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A Summary of Integrating Information from Diverse Data Sets

(1) Efforts involving organization-wide data integration: benefits, barriers, and lessons


Organization-wide data integration tends to lead to the following benefits in the context of enterprise-level planning and decision making:

  • Improved managerial information for organization-wide communication (Goodhue, et al., 1992)
  • Improved operational coordination across sub-units or divisions of an organization (Goodhue, et al., 1992)
  • Improved organization-wide strategic planning and decision making

Data integration is necessary for data to serve as a common language for communication within an organization. Without data integration there will be increased processing costs and ambiguity between sub-units or divisions. Without data integration, there will be delays and decreased levels of communication, reductions in the amount of summarization, and greater distortion of meaning (Huber, 1982). Data integration facilitates the collection, comparison, and aggregation of data from various parts of an organization, leading to better understanding (Goodhue, et al., 1992), and improved enterprise-level planning and decision making when there are complex, interdependent problems.


Data integration can have a positive impact on reducing costs by reducing redundant design efforts (Goodhue, et al., 1992). However, because multiple sub-units or divisions are involved, data integration can also increase costs by increasing the size and complexity of the design problem or increasing the difficulty in getting agreement from all concerned parties. These barriers were summarized by Goodhue et al. (1992) as:

  • Compromises in meeting local information needs
  • Bureaucratic delays that reduce local flexibility
  • Higher up-front costs of information system design and implementation

Organization-wide data integration may result in a loss of local autonomy in the design and use of data. In addition, it may also involve a loss of local effectiveness. Over time, different sub-units may face different task complexity and environmental challenges of unanticipated local events (Sheth and Larson, 1990).


The following lessons have been derived from the cases of organization-wide data integration (Goodhue, et al., 1992; Sheth and larson, 1990; Robertson, 1997):

  • Choosing the appropriate level of data integration in an organization may require trading off improved organization-wide communication and coordination against decreased local flexibility and effectiveness
  • The top management in an organization should allow each division to design and implement its own information systems, based upon best serving its local operational and information needs. "The result might be systems that are locally optimal but not integrated across the divisions, with different definitions, identifiers, and calculations in each division" (Goodhue, et al., 1992, p302)
  • A single logical design for use across multiple sub-units can be difficult. The more sub- units involved and the more heterogeneous their needs, the more difficult it will be to develop a single design to meet all needs
  • Data integration may change the organizational information flows, and affect individual roles and organizational structure
  • The cost of designing and implementing data integration must be also considered, because it might be much higher than expected