Photo appears courtesy of Upendra Kanda. As a CEO, why should I care about data integration? Glad you asked. A CEO’s job first and foremost is establishing and implementing a vision and direction for the organization that they lead. In larger companies, they usually report to a Board of Directors and are accountable to them for the profitability of the organization. A good CEO must assess the external and internal business landscape to ensure that the organization’s goals are both appropriate and achievable. A disconnect sometimes happens when it’s not always apparent how technology can help achieve those goals.
There has always been confusion as to how technology and business interconnect. The goal is to use technology to further your business goals and data integration is a critical piece of that equation. In looking up "data integration" on Wikipedia, the first paragraph states, "Data integration appears with increasing frequency as the volume and the need to share existing data explodes." In the past, data integration was for big companies with deep pockets. This is no longer true as more technology companies are now offering affordable solutions, making data integration accessible to the SMB sector. Read on as I offer three compelling reasons you should consider data integration.
Reason number one – data integration allows business processes to be automated. In an integrated environment, B2B transactions happen almost instantaneously, yet you can build in process controls for approval and/or exception handling for errors. Integration helps uphold the integrity of your data since you are reducing the possibility of human error. Also, such integration possibilities include the ability to streamline your supply chain planning and scheduling. For example, forecast planners would be able to establish effective inventory levels and accurately drive production activities to satisfy the needs of your customer. This kind of automation leads to reduced inventory through a faster and more efficient procure-to-pay cycle (P2P). A quicker P2P cycle means more cash on hand which is good news for a CEO.
Reason number two – with so much out there regarding data, Big Data, Data Mining, Dark Data, I have seen relatively little written about Data Security. First of all, integration protects you and your customers to a certain extent against employee theft and external hacking threats. Furthermore, today’s data integration tools allow you to dictate who, when and how users can view and use data, which is especially important in industries like healthcare where the HIPAA police are watching. Data management from a security standpoint gets more difficult as you add variables. Lorraine Lawson of ITBusinessEdge.com writes in her blog, “At one time, identities were easily segregated into ‘employee,’ ‘vendor,’ ‘partner’ and ‘customer.’ Which data you accessed, which applications you used were based on these hard identities, but no more as companies see the value in exposing some of the same information or applications to customers, employees and partners.” As CEOs and business owners begin to see the value in tools like marketing automation, Webstores, PunchOuts, as well as EDI, integrating all these processes will be necessary to maintain data security.
This leads me to reason number three – integration keeps you competitive in the marketplace which should be top of mind for a CEO. It’s not enough anymore to be EDI compliant and have a Webstore. It's not uncommon today to find a small company selling artisan toffee to the big retailers using EDI, all while also selling direct to consumers using an e-commerce site AND successfully marketing using social media. The difference between them and those on the cutting edge is that the latter has all of these processes integrated. Kevin Jordan of Tibco writes in his blog, “With an integrated platform, it becomes possible to predict what a customer or client will do with accuracy, and allow for a decision based on a customer’s historical data correlated with real-time events. Imagine this: A customer is wandering around a store trying samples and suddenly receives an email or text offer for that product. Upon opening the message, it can also display some of the customer’s regular purchases and favorite products as an added offer. With well-integrated systems, the company has the opportunity to exceed shopping expectations.” And this, my friends, is how you go from good to great.
Click below to download an impressive whitepaper from Liaison Technologies on how getting data integration right can help your business.