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Data integration woes here to stay

At last week's DAMA conference, the experts told DBAs that one way to make data integration problems go away is to play really well with others.

LOS ANGELES -- One of the biggest challenges to database administrators is data integration, and it was a central theme at last week's DAMA International Symposium.

Craig Mullins, director of technology planning for BMC Software and a expert, told DAMA attendees that DBAs are being required to make software do things "God never intended to do."

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"Every organization has multiple databases," Mullins said. "New versions of DBMSs are coming our every two or three years, and company mergers only add to the complexity," Mullins said. "One of the most difficult things to do is to integrate two working products."

Data integration is such a complex problem that Len Silverston , recipient of the DAMA International's Individual Achievement Award for 2004, gave a presentation that sounded more like a self-help seminar for troubled DBAs than a technology planning session.

Focusing on communication and trust, Silverston hammered away at the theme that a positive attitude and clear goals are key to successful data integration projects.

"If we have a disconnected environment, we will create disconnected databases," said Silverston in his keynote speech at the DAMA International Symposium Wednesday.

Silverston offered a four-step program for success. First, admit to your mistakes quickly. Second, keep sight of your goals. Third, listen to competing ideas. Lastly, don't repeat mistakes and recycle models that work.

One of the most difficult things to do is to integrate two working products.
Craig Mullins
Director of Technology PlanningBMC Software

That might sound corny, but one IT team testified that a similar approach worked for them.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. presented its data integration story at the DAMA conference. Several members of Toyota's data quality and architecture group, led by data quality manager John Gonzales, gave a technical talk on how data and meta data are integrated across Toyota's organization, from supply chain to customer service.

"If you own a Toyota and call customer service," Gonzales said, "they know not only what kind of car you have, but what parts were used in your last service, where you live and how many kids you have."

That sort of query capability is a result of having an innovative, communicative IT team, said Ken Karacson, a senior data analyst at Toyota.

"We had a lack of communication because we didn't have the tools in-house to communicate," Karacson said. So they built the tools. And different project teams now share data, a rarity in the business world.

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