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Data Integration: A Buying Guide

Fri, Nov 17, 2017 @ 01:29 PM / by Shandra Locken

bigstock--131190917.jpgThis blog was written by Jim Gonzalez.  Over the last 20 years I have been asked a lot of questions by customers and fellow peers about data integration. What I have found is that there are five questions that need to be answered and these are in no particular order. Of course, these questions can and often do lead to new questions.  But if you can answer the following initial questions, you will may just stop going in circles and start on a path to success.

File Formats/Layouts to be Integrated:
               
Are you looking to deal with EDI, XML, CSV, Pipe delimited etc..? A lot of times you will just need to start off handling one format based on your initial engagement. It could be an internal engagement between one department or another. It could be an engagement between your company and a buyer. As I said earlier answering one question can lead into a lot of other questions. Please try to keep your focus on what is right in front of you or upcoming in the next couple of months, not what could be many years away.  Long term goals need to be kept in mind while constructing a solution, but it’s easy to get sidetracked so it’s important to prioritize: now, one year from now, five years from now, etc.
 
Investment:
 
How much can you afford to spend? Truly analyze that question and know your answer. You will need to have your software costs locked down and not variable. A huge piece that most people don’t take into full consideration is professional services. Professional services covers billable hours for software installation, map development, consulting and training. Don’t allow a company or consultant to give you a range of hours they don’t commit too. If you allow them to change the hour range when there is no increase in workload it can ruin the entire project. All companies and individuals need to be held accountable to the Statement of Work.  You can’t change your mind and then expect the consultants to not change the hours required.  Just as a consultant can’t change the hours required to complete a project because they didn’t account for all of your upfront requirements.
 
ROI (Return on Investment):
 
How many work hours are you saving? This can be hard to quantify but see this blog for more info on that.  Also, would you be increasing revenue with customers? You have to factor in every value-add that data integration will bring. If you can pull it all together and effectively present to the upper level management, it will further your cause and help get your project approved. The more headaches that can be resolved and the less human intervention required will allow your company to accomplish its business goals.

Goals to be accomplished:
 
Was this mandated by a customer to continue doing business by using EDI or another format? Are you simply doing this to appease a disgruntled employee? Did upper level management hear of this new thing while at the latest conference? No matter how it came about, the bottom line is that you need to move forward with data integration. Keep a record of the successes you have accomplished as each process gets done. It will allow for a time line of events and can lead to more opportunities for data integration that you never even considered. I have implemented many systems over the years and resolved issues for clients who didn’t realize the issues existed.

On Premise or Hosted:
 
Can your current network handle the data integration? Do you need to purchase additional hardware? Do you have the staff to handle the support? How do you feel about another company hosting the hardware and software for you? Have you weighed the costs? The question of whether you’re better off with hosted or on-premise never has an easy answer and you will find everyone has an opinion. This usually is all preference based. My preference is to control the hardware and software in house. It is an investment that will pay off in the long run. Never allow yourself to get stuck in a short term solution that can’t grow with your organization.
 
My conclusion for all of this, is that you need to know what you want or at least have an idea.  If you can come up with answers to the above questions, with proper guidance you will be able to construct an appropriate solution to meet your business objectives. Since you are reading this, rest assured you have found yourself the right group of partners that you can trust. A good consultant can bring his or her years of knowledge and experience to help you succeed. When I finish an implementation I feel an accomplishment that is unmatched. Reach out and let us know the pitfalls you have going on with your company!  Take advantage of our no cost, no obligation consultation.

Click below for a whitepaper on what getting data integration right can do for your business.

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Topics: EDI considerations, EDI software, data integration, hosted EDI, EDI Consultant

Shandra Locken

Written by Shandra Locken

Shandra is the Director of Business Development for GraceBlood LLC.

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