Data integration. You’ve probably heard of it, but do you really know what it means? If you’re a smaller business on the up, it might be something that’s on your long-term to-do list, but perhaps isn’t something you feel you need now.
But data integration is something every business should be thinking about and taking steps to achieve. Without it, businesses tend to hit a growth ceiling.
Having disparate sources of data that don’t work together has serious potential consequences. Having data integration in place means being able to respond quickly to your customers, being proactive about chasing down leads and having the raw material you need for meaningful strategic planning.
Data integration means that small businesses are able to offer the same level of service and exploit the same opportunities as much larger ones. In our experience, data integration is a both a prerequisite and a springboard for business growth.
What data integration is
Data integration is the bringing together of two (or more) systems so that information is shared between them in real time. Often, the systems are an ERP and a CRM, but they could be anything.
Data integration allows businesses to work with data they know is reliable, accurate and up-to-date. Because data fuels pretty much everything that modern businesses do, that’s important.
What happens if you don’t take steps to integrate your data? You’re likely to end up making mistakes. What might have seemed sustainable as a new business isn’t sustainable as you grow and take on more staff. Growing businesses need robust systems that anyone in the business can use easily, not ad-hoc arrangements.
How data integration aids growth
Data integration allows you to gain a 360° view of all your customers within a click or two.
The alternative might be taking hours, or even days, to be able to respond accurately to a customer’s question.
It might be that you miss clear sales opportunities, because you simply didn’t have all the relevant information to hand at the right time. As a result, you might find that staff begin to distrust each other as well as the systems they’re using, increasing both stress levels and turnover.
Having good, reliable data means you can create forecasts and make plans. Without it, you’re winging it, and you might get lucky, but you might well not. You can analyse all your data easily using it to spot trends, develop KPIs and allocate resources.
What do you need for data integration?
Not as much as you might think. Data integration is an increasingly popular business, with ever-easier, more affordable packages on offer. Businesses often fear that embarking on a data integration project will be time-consuming and expensive, but it really doesn’t have to be.
Talk to a few companies offering data integration. You should find that you have a choice between simple, fast-to-install off-the-peg solutions, complex custom solutions and those in-between. For most, an affordable off-the-peg package, perhaps with a few custom add-ons, will be enough.