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How to Integrate Reverse ETL

Extract, transform, load (ETL) is a three-phase process in which data is, as the acronym suggests, extracted, transformed, and then loaded into a data container that is then able to be outputted to single or numerous destinations.

Let’s break it down:

Extract

This is when you take the data from its original location. This location can be an application or database.

Transform

The data is then cleaned up, combined, deduplicated, or in general just getting prepared for the next step.

Load

After data is taken from its original database and cleaned up it is loaded into its new home, the database.

For most companies, ETL is a standard concept. Centralizing all data into a single database provides a convenient, cohesive destination for all departments and persons within a company that is then readily and easily accessible to all those with access. However, ETL comes with some challenges. Because it takes a whole lot of data and compiles it into a single location it’s a pretty complex process. End-user customization is essential and that requires a custom code to meet those needs. Secondly, with all of that data going into the warehouses from different sources it’s pretty highly trafficked. And all of that traffic can end up in an inevitable outage or breakdowns, which results in a need for constant maintenance.

Reverse ETL is ETL but backward and it allows both marketing and sales teams to curate a better experience for its customers. It’s done by copying the database from the central warehouse where it was loaded and copying it into the different systems across a company. Imagine the letter “Y”. The base of the “Y” is data and the prongs of the “Y” are the systems. With basic ETL, the process moves from the top to the bottom. With Reverse ETL, the process moves from the bottom to the top.

Why would a company use Reverse ETL?

Deconstructing a centralized warehouse sounds counterproductive. Why would anyone want to make a mess by taking all of that data out of a centralized location and then moving it to one, or several, output destinations? In a word: reliance.

No company wants to become dependent on a single silo for all of its information. When that larger warehouse comes across a malfunction, data breach, or any of the other countless issues that could arise in technology, the company is immobilized. Before you know all of that data is at risk or worse it is lost. By deconstructing that data through Reverse ETL you create a key tool for securing data and closing the gap between analysis and activation.

Reverse ETL acts as a connecting point between that big data warehouse and the cloud applications. For companies who love their existing software, this moves the data back into that software that is more comfortable for end-users to extract information and access it.

Time to break down what Reverse ETL can be used for:

Automating data

Reverse ETL breaks down data to the different departments of a company. Think about an accounting department needing key numbers from marketing when determining if the finances are available to allocate to certain budgets.

Operational analysis

Rather than taking existing analytic tools and putting them into a bigger warehouse that others don’t know how to use, Reverse ETL feeds these analytics to certain teams in the form of an existing workflow that is readable to them. This enables quicker, more informed decisions because the data is more relatable to that specific department.

Creating data infrastructure

Reverse ETL is a great way to create a pattern in software engineering and make analytics production.

Okay, so now that we know what ETL is and what Reverse ETL is, and what Reverse ETL is used for, let’s break down how to integrate reverse ETL. It’s a simple case of whether to build or to buy. Do you buy a solution or do build one in-house that addresses the case? There are pros and cons to both.

Buy

When you buy a reverse ETL you’re giving another company control of your data, the same way you did with a warehouse. If something goes wrong you need to go through a third party to address the issue and help to break down your data so that the individual departments can have access to it, as they did from the start. However, buying will take less effort on the company’s part. You don’t need to invest time, energy, or finances into creating one yourself. It could be worth it to outsource and buy.

Build

Building a reverse ETL in house won’t save you time or money. But what it will do is give you the access and security you won’t get from buying it from someone else. You’ll know exactly how it works and what to do with it.

Reverse ETL is newer than the ETL process that began back in the 1970s. As a result, many companies still aren’t comfortable using it or simply don’t know the benefits. But reverse ETL is both better for companies and individuals within the company.

 

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