There are many ways to achieve your data integration goals, but if you’ve decided to explore the options for buying a data integration solution, we’re here to help you through what can be a complicated, confusing process.
Firstly, we’re not here to answer the question of ‘which data integration software should I choose?’. That’s (unfortunately) up to you, and will depend on your individual business’s needs. Instead, this page will show you is what questions you should be asking during the buying process, and guide you through some key do’s and don’ts to help you choose the right solution for you.
Before you start shopping for data integration tools
Knowing what you want to achieve with your data integration solution is key. Whether it’s a data migration you need to undertake, ongoing integration or transformation needs or automating your data processes to save time and money – the clearer your picture of a successful outcome is, the better equipped you will be to evaluate solutions.
Before you even approach vendors, you and your team should answer some questions, including:
- Where is data is stored, and which sources do you need to connect?
- Where do you need to put your data, and what do you want to do with it?
- Are you working with in-house or cloud systems – or a combination of both?
- How technical are your users?
This last point is important. There are many different levels of data platforms out there, ranging from relatively simple, visual tools that can be used by a wide range of people (but which can be limited in functionality or flexibility) to highly technical tools that need technical users to make the most of them.
Establishing what your in-house skill level is will help you find the right tool – one that you can work with and that gives your business the most value.
Thinking about the future
Buying a new data platform is generally not cheap – both in terms of financial cost and also the time it takes to implement them and train your team.
So you need to make sure that whichever solution you choose will suit your needs not just now, but in the future too.
How to get the most out of software demos
Many enterprise software vendors will just want to give you their standard demo, which can sometimes be useful to give you a general overview, but dig deeper.
By the time you get into the buying process, you’ll want your vendors to talk meaningfully about your specific data challenge and how they would approach it.
It’s important to test out the vendor’s technical knowledge – do they sound like they know what they’re talking about and are they addressing your questions properly? Can they bring specialists onto calls to talk to your technical teams? Are you seeing you what you need to see, rather than what they want to show you?
Trust your instincts as to what the vendor would be like to work with long term. After all, you are…
Choosing a vendor, not just choosing software
Enterprise software is rarely straightforward, and you’ll need to work with the company as well as the product itself – potentially for a long time, so you need to be happy with the relationship.
You should get an idea during the sales and demo process – are the people you’re talking to trying to help solve your problem, or do they just want to sell you something and walk away? Are they available when you need to ask them questions?
Ask about their previous experience – what can they tell you about similar use cases or companies to yours?
And understand how their support works. Remember that you often get what you pay for. If you can be relatively self-sufficient, you may be able to save money by researching and fixing some of your issues yourself. But if you need to be able to pick up the phone and speak to someone quickly, or your business needs to rely on strict SLAs, investing in strong support can pay off. Make sure what the company offers suits your needs.
How to evaluate data integration software
During the evaluation process, make sure you have enough time for a full assessment. And make sure you put the time in to evaluate solutions properly. Yes, it takes time and effort, and it’s tempting to see this as a distraction from everything else you’re trying to do, but the more you put into the process now the more it will pay off in the long term.
Things to consider when you’re evaluating solutions include:
- Software performance – but make sure you know what you really need and don’t get caught up in a specs race for no good reason
- Change implementation – how will you make changes to your solution on a day to day basis? Do you have the necessary skills in house or do you need to hire or train more people (or outsource some expertise)?
- The basics – does the platform work well with the infrastructure you have now, and also what you might want to work with in the future?
Data integration platform costs
Last but by no means least comes cost. How much you have to spend on a solution will affect your decision – but make sure you weigh up the potential value you’re going to get from your tool and don’t just look at the price tag in isolation.
Understand how the pricing works for the options you’re evaluating. Is the licensing based on a per-user, per-source or a volume-based model? Any one could be right for you, depending on your particular use case and situation.
And it’s important that you don’t just look at the initial outlay, but at how the costs will play out over the next few years. A more expensive up-front payment could lead to lower ongoing costs, and vice-versa, so think about which works better for your organization.
And maybe most important – think about the future.
If you need to scale up as your business grows, how might your costs change? New tools often bring new, unexpected ways of working. You don’t want to be prevented from making the most of these opportunities across your business by restrictive pricing.
Choosing the right data integration platform takes research and preparation, but the payoff can be great when you find the right solution to solve your data challenges and improve the way your business works.
For more of the key issues and questions you should be considering, get a copy of our free e-book: The Ultimate Buyers’ Guide to Data Integration Software.