ETL Tool: How to simplify the Extract Transform Load Process

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What is ETL?

Extract Transform Load (ETL) are the three individual functions that provide the ability to push and pull data from a source database and place that data into another database. An ETL Tool is used to maintain ETL data consistency and simplify database integration and synchronisation development tasks.

When database integration is necessary, ETL systems provide the ability to synchronise data from one data source to another. For example, when data from a custom built website database needs to be placed into another database, such as an ERP or CRM system. In essence, an ETL Tool inserts rows into a database. The three individual functions that combine to formulate an ETL process are:

Extract: The data extraction function reads and extracts data from a specific source. For example, an eCommerce store, ERP or CRM system. Data can be from the same source or from multiple sources.

Transform: In order to become compatible with the target system or database, the data transformation function uses the data that has been extracted from the initial source and converts this data into the necessary format or database structure.

Load: The data loading function writes the data to the database location.

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Why use an ETL Tool for Data Integration?

Businesses deploy a variety of systems and applications, which means that data is held in multiple databases. This in turn results in poor visibility and presentation of critical information. An ETL Tool provides a structured methodology and capability to achieve data integration between disparate systems and databases. As a result, the cohesiveness of critical business data is improved, and the need for unstructured and convoluted bespoke approaches is reduced.

ETL Tool Example Extract Transform Load Process

Data can be held in multiple databases. An ETL Tool can dramatically reduce or totally eliminate the need for complex integration development.

The common reasons why organisations turn to using ETL Software for data integration include:

  • To ensure data consistency across multiple databases
  • Reduce bespoke development times and costs
  • When minimal or irregular updates are required for an application’s data or when an import routine exists for a specific dataset
  • For the initial synchronisation or one-off import of a large volume of data

What to look for in ETL Systems

The ETL process can be extremely complex. If it has been poorly designed, the business may suffer from noticeable operational issues. An ETL Tool needs to be easy-to-use, be able to communicate with a variety of relational databases and read various file formats. Database integration through ETL software has never been more fundamental to the success of today’s business.

In order to ensure data mapping and manipulation is robust, reliable and repeatable, leading ETL Tools that follow ETL best practices should provide containment and a highly structured approach. This ensures that data is consistent and any maintenance going forward is minimal. When identifying the right data integration tools, it’s best to ensure that they provide easy-to-use functional building blocks that quickly and simply bridge the data gap between disparate systems and applications.

The functional building blocks within an ETL solution provide a highly visual set of tools and functions which helps developers to avoid lengthy and expensive coding. Well-built ETL Tools can also provide extensive data transformation capabilities regardless of database structures. This means that they can convert a variety of either structured or flat files to formats that are compatible to a relational database or other object-based targets. The benefits of using extract transform load applications for data integration include:

  • Achieve a visual flow of a data processing structure
  • Provide developers with structured, compatible data between multiple sources
  • Achieve robust, reliable and repeatable data mapping and manipulation
  • Receive additional data cleansing and transformation capabilities
  • Easy to maintain, configure and adapt when needed
  • Ability to read multiple database types, files and web services and bring the information together

Many ETL applications provide the ability to integrate multiple databases and synchronise their distinct data sets, but not all can match any database structure. Market leading ETL Tools can be configured to achieve compatibility with almost any database structure.

In addition to achieving database compatibility, an essential technological feature is the ability to extend general ETL functions. Pioneering ETL systems will offer a bridge to automate further business processes. For example, in a procurement process it will provide the ability to dynamically create and distribute Purchase Order (PO) requisitions with an external supplier. Within a logistics environment it can facilitate the automatic placement of an order for fulfilment with a courier service provider.

An ETL Tool which offers the breadth of functionality to expose and consume information to and from each other, to be used in almost limitless combinations and sequences, ensures that any implementation can be easily expanded as and when needed.

To achieve even the most highly convoluted process, a principle ETL solution with a well-designed building block approach will provide any capable engineer who has a reasonable understanding of their systems with the capability to make extensive data processing and automation improvements to an organisation.

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ETL Tool working example: Transforming and mapping CSV Files

A common use of an ETL Tool is when the user is looking to achieve a standard import routine such as importing data on bulk with or without data transformation, or when a file import routine does not exist. Unlike an API* that calls back and forth between applications, flat files such as plain text or CSV (delimited or fixed width) do not. This makes using extract transform load solutions with flat files appropriate for:

  • When minimal or irregular updates are required for your application’s data or when an import routine exists for a specific dataset
  • The initial synchronisation or one-off import of a large volume of data

*For further information on API integration, read this article on using API integration tools.

Consider the scenario of commissioning a new eCommerce web store to synchronise data with an ERP system. Prone to manual processing errors, bulk product uploads are usually initiated using CSV files and the eCommerce platforms’ import routine – particularly if 10,000+ products need to be uploaded. Without an ETL Tool in place it could be an expensive manual process.

For example, on the initial synchronisation of bulk uploads, errors can occur. This could be due to double commas or commas in the wrong place, or the CSV file may be rejected due to missing entries in a required field. As a result, without ETL software in place, an employee would have to manually trace the CSV file, edit the document with the correct information and re-import the CSV file, whilst hoping that the file does not lose its formatting in the process.

An ETL Tool removes the risk of errors and import failures. It will dynamically extract the data from the CSV file, transform this information so that it is compatible with the target system or database and load the data to the database location. In the long term, this will save a business time and money.

ETL Tool Summary

ETL Tools provide organisations with the opportunity to achieve data integration between disparate systems and databases whilst reducing bespoke development times and costs.

Market leading ETL systems that follow ETL best practice provide a visual flow of a data processing structure and are capable of reading multiple database types, files and web services to bring the information together. They ensure that data is consistent, well-structured and can be mapped and manipulated reliably and repeatedly, whilst being easy to maintain, configure and adapt as and when required.

To learn more about how BPA Platforms’ drag and drop ETL Tool facilitates database integration and eliminates the need for complex and bespoke development, download the brochure below or call +44 (0)330 99 88 700.

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The Business Process Automation (BPA) Platform enables you to quickly and easily build automated processes unique to your organisation through an intuitive drag and drop graphical user interface.

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