Managing the Integrity of Data Integration in .NET

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Data is often ne within the context of a single application In fact, most application systems have quality checks on their own data to ensure that processing is performed correctly Many data accuracy challenges arise when you try to integrate data from more than one system, such as when product and customer codes do not align Often the data from these systems has been used together for years Sometimes this has been done in a previous reporting or data warehouse project for which the data has been integrated and coexists in the same database If this is the case, then much of the hard work may already be done If there are any major problems with the existing processes, the business community will know about it or it may be that no one is using this reporting environment Take the time to review how the data is integrated and ensure that the business intent has been implemented
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In other cases, data from these sources has not been integrated in a systematic way If there is a business need to have this data together, it is likely that someone in the organization is already doing this by hand Try to nd a report where the data from these two different systems is being presented side by side today Then, dig in to nd out how this is being done While there may be some manual manipulation of the data, there will still be some underlying queries that extract the data from the source The business logic needed to integrate the data may be embedded in spreadsheets, SAS code, or someone s head Some organizations have employed strong information management practices for years, so that standard customer and product identi ers are used by operational systems throughout the organization This improves the ease and accuracy of integrating data from multiple sources Unfortunately, this is not always the case A direct link may not exist, but often through a series of steps, the data can be linked to other identi ers that are included in the second source system Figure 8-6 shows a basic example of data integration In order to integrate customer feedback on products with actual product sales, there is no direct path to follow First, when a customer calls in, the manufacturing code that is stamped on the product is requested This can be linked to a manufacturing history table from which the manufacturing product identi er is pulled Using a product mapping table, the manufacturing product can be linked to the product code that is used in the order entry system It is no wonder that it seems impossible to pull integrated data for reporting This is straightforward if the mapping process is clear, but often this is not well understood by business users who simply want some reports Sometimes this product mapping is developed and stored by a business analyst and is not generally available Sometimes there are no obvious links in the systems to support integration of data Careful research needs to be done to ensure that this is really the case Then, explore what would need to change in order to make this possible in the future Sometimes it requires signi cant re-engineering of one or more underlying operational systems If this is the case, the data integration requirement should be included in any system redesign efforts in the future Searching for which elds in the database can be linked together clearly requires strong technical skills The people with these skills may exist only in the IT group responsible for supporting the application However, do not leave the task of integration completely to the IT staff Representatives from the business perspective must also assist in this work Often, the business community is already familiar with the challenges of merging this data and can provide invaluable insight into how this can be done correctly
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