By Henning Lund - December 12, 2019
Where on your to-do list is data integration, and do you see it as important to work process improvement?
Maybe you feel that it would be useful, but it’s not really essential. You’ll get around to it, but you’ve got other priorities for your time and budget right now.
Plenty of business owners feel that way. And that’s understandable. After all, you’re getting by OK now without it. Things could sometimes run a little smoother, sure. But how much difference could data integration really make?
It could make a huge difference. In fact, it’s one of the easiest and fastest ways to improve work performance.
More importantly, data integration is vital to improving work processes. And improving work processes is vital to success. It’s how you lay the foundations for growth. Businesses are built on data and for that data to be reliable, it needs to be integrated. It means that, if you collect some data in your CRM, you’ll be able to see it in your ERP - and vice versa. That gives you both clarity and flexibility on how you find ways to improve work performance.
Data integration can save your business a lot of time. Without it, how do you find the data you need? What if, say, you need to find out the details of an important potential new client who wants to meet you, but you don’t have them, because they’re all on your CRM? Only the sales team knows how to access the data you need, and they’re not around right now.
What do you do? Make a phone call? Send an email and wait for a reply? Search through a spreadsheet? Data integration would eliminate the need for any of that. You’d be able to find all the information about that potential client that’s in your CRM, ERP and anywhere else in just a few clicks.
Businesses usually collect and record data in more than one place - generally their CRM and their ERP (and possibly other systems too). That means that any work process you have for data protection and management need to be repeated for each different system.
That’s hugely inefficient. You’re doing the same job two or more times, when you don’t need to. Data integration would allow you to deal with all your data centrally, so you would be able to use the same processes to manage and keep it safe. It’s vital to process efficiency.
Data integration automates the process of data sharing. When you don’t have it, that doesn’t mean you don’t share data. It simply means that you share data manually instead. Many businesses end up copying data into spreadsheets so that they can share information between teams that use different systems, for example.
This is a process that is hugely error-prone. It makes errors pretty much inevitable, in fact. Think about the consequences of making an error copying data. There is the potential for significant reputational damage if you get it really wrong. Even if that doesn’t happen, you’re likely to spend hours (even days) trying to figure out where the mistake happened and how to put it right. Data integration removes all of that in an instant - a huge work process improvement.
When you have data in more than one place, and no easy way of seeing data that’s in one place from another, you end up spending time thinking about how to manage that. You spend time deciding how to deal with the spreadsheets and email enquiries that result.
You might also have to train a lot of people who could be using one system only to use two. That takes time and headspace to deal with - even if you delegate most of it.
Manually sharing data gives you all sorts of admin headaches and unnecessary distractions to deal with that data integration would take away.
When they are taken away, you’re able to focus on your goals for your business. Instead of your time being taken up with firefighting, you can concentrate on developing a streamlined process designed to help you meet your ambitions.
Data integration means you have access to real-time, accurate data any time you want, and so does everyone else in your business. You can say to your team that data is valuable, but if you don’t have data integration, you’re not demonstrating that belief in practice.
Good data drives action and informs decision-making. It allows you to make predictions and spot problems. It enables process efficiency.
When everyone in your business has access to good, reliable data within a few mouse clicks, everyone can contribute to growing your business.
Data integration might not have been necessary when you first started your business. When you first start out, you’re still figuring out how to streamline processes and you’re working out your direction.
But once you begin to have some success and your business begins to grow, it becomes vital if you’re really serious about success.