As customer expectations shift in the digital age, speed and accuracy of information are becoming all the more essential for businesses of all kinds.
Unless all of your company’s data is stored in the same repository with free-flowing access between business systems, then, at the core of your data management challenge is actually a Data Integration challenge.
In this blog, I will address the most common data management challenges and why they are actually integration challenges. I will also highlight how some reasonably simple integration work can remove manual processes, reduce mistakes, and improve business performance.
Common data management challengesThe most common data management challenges that we’ve seen among our clients (and hopefully you can relate to some of these too) are:
- Your data isn't where it needs to be
- Your data is there, but it’s late
- Your data isn’t formatted correctly
- You have poor quality data
- There are duplicates throughout your integration pipeline
- There is no clear common understanding of your data
Integration challenges in disguise
From the list above, we can see that – in part – each of these challenges is related to the fact that there are silos of information that must work together to serve a business function. That function might be an end-to-end automated sales process (such as online retail), or it could be producing insights (reporting) to make meaningful and timely business decisions. With silos, the information needed to make these functions work efficiently, quickly and cheaply is spread across various systems.
One example of this is in e-commerce. Many businesses with online stores lack synchronisation between their inventory and what their website represents as available. This occurs because the inventory system is ten or more years old, whilst the online store is reasonably new, so the two systems do not automatically communicate with each other.
Many businesses run an export from their inventory system overnight and import it into the website so that the customer knows whether or not the item is in stock. In many situations, an overnight export is not fast enough, and when stock levels get low, customers might order a product that does not arrive when they expect it to.
I have frequently seen the above e-commerce process performed manually every night because the business did not know how to do it any other way. I see the same disjointed processes happening with business reporting, invoicing and supplier orders. As a result, mistakes are made.
Regardless of which challenge you have, the point is still the same: with the right data, available at the right time, your business can deliver more accurate outcomes.
Integrations solve data challenges
How do we get that data in the right place, when it is needed, so these processes can work as they should?
System Integration means connecting two or more systems, with the intent of sharing relevant data, so that the business can act upon the information.
It involves retrieving data from disparate sources and virtually merging it to create a single, unified view. This is ‘virtual’ because we may not actually merge the data, but merely ensure that all the relevant components of these data sources are synchronised as close to real-time as possible, to simulate a single source of truth. This unification makes it easier to draw insights from your data that, when acted upon (through well-informed business decisions or automated processes), can deliver fast, efficient, and accurate outcomes. This might be a completely ‘hands off’ online store, or up-to-the-second reporting that allows people to make decisions on the most accurate information available.
Considering the e-commerce example above, if the inventory levels were up-to-the-second accurate, then a customer could make a well-informed decision about whether or not to buy a product, based on whether or not it is in stock and will arrive in time.
I have seen data challenges that range from inventory challenges to complex multi-system, multi-business integrations. Each challenge usually begins with a simple idea and becomes more complex with the introduction of new systems, information, or business rules. The objective is nearly always the same:
- Obtaining the right data available at the right time to deliver accurate outcomes.
- Better data facilitates better decisions. Better decisions result in improved business outcomes.
- Substitute the word ‘better’ for ‘faster’, and it still rings true for system integration.
Resolve your data management challenges with Creative Folks
Rather than repeating myself in a conclusion, I’ll just say this…
If you have any of the challenges highlighted above, you need integrations to solve it. Implementing integration is not easy if you are not doing them frequently. The learning curve can be costly and timely; that is where expertise counts.
Creative Folks can provide this expertise for your business. To learn more about our capabilities, you can download our brochure.