When a systems integrator selects a data integration tool, it needs to consider a number of selection criteria.
A key criterion for vendor selection is systems compatibility.
The selected tool must foremost be able to interact with the specific systems that the customer’s company uses in the project under consideration. Companies look at whether the system you offer is interoperable with theirs and how much it automates the daily process and avoids manual processes. The tool must have the ability to create a connection to the systems under consideration with the proper security and authentication.
Alternatively, it must be able to take data output from those systems or provide data as files to be consumed. The tool should also have clear understanding of the data models in the respective systems, or the systems themselves should be able to provide descriptive data models to the tool.
Many systems such as Salesforce.com can provide a complete scheme of their data model to the integration tool.
In addition, a good data integration tool must have the following:
1. Connectivity to standard formats normally used such as MS Excel, Text files, CSV files. It is very common for systems to provide data and consume data in the form of Excel files, flat or CSV files. Almost all systems will accept a text file format of CSV or comma-delimited text files.
2. Standard open protocols such as ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) to access relational databases. Almost all databases can be accessed using ODBC. And even some applications, such as QuickBooks, are accessed using third party tools that comply with the ODBC standard.
3. Connectivity to popular platforms. A data integration system should support the most common applications customers use. These are the three classes of the most common applications: ERP, CRM and Ecommerce. Example applications include MS Dynamics AX, SugarCRM, and Magento.
4. Data quality checking and correction. This is also known as error recycling. The process should have the ability to categorize informational notices, warnings, and fatal errors. The system can present the errors and warnings to the user and allow to rectify them easily.
5. Scheduling of execution. Without manual intervention, data integration will be executed automatically in the scheduled time. This can be achieved by scheduling the data integration process every hour. Scheduling can be real-time or on a periodic basis. A typical example: Closed opportunities in Salesforce.com should be exported as invoices to MS Dynamics GP every hour.
6. Application Programming Interface. Some of the most promising innovations going on right now in integration include the ability to connect using application programming interfaces (APIs). APIs determine how applications will interact with other applications.