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Data in Translation

When you travel to a different country, how do you prepare? Making sure your passport is up-to-date is clearly crucial, as is packing the appropriate clothing. Maybe you change your phone plan to an international one so that you can communicate to your friends and family back home.

But what about tools for translation – how do you make sure your devices still work? How do you make sure you can understand the local language? Sure, these concerns aren’t quite as pressing or as obvious as, say, buying a plane ticket, but they will certainly affect your trip if you neglect to address them. Without them, your ability to function drops significantly.

In IT, data travelling between different applications or servers is like people travelling between different countries. Integrators and adapters are the conversion and translation tools that allow data to function and interact with the data that resides in “foreign” territory. We won’t get too technical here, but the following provides a fuller explanation of what integrators and adaptors actually are:


Integrators are software or middleware applications that integrate data between 2 or more business applications. Every company has multiple business applications that provide various functionality or tools for different users or departments. Despite the fact they are designated to perform different tasks or provide different functionality, these business applications must be able to “talk” to each other in order to streamline operations and provide a holistic snapshot of the business. Integrators “translate” the programming language of one application to another, which allows them to understand the data in their own context. Integrators also help to increase data security and scalability.

A common and simple example of an integrator would be software that allows an Accounting application to pull and apply data initially plugged into a Revenue application; the departments perform different functions, but pull from the same pool of information.


Adaptors perform a function similar to integrators – technically speaking, they are extended code snippets built right into integration software – but they work between 2 or more servers. Adapters help determine how to read, write, and move data between applications on different servers. Like power converters, adaptors provide the tools to transform data from a source and make it accessible for another user.

Some examples of adapters are:

  • File Adapters: read/write files to or from one server to another
  • FTP Adapters: move files to or from one server to another
  • DB (Database) Adapters: read/write files to or from a particular database
  • Queues: determine how to prioritize and process data that is received from multiple locations. Queues help to handle data and keep it organized even if the business application is down by maintaining the data in place until the application is running and ready for integration.

So what does this process actually look like?

Let’s say a business user in Austin wants to upload/move some data into another application that is running on Houston server. As step one, business users generally are asked to keep files in a shared location on their server. Once the file is saved in the appropriate place on the Austin server, the integrator software (application) grabs the file using one of the adapters mentioned above (in this case, the FTP adapter) and moves the file to Houston Server. After that the integrator application uses another adapter (in this case File Adapter) to read the contents of the file and write it into the database (using DB Adapter) of the application that is on Houston server. Any errors or exceptions during this process can be sent as email notifications to the business user indicating whether or not the file has been successfully uploaded.

Building your IT infrastructure without adaptors and/or integrators is like traveling to a foreign country without translation tools.  

It’s certainly possible, but it creates unnecessary hurdles and workarounds for your users, resulting in lost productivity and an increased risk of human error. In one case, a Filenet-Oracle integration project saved a mid-size Oil and Gas company $3.2 million dollars per year in operational costs and lasted only 3-4 months! Interested in how integrators and adaptors can improve your infrastructure? Contact us to learn more!


Catalyzing Change Through IT Investments

As 2015 comes to a close, it’s natural to reflect on the triumphs and tribulations of the past year; however, it’s much more important to look ahead and prepare for the challenges to come. We must, as Hem and Haw learned long ago in the old fable, “Who Moved My Cheese?”, constantly anticipate and adapt to change, lest we wake up one day and realize that our complacency has created dire circumstances for our business.

However, while nearly every organizational guru and change management pundit tells us never to let fear or entrenched viewpoints keep leaders from taking risks and embracing innovation, how many of us really follow that advice? Uncertain economies and a rapidly evolving technological landscape can do much to undermine the bravery and foresight necessary to keep a business successful. Huge titans of industry – Blockbuster, Kodak, Borders and Motorola, just to name a few – have all but disappeared as a result of their inability to innovate and evolve.

For the IT industry, paralyzing pitfalls not only come in the form of outdated technologies, but also in outdated beliefs. For example, some perceptions that come to mind are: IT is an unnecessary cost; IT does not help us when we need it the most; IT will adjust on its own as the business evolves; and IT is just another term for automating “accounting”.

As a result of these beliefs, companies fail to include IT as a tool to execute change, much to their detriment. While the product or service that a company offers in the market may not have much to do with computers or software in and of itself, the role of IT in supporting or even producing that product or service is invaluable. Without data, metrics, analytics, processes and technology to back up a product or service (even if it is non-IT!), the business is going to feel the pinch and start to unravel rapidly.

Now, don’t get us wrong – we are completely sympathetic to concerns with cost, especially for risky change initiatives when the cheese supply (so to speak) is limited. But, as with any other business decision, “cost”, must be considered in terms of overall return on investment; a fixation on upfront spending is both paralyzing and impractical. IT Business investments should be measured in the impacts on the business, both tangible and intangible. An inclusive approach to quantifying the business value of IT initiatives will differ from industry to industry, but diagramming an enterprise “value chain” is a starting point that will help define and connect seemingly disparate processes and functions. This investigation is best done with the full buy-in and active participation of the enterprise as a whole. In our experience, Value Chain Analysis can be best achieved through the following process:

  • Graphing out activities from input (raw materials) to output to illustrate how the product or service gets to market
  • Categorize these activities as primary or support activities
  • Identify whether the company goals for all activities are aligned to compete based on the lowest cost or differentiation. Use these numbers to establish metrics and benchmarks
  • For each primary and support activity, list out:
    • Business Application used for transactional need
    • Applications/Tools for reporting needs
    • Applications/Tools used for workflow automation and event response
    • Manual processes
    • Dependency on other activities in the value chain
    • User Satisfaction
    • Total cost of ownership
    • Critical areas for improvement

In many cases, such an exercise will lead to a transparent and collaborative discussion of both corporate and departmental goals, potentially uncovering previously untapped partnerships and resources to achieve them. Most importantly, comprehensive analysis of the complete value chain fosters an understanding and respect for how systems, processes and people work together to create a successful enterprise. These collaborative summits can motivate corporate leaders to explore new areas of the technological landscape to stay relevant and ahead of challenges, inspiring a new-found respect for the power of IT to support the overall strategy and vision for a company.

So, shall we call this the beginning of a new “Find My Cheese” era? Let the cheese hunt begin – together!

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