ETL tools have transformed the way that BI projects are structured, and have saved immense time and effort for the development teams that are involved.

So when considering the best practice associated with a Business Intelligence project, it is important to know what to look for in an ETL tool.

Here's Senior Technical Consultant Brett Parkin, Karabina Solutions thoughts on implementing an ETL tool and how to run a comparison on these tools.

Questions

When comparing ETL Tools, how important is it to review your business’s needs? How important is it to identify what you are going to need the ETL tools to do before choosing your product?

This is critical. Considering the range of ETL tools available, it would be easy to mis-match the ETL tool to the business needs.

An overly complex tool may easily cover all the required needs, but at an exorbitant cost! On the other hand, the cheaper tool may not cover all the needs, leaving business with an incomplete solution.

What elements should you carefully consider before purchasing an expensive ETL product?

  • What volumes of data need to be managed? The tool selected for an organization with a single data source would be very different to the ETL tool for an organization that wishes to consolidate data from several different sources.
  • What is the nature of that data – is it structured or unstructured data? Data coming from various ERP systems, payroll systems and CRM Systems will appear very differently and will need to be processed into a uniform file that can be utilized by the reporting and analytical tools that are used. The types of data must be considered before selecting an ETL tool that may not have the capacity to do this.
  • What systems will the tool be reading from and delivering data to? So planning what data the tool must process, what format it should be transformed into, and what end point / system will it be imported into at the end of the ETL processing. This will steer your decision about what tool will work best. E.g. a SQL compatible tool is great is you want to make sure that your data ends up in your SQL database.

What else would you urge potential buyers / users of ETL tools to bear in mind when making their decision?

Absolutely one of the biggest elements to consider is time needed to implement, this will have a cost and time implication on your project, so it’s important to understand exactly how long this will take to ensure you manage and plan for the project accordingly.

You want something that will

a) produce a solution before the business needs change, which can happen quicker than you’d expect, and

b) allow you to keep up with changing business needs.

In considering the items highlighted, it is vitally important to understand the size of your organization and its needs when selecting an ETL tool.

The type, size, various sources and the final system that will store the data must all be defined in order to select your tool.

Lastly the time to implement, functionality provided and the costs involved are the last elements to consider when selecting your ETL tools.