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Also posted on: The IM Blog
Informatica announced project Springbok earlier this year with a public beta starting in May. It has just become generally available (you can download it from https://springbok.is/?code=code7). It is a data preparation platform, though Informatica describes it as a data harmonisation platform. That is, it is a platform for exploring data with built-in data curation capabilities. However, it is unlike data preparation platforms from companies such as Tamr and Trifacta that are targeted at data scientists. Springbok is aimed at business users and analysts who can use Springbok in conjunction with business intelligence tools such as Tableau.
Springbok allows you to load to datasets (which you can then join) and the software will automatically make suggestions about de-duplication, enrichment, cleansing and so forth. For example, Informatica will recognise nulls for you and suggest possible values (for instance, filling in city details based on postal code) and it will similarly suggest enrichment options (with Informatica knowing which keys to join on) such as details from Dun & Bradstreet. Of course, these are suggestions only and the user can opt to accept these recommendations or not. Once you have done all of that then you can run your Tableau queries against the curated data.
A further feature of Springbok is that the more you use it the more you’ll get out of it. This is because it is not only a collaborative environment but also because Informatica monitors how other people are using the product and it will be able to make recommendations based upon what those other people are doing and the most popular approaches adopted by your colleagues.
So far, so good. But there is another feature of Springbok that is attractive. Users are demanding self-service business intelligence capabilities and companies like Tableau and Qlik are providing this, often directly to business units without the knowledge or involvement of IT. In theory this should not be a problem but in practice it is, because users do not have the wherewithal to ensure the quality and governance of the data they are analysing. This is what Springbok provides. Moreover, as well as ensuring proper governance, IT can get visibility into how the business is using data. This, in turn, means that IT can start to be proactive with respect to the services it offers the business: because it can see how data is being used it will be in a position, for example, to recommend development and automation options around relevant data usage scenarios.
It is because of this hybrid usage for both the business user directly, and IT in being less reactive and more proactive, that Informatica refers to Springbok as being about data harmonisation. It believes that it can change the relationship between the business and IT. I am not sure that I would go that far but it is certainly a step in the right direction.