How do you measure the success of your data integration project?
By Henning Lund - January 31, 2018
Measuring the success of your data integration project is not much different from evaluating any project. To make the best evaluation, you need to set goals at the very beginning of your project. To define your goals, you can for example use the SMART method and stick to goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound. This is nothing new, but although using this method (or any other valid project management method) will get you on the right track, it will not by itself make it easy to measure the success of your data integration project. Why? Simply because success means different things to different people – and there are typically different stakeholders in a data integration project.
When you set up your goals or expectations, you need to think about all the different people involved in the project. For example, the IT director will typically consider a success an integration that runs smoothly, uninterrupted and can easily be fixed if a synchronization occurs. The sales people will consider the project a success if they have all the customer information they need in their CRM system, without having to switch systems. Your sales director will love it if it boosts sales. Your Finance Director will approve of it if it has not gone over budget. Who do you want to satisfy and how do you measure their satisfaction?
How do you define the best goals for your company?
Whether your project has been on target, on time and within budget is not the wow factor you are expecting from your data integration project. Typically, the business benefits (for example increase in efficiency or your bottom line) are much more important. Here’s a list of the most common ones achieved by our customers. It might help you make your own.
Increase ROI The investment your company has made in both your ERP and CRM system is consequent. But having one accounting system and another system for your customer relations alone is not solving all your customer-related problems. In order to gain an overview from a business perspective, you need to bind the systems together. By integrating salesforce.com with their Microsoft Dynamics solution, you will get the absolute most out of both your systems and thereby increase the return on this investment.
Reduce resources Getting access to all your business accounting, inventory and sales orders in one systems (for example your ERP system) is not always a given. When you integrate your systems, the information can be there inside your salesforce.com, ready to be used and they don’t have to re-key it in manually. Besides eliminating errors due to manual re-keying, this could result in a reduction of the resources you need to key in and process data.
Increase your competitiveness This one will definitely talk to your CEO and your sales force. Thanks to data integration, your staff can improve key business processes and sales routines throughout the organization, making you faster and sharper than your competitors.
Improve customer and partner relationships Linking your CRM and ERP systems together could potentially free a lot of time and liberate valuable resources by reducing manual work processes and double data entries – time that can be used to serve more customers. Your sales people will have updated sales figures to make the right decisions about each customer and thereby increase customer satisfaction.
Boost system adoption When implementing a new system the challenge is always to get your staff to adopt it. Make sure that the implementation of your CRM system is meant to give your sales people a valuable tool to work with and improve their work processes. The integration will only support this approach and make it even more viable. Bringing inside your CRM system ERP data that is accurate and up-to-date can be an eye opener for your sales force and a very good reason for them to adopt your system. Data integration can be a very effective way to make system user adoption a tremendous success.
Increase efficiency You gain tremendously in efficiency because you have instant access to important information. Always having access to business-critical information in real-time (whichever system you are working in) means that you are able to quickly and accurately respond to your customers’ and other stakeholders’ questions and requests (for example about inventory levels, shipments, customer financials, order history, returns, payments, pricing, etc.) without having to search answers in multiple systems. You avoid wasting your time finding information and you improve customer experience.
Remove manual routines – and error-prone processes You get rid of manual routines that are time-consuming and prone to human error. You eliminate redundant data entry and have a chance to streamline processes and automate workflows, enabling you to increase response time to your customers.
This list is not comprehensive, but it should give you a good starting point. Remember to set goals that will satisfy all stake holders, whether they are from IT, sales, marketing, finance or top management. And of course make your goals measurable. Maybe you have other good ideas – and you are very welcome to share them with us here or directly by contacting me. I’d be happy to add your experience and best practices to this list.
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.