A company’s greatest asset is its data, but the one thing that’s worse than a lack of data is a ton of siloed and inaccurate data.
Different business teams generate their own data on a daily basis. Whether it’s from sales, marketing, IT, finance, or HR, each source contributes information to a company’s database. As a result, information sharing between these departments tends to resemble a slow trickle rather than a steady flow.
Without an integrated data strategy, a company might end up with piles of data that is scattered across different systems. This can make it impossible for employees to work in an efficient and unified manner. Solving that problem is what integration is all about.
By connecting applications together, system integrations enable a business to save costs and enhance the power of all the tools they use.
What is meant by ‘system integrations’?
As a business, finding one tool to do everything you need it to do is pretty much impossible. For many companies, their only option is to use varying tools and technologies from a wide range of different vendors. But as you can imagine, this becomes increasingly difficult to manage. That’s where integrations come in.
Simply put, integrations can be described as the process of bringing together different apps to work as a whole. It means combining information from disparate sources into something useful and valuable.
Why is data integration so important?
System integrations are becoming more important due to exploding data volumes and the growing need to simplify business activities. Data integration is about efficiently managing data and making it easily accessible to those who need it.
An integrated approach helps companies to streamline processes, reduce costs, and enable teams to work better together.
The risks of using multiple business systems without integration
Working with several different business applications might be a good place to start, but it’s not a long-term solution. Especially for rapidly growing companies.
Although purchasing numerous different systems might seem cheaper and more effective, in the long run, the negatives far outweigh the positives.
Let’s take a look at what could happen if you decide to use several different systems instead of just one:
Poor data management – Storing data in different places can lead to large piles of inaccurate and disparate data. This isn’t only risky, but it’s also tricky to properly analyse.
Let’s say you’re using an ESP for emailing, CRM for customer management, PPC, social media… The list goes on. Working with so many isolated systems can make it impossible to pull together a single customer journey. System integrations can solve this problem.
Loss of customers – With fierce competition, it’s crucial that your company provides your customers with a top-notch customer experience. If your data is inaccurate and inconsistent, it’s more difficult to personalise your messages and therefore more difficult to meet the growing demands of your customers.
Lack of employee productivity – When your business systems and processes aren’t connected, it can be time-consuming for employees to manually import, export, and report on data from each of the applications.
Say an employee spends a full morning each week manually importing and exporting data from your different systems. That’s two days a month. Which means they’d be spending a whole twenty-four days of the year fiddling about with data. With integrations in place, you can get those days back.
The benefits of system integrations for all business teams
To work effectively and remain competitive, you should consider integrating your business systems. Your company will be able to work as a whole, rather than separately, and in turn enable your business teams to work collaboratively and efficiently.
Keep reading to find out how different business teams can benefit from system integrations.
Data administration tasks are easier
Using multiple systems can mean that exporting data takes a painfully long time, and little admin tasks can end up eating up your team’s time.
System integrations enable employees to work from a single system. This means tasks can be completed in one tab, instead of working with multiple systems to get something done. This will mean that employees won’t need to be trained to use several different tools. Instead, they’ll have an in-depth knowledge of the one, integrated system.
Less human error (which results in more accurate data)
With all your data in one place, it will only need to be entered into your integrated system once – it won’t need to be continuously imported, exported, and replicated. There is less chance for human error, giving you greater confidence in the accuracy and trustworthiness of your data.
Improved data analysis and reporting
Using disparate systems can require a significant amount of effort to analyse data and create simple reports. It can take hours to manually create reports using complex formulas and spreadsheets.
A powerful integrated system will have its own inbuilt reporting and analytics tools, ensuring the whole process is quicker and easier to manage.
Reports are automatically generated and can be exported and shared with a few clicks. As a result, teams can spend more time analysing data, and less time on sifting through spreadsheets.
Save time and costs for your IT team
When your business systems are integrated, your IT team won’t have to worry about monitoring multiple applications and systems. Instead, they can spend more time optimising your business processes and ensuring the security of your integrated system.
Putting everyone on the same page
From procurement and supply chain to marketing and finance, everyone benefits from harmonised data in one location. Information is easier for all employees to access and share, and when you’re able to view every aspect of your business in one system, you’ll have fewer things to manage and worry about.
Make better business decisions
Good-quality data is the key to making decisions that are right for your business. Basing decisions on outdated information can have terrible consequences. An integrated data platform gives you the ability to combine historical data with sales pipeline information to anticipate customer demands and market trends.
Accurate and consistent data gives you and your teams the insights you need to evaluate your strategies and offers, and ensure you stay ahead of the competition.
Get a single customer view and enhance relationships
If your data is siloed, you can’t create a consistent experience for your customers, which will ultimately result in lost sales and revenue. Only when you have access to real-time information and interactions can you target your customers with the right message at the perfect moment.
With a central hub for all of your data, your sales and customer services teams will be able to provide the personalised and omnichannel experiences that your customers deserve.
Better leads for sales teams
Not all leads are the same – some will be higher-quality than others. However, many companies make the mistake of spending precious time on low-quality leads that aren’t going to generate much revenue.
An integrated data system can help by enabling sales teams to more easily and accurately identify which leads are most valuable. Using the data collected from multiple sources, leads can be tracked and scored – ensuring that only the most promising are passed onto sales.
GDPR compliance is easier
When a company holds their data in multiple locations at once, complying with strict data rules and the GDPR becomes extremely challenging. But it’s something that all business teams must adhere to, from marketing and sales through to HR, finance, and IT.
