In firms where the majority of systems are outsourced, the real challenge is data management. Vendor systems don’t necessarily talk to each that well, many still preferring CSV or XML format as the primary interface. Often, overlapping data with different names exists in each of the vendor systems. In these firms, gluing the systems together becomes the major IT challenge. Over time, the glue - extract, transform and load - can sometimes become onerous, going through multiple revisions and data formats as system versions change. Commercial ETL tools are powerful but expensive. To fully utilize them, professional services or experienced staff are required. For firms lucky enough to agree and standardize on one ETL tool, it becomes the new application around which much of the IT work happens. But what if the ETL logic can become data itself, fluidly and flexibly adapting to changing conditions (read: business requirements)? What if you could avoid the lead time of ETL infrastructure upgrades too? This article shows how the glue can stay pliable yet strong through data-driven ETL.

Most firms possess a reasonable balance between internally developed applications and vendor systems, but occasionally you encounter a firm where they are extreme on one side. The focus here is the set of unique challenges facing firms with the majority of their systems outsourced. What observations can we reasonably make (in comparison to firms favoring internal development)?

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