The need for an integrated data platform

By John Nel | 13 August 2018

For each department in an asset manager there are usually several alternatives to choose from when seeking a system that will store, manipulate and present data to help that team achieve their goals. In my experience, those systems were pretty good at answering questions that are very specific to that domain.

But very often, a question would be raised by a colleague, client or asset consultant that would require some combination of data across those different platforms. Invariably, it would be an enormous amount of work for a once-off request that was unlikely to be needed again. And consequently, it wouldn’t be worth creating a series of Excel sheets with embedded VBA, to be repeatable. But these questions would come again and again, each time a little different, needing a different combination of the data sources.

What is needed is a single integrated data platform for an asset management business. Maybe that is asking too much of a single platform. We all know of a company or product which tried to be too many things for too many people and failed when it didn’t do any of them well.

Instead of looking for the jack-of-all-trades, rather try to find a service which has found a clever way of being able to achieve the outcome by doing a few things very well. A platform that is focused on being able to access the data, whatever it represents and wherever it resides, while giving its users the ability to map this data to the business concepts the data represents. With the flourishing visualization software industry, the platform wouldn’t need to create pretty reports – it would just need to be able to feed the data to the users’ chosen platform.

To do this well, it would need to be agnostic to the data inputs provided as well as agnostics to the visualization tool used to present.

Ensure that it can accept most of the following as data inputs:

  1. Databases – ODBC, SQL, Oracle, MDX, Excel, Access, mySQL
  2. Files – Text (column width and delimited), CSV, XML, JSON, Excel
  3. APIs – Text (column width and delimited), CSV, XML, JSON

As for visualization tools, the following is a short list of some of the most commonly used:

  • Excel
  • Sisence
  • Power BI
  • FusionCharts
  • Tableau
  • Highcharts
  • Qlikview

But with the ever-expanding array of tools, it is impractical for developers to create custom integrations with each one. To deal with this, industry has developed REST services which can read JSON file format and this has become the preferred standard for data delivery between platforms. So, if the platform can read JSON imports and can produce JSON exports it will be able to interact with many other modern platforms.

A platform that can access data in the common formats; gives its users a clever way of mapping and transforming that data and can export that information to a visualization platform could become invaluable to your business.

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