assurance; metadata management; and master data management. None of these technologies are new or revolutionary, and have been widely used in data warehousing, information analytics and reporting, and also in business intelligence tools. What is different is that in EIM these technologies are used for more integration, and use an SOA approach for exchange protocols that enable capabilities such as data management and help provide a single information view, which is also called as a 'single customer view.'
Lot of people focus on structured data, but there's a lot of information around as that is in the unstructured form. In certain business verticals there's stream data that comes in, plus there's a lot of information being carried by executives on their laptops. All this information is essentially important from a business perspective, but it is never seen that way; it has always been seen in a specific 'application silo' perspective. With EIM, the information fabric that an organization creates helps in being cost-effective and in improving performance. Moreover, besides helping in compliance and governance initiatives, EIM can also be helpful in organizing an information layer that could be used by business applications which rely on real-time data, as in stock exchanges.
For any EIM strategy, it is metadata management which is the foundational component. The business users in an organization do not have access to enterprise wide information while making business decisions. Therefore, metadata management initiative is required to provide information context to systems, applications, interfaces, resources and data that compromises an enterprise's information assets.
A metadata initiative benefits in giving data governance by providing context to information resources and providing easy access to that information to business users within the organization. When an enterprise's metadata management is structured in a manner that it can look back at key information from the data source, ETL processes and databases, then the accuracy of reports and analytics of BI solutions also increase dramatically. Thus, by having an EIM strategy, an enterprise can have the same visibility across different functional departments in the enterprise, which in turn results in better governance. Also by having a BI solution integrated with the EIM strategy, business users can have easy access to meaningful, accurate and timely information for taking business decisions.