Using an integrated data management solution means your data is stored in a centralised location, making it quicker and easier to find, update, and erase profiles upon request. This enables you and your teams to safely manage customer data and comply with the GDPR.
How to sell integrations to different business teams
So, now you’re clued up on all the benefits that an integrated system has to offer, but how do you get everyone else on board?
System integrations are ultimately about improving business efficiencies and delivering a better customer experience. Integrations better inform marketing, speed up sales, reduce cost per customer acquisition, improve collaboration, and create more time. And who could say no to all that?
To sell the value of integration to other parts of your business (who might otherwise just see it as complicated technology that doesn’t affect them), here are the specific benefits for each team:
- More secure and accurate data – It’s critical that HR data processes and storage are secure and robust in order to comply with the GDPR. Storing employee data in unconnected systems could mean that, if an employee leaves or joins your business, or their information changes at any time, then HR doesn’t need to update each system individually. With integrated systems, HR can easily ensure that employees’ information better protected from hacks and breaches, and records are up to date.
- Save time on administration tasks – Save time on repetitive, tedious tasks such as data entry, updating spreadsheets, and sending emails. The benefit of integrated systems is that, once information is updated in the master location, it’s reflected in all the other systems that are connected to it.
- Smarter reporting and analysis – HR professionals aren’t able to make evidence-based decisions if data is stored in numerous different locations. Integrating your HR system with your core system is a great step towards streamlining business data, so HR teams can design the best strategies for your company.
- More accurate reporting – Having a “single source of truth” for your company’s performance means financial reporting will be more accurate and reliable. Financial analysts will be able to view data in one place and create custom reports and dashboards. As your company gains better insights into business processes, better budgeting and financial decisions can be made.
- Reduced errors – Manually entering data into several disconnected systems means there’s a much higher risk of errors. An amount might be entered incorrectly, or data may be imported in the wrong place, which will have an impact on things like cash flow reports. Setting up integrations with your finance applications means data can flow automatically between the systems, and there’s no need for manual entry.
- Increased productivity – When systems are integrated, finance teams can easily and quickly access data from things like orders and invoices. With data flowing seamlessly between different business systems, the finance department can spend less time managing data, and more time acting on it.
- Increased efficiency – When a business uses many countless different systems for their IT processes, things can get out of control pretty quickly. This leads to a complex environment that can frustrate IT teams and impact their productivity. With an integrated platform, IT teams don’t need to work with several different interfaces at once. Instead, they can make changes from one screen.
- Improved system security – The more applications you use for storing data, the harder it is to manage the risk and security needs of each system. With one integrated platform, IT teams don’t need to worry about maintaining and monitoring several applications at the same time, which in turn makes the job of protecting data an easier task.
- Provide personalised customer experiences – Personalised messages are the key to attracting more and better leads and driving conversion rates. Customers now expect tailor-made content and product recommendations. However, offering your audience a tailored experience is a challenge when marketing teams are working with a variety of disconnected applications. An open ecosystem empowers marketing teams to send relevant and targeted messages and track engagement and behaviour metrics, so they can continuously improve campaigns.
- Real-time insights and analytics – Enhancing your strategy is only possible if marketing teams have a unified view of your audiences’ needs and the overall performance of your marketing efforts. An open platform that fully integrates with the tools that are needed to measure and track important metrics makes that process much easier. Instead of pulling information from various places, marketers can see how much revenue their efforts are generating in one central location.
- Combine marketing efforts with sales data – Integrating with your CRM can give marketers the ability to access important prospect and customer information. For example, if an update is made to a CRM record, it will automatically be updated in the integrated platform. As well as tracking customers through the sales funnel, marketing teams can optimise campaigns and increase ROI.
- Improved customer insights – Effectively prospecting leads is much more difficult when sales teams lack vital information about leads. When salespeople have access to customer insights and lead activities, they can more effectively tailor an approach to each individual lead.
- Higher-quality leads – When systems work together seamlessly, sales teams have the power to know which leads are most likely to make a purchase. Through tools like lead scoring, marketers will only pass over sales-qualified leads which are ready to convert.
- Automate repetitive tasks – Think about how much time it takes for a salesperson to prospect and research leads, and then write and send emails to those leads. It’s not surprising if this takes up more time than actually selling. Integrated systems can remove those tasks and make them easier to complete. Automating repetitive tasks helps sales teams to spend more time building high-value relationships and convert more sales.
How to get started with integrating your business systems
If you feel like you’re ready for integrations, then how do you do it? It might sound complex, but with the right integrated platform, you can quite easily stitch your different systems together.
How you integrate might depend on which systems you’re trying to connect, and which software you’re using. Here are three data integration approaches you might consider:
- An open API – An application programming interface that is publicly available to software developers. An open API makes it possible for systems to interact with each other and share data. This is the most flexible method, but it’s fairly technical, so you might need help from your IT department.
- A third-party integration tool – If you don’t want to build something completely custom because you don’t have the time or the resources, you might want to consider connecting your systems through a third-party tool such as Zapier. This acts as a go-between tool that helps you connect your apps without much technical knowledge.
- In-built plugins – Some systems will already have pre-built integrations that you can access by ‘switching on’ the integration directly within the platform.
The next steps: investing in the right data integration solution
With the right integrated platform, you can easily enhance the power of your applications to streamline business processes and increase efficiencies.
As a company’s need for a single source of truth grows, so does the need for a modern data integration platform. An open system will combine information from all your applications, APIs, and datasets and filter it into a single interface.
A data integration solution like Wired Plus provides a simple and secure method for collecting and combining your data in one central location that grows with your business.