Basics of Data Integration: Why is grammar so important?

Renat Zubairov data integrations, know-how

basics of data integration

How many times have we wondered whether school lessons will ever be useful in the outside world? I never thought of the importance of trigonometry until I tried to fit a large sofa through a narrow doorway! In a similar way – unless your career path takes you in certain directions – many may question the value of grammar in real life. After all, when text-speak, emoticons and all manner of colloquialisms dominate our daily communications, how important is grammatical correctness? And why am I talking about grammar on a technology blog?! What does it have to do with the basics of data integration?

As it turns out, grammar can help us to make an important connection between the language of business and the language of IT in the enterprise environment. It underpins a clarity that can make or break the success of an integration project.

In the elastic.io Data Integration Best Practices e-book, we talk about the benefits of creating interoperability between systems and applications to collect, manage and share data in a more creative, unified and efficient way. The language used by business managers compared to their IT counterparts can easily stand in the way of achieving the best practice in data integration. Even though it is IT that creates the connections, it is often the business user that initiates the request.  So a basic (and very important) point in data integration is grammar.

It all lies in where the focus should be done…

In data integration, one of the basic things to do is to describe the request. When describing it, business users will normally focus on the noun (the name) rather than the verb (the action). For example, the marketing department wants to synchronize a new content marketing system with the sales CRM database. Therefore, the marketing director might say: “I need Salesforce contacts”. The question is: what do they want to do with the Salesforce contacts? There is no verb to describe what kind of action is requested.

From an IT perspective, it is the verb that carries the weight: what action does the user want to be able to take? For example, reading a contact or viewing an order are similar actions. On the other hand, adding a contact or updating an order are completely different activities. This is important to understand because different actions have more complex demands on data handling and dependencies. 

… and the direction it should take

The verb indicates the direction of the data transfer and can better describe the mechanics of the activity. That is why it is critical to remember one thing: the verb (e.g. read, write) is the most important part of the request and the noun (e.g. contract, order) comes in second place.

Furthermore, when talking about integration API design, adding or changing nouns carries a lower cost than adding or changing verbs. This means that if we already have ‘read contact’ then ‘read order’ is easy to add. A different story would be adding ‘write contact’, which becomes more complex.

This shows how important it is to be clear from both a business and technical perspective. Emphasizing grammatical accuracy is important for achieving business goals at the end of an integration project. Our advice is to think about a ‘business logic’ first approach. This means defining what the user wants to have happen as a result of the action. The clearer and more accurate this understanding is, the more easily it will translate into the mechanics and identifying the right API solution for the project. 


About the Author

Renat Zubairov

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Renat Zubairov is CEO and co-founder of elastic.io. He is an experienced hacker, product owner and agile evangelist. Renat is a speaker on international conferences, user groups and active open source community member. During his career Renat was working with world best companies like Nokia, Nokia-Siemens Networks, TCS and DHL. Last 5 years he has been working in product start-ups in Application Integration, Data Integration and Business Process Management areas. Leading development of Application Integration (ESB, SOA) product.


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