The process of integrating disparate data from different sources (both internal and external) has grown more complicated in the past few years - mostly because of an increasingly large volume of data handled by companies. And the job does not get any simpler as new potential data sources continue to emerge.
In my job, companies typically approach me to get advice about how to integrate data between Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. They want a strong data integration platform that can take care of their data integration needs. They want a solution that is robust and proven to ensure success – and the good news is that it is actually possible today to find robust data integration platforms match this. But the full success of data integration projects does not only depend on the choice of system. Here are the most important success criteria.
1. Make sure you have good data quality
With the emergence of Big Data, data quality has become the biggest challenge of data-driven organizations. Any data integration job can be compromised by poor data quality. To put it bluntly, if you put garbage in one end, you will get nothing but garbage out at the other end. Data integration projects without a company-wide focus on data quality before, during and after the data integration implementation project will inevitably fail. At the end of the day, good data quality is what will ensure user-adoption and consequently the success of your data integration project. Give your users poor data quality and they will start to distrust the data in the system and will start going back to old, unproductive processes. My experience is that the best data integration projects always have a dedicated data quality champion.
Although today many systems and applications come out-of-the-box with role-tailored functionality, most implementation projects include extra customization and development efforts to support enterprise-, division- or user-specific working processes and habits… This can result in hundreds of custom modules or features; literally a maintenance and upgrade nightmare, but also quite a challenge when you have to integrate the different systems.
When data integration is approached as a multitude of point-to-point custom integration scripts without a common direction, then your data integration project is doomed to fail to deliver the desired business critical single view of data. Data must be synchronized in an automated and reliable manner across all platforms for a company to have one version of the truth. Errors caused by inconsistent data and manual data entry can prove very costly for companies and disrupt business activities.
Many ERP or CRM vendors have developed a one-off integration between systems for their customers. Some companies have done it for themselves. Although this might seem as a good idea in the beginning as they have a good understanding of the company’s processes and data models, this can prove to be a mistake in the long run. Why? Because in reality, these integration solutions are rarely developed with a full long-term future consideration. What will happen when the integrated systems get upgraded? What if you wish to extend the use of your integration tool and integrate with other systems? When you choose your data integration solution, always make sure that it is future proof and can keep being used when the integration constellation changes. Custom-made interfaces generally require development, which makes upgrades and maintenance less flexible and more expensive.
Data management can be a touchy issue and some divisions of your company might believe that they own the data in their part of the system – and might therefore be unwilling to allow another system to access (let alone change!) what they consider to be their critical information. This is where a broad executive support comes handy. Although IT has a leading part in your data integration project, it would be a huge mistake not to involve more of your executives. Executive level buy-in drives cooperation with data owners, user adoption and is simply vital. Why? Because your data integration project will not only affect IT, it will impact broadly in your organization. Remember that a data integration project is about sharing data and automating processes. In my experience for example, the best CRM-ERP integration projects involve a CIO or IT director, but also include CEO-level support and involvement of Sales and Marketing top management.
Too often, data integration has been associated with complex, slow and frustrating projects, that inevitably imply delays and scary learning and deployment curves. It does not have to be the reality. Data integration projects should be easy and fast. Data integration solutions should be seamless and robust. With solutions like RapidiOnline and the use of pre-configured templates, data integration can actually be made quite simple and straight-forward. You can read more details about how we can make that happen by downloading the below Data Integration Handbook.
About the author
With over 25 years’ experience in strategically propelling businesses forward, Henning is considered a business development entrepreneur with a passion for transforming businesses, sales and marketing operations through out-of-the-box thinking, concepts building and process automation to improve overall performance and scalability.