ETL – Extraction, Translation, and Loading



Do a Google search on ETL, and you find you’ve uncovered an entire industry.  I bet you didn’t know this:  there is a website called devoted to following this market.  They help with research and case studies, and you can even buy their report that compares the top 18 offerings.


Vendors such as IBM, Oracle, Business Objects, and Microsoft offer tools in this “space”. 


ETL stands for Extraction, Translation, and Loading – or at the local High School, English as a Third Language.  In a smaller enterprise, you may not have a budget for ETL tools, much less an IT department (or even a budget for that matter).


ETL is unglamorous, boring stuff.  In a big company, you’ve got all these disparate systems that evolved over time and you’d like to get all the data in one place so you can rape and pillage more efficiently.


In a small company, you’ve got accounting data in one place,  web statistics in another, customer info in an Excel spreadsheet, who knows what in the point of sale system; and you want to pull it all together so you can make this a better world, continue your march to sainthood, and make a little money along the way. 


If you don’t have an assistant who can muscle the data into a master spreadsheet, you’re out of luck.  What I see a lot of people do is just go without.  You can get by often just by the seat of your pants. 


But if things get a little dicey, or you’re looking to grow; there’s nothing like the comfort of monitoring your key performance measures.  You want to look at which ones are doing OK and which ones need attention.  You also want feedback when you initiate some action and you want to see what the actual result is.  Oh – and you don’t want to spend much money on it, and it better not take up any of your valuable time.


You want to “Shine the spotlight on drivers of Profitability and Cash Flow” as my friend and business partner, Philip Campbell, likes to preach.  (While being as cheap as only Philip can be – and not spending a dime more than you have to).


This is really at the core of SurvivalWare, this whole ETL thing.  Because if the ETL thing can be solved – i.e. the bringing together of data from multiple places, efficiently and automatically and reliably – then the impossible is no longer.  Most business owners would go apeshit with access to good data and simple tools for analysis – they just don’t have the time or the skills to create these systems themselves.  And if they are “processes” instead of “systems” – i.e. they require a lot of labor – then forget about it.


In upcoming blog posts, I’ll explore some of the benefits of bringing data together from multiple sources, and improvements coming in SurvivalWare version 2.0 that attempt to make ETL easier to do.


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