10 Reasons to Love Data Integration
You may not realize it, but plants talk to each other. They use “the wood-wide web,” an amazing underground fungus system of tiny white threads called mycelia. These threads form a network that reaches out and connects to the roots of other plants nearby. They share information—such as incoming threats. They also pool resources—such as essential nutrients.
Data integration is a bit like that. It’s a system that reaches out and connects with all your essential data—or even the more routine stuff—and lets you share and use that data. That’s not only helpful, but unifying, and even heart-warming. As a worker or a manager, you have to love it when your workday just got so much easier.
Imagine this: you need the latest research on consumer preferences to think up a fresh marketing campaign. However, it is locked up in systems controlled by the Head of Marketing, who’s now on holiday!
The finance gurus in your firm are gathering data feeds from all other departments to feed into a new automated invoicing and accounts receivable system. But the system needs to access information in the company’s inventory system to work. Currently, the systems don’t communicate.
In the Human Resources department, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged all your old employee recruitment, management, training, and engagement systems. You need to streamline these services and make them accessible on a range of devices, from laptops to mobile phones. You may need a series of apps or a web platform for everything HR—and a single way to capture and manage all the data those things will create.
In situations like these, you need data integration.
Integrations can happen in many ways and at different scales. They can be point-to-point, connecting two systems, or more holistic, connecting many kinds of data and systems. The important thing is to get the data you need quickly and with a minimum of headaches.
Here are ten undeniable reasons people love data integration.
1. Save time and money
The number one reason to love data integration is to avoid the expense of a large all-in-one enterprise solution. Compared to that, data integrations are highly customizable and budget-friendly.
With an integrated HR system, you can still bring functions and processes together. This might mean folks only have to log into one system to view key work information and do more self-service. This saves everyone time and hassle. The integration lets you automate routine tasks more easily.
2. The Ah-ha! moment—Stop guessing
Have you ever had an “Ah-ha” moment? That instant when you suddenly achieve realization?
Data integration can bring to light hidden information. That moment of clarity—when you see and hear what the data is telling you—is priceless. It’s then you gain true insight into people or processes. It’s then you see patterns that speak of real trends, changes, or challenges.
Such understanding helps you make course corrections. There may be things you need to change, once you understand the information extracted from the data.
A bonus is that you can avoid tiresome arguments from colleagues by simply pointing to the data evidence.
3. Make better strategic decisions
Access to the correct comparative data can also help you make better strategic decisions.
Paul Balm, a Strategic Cloud Engineer at Google who lives in Madrid, Spain, points out that all businesses must make difficult trade-offs—and data analytics can help you do that better.
He gives some examples from the airline industry, for which he once did data science projects:
“Airlines can trade yield for load, or the other way around; travel agencies need to spend their advertising budget with maximum effect. Data and analytics can have a real influence on the decisions a business takes, and on the outcome.”
Data integration lays the foundation for better data analytics systems to make hard choices more easily.
4. Finally, a data democracy—not a dictatorship
In medieval times, only kings saw the big picture. Minions gathered all intelligence on the kingdom and delivered it to the king’s eyes only. Information was on a strictly “need to know” basis. If you were a common serf, well, you didn’t need to know.
Although businesses around the world still run in this command-and-control way, business cultures are becoming more open. The fast pace of changes makes it essential to empower many more of your workers.
To stay competitive and adapt well, your people need to learn new skills quickly, access good data, and use support systems. More equitable access to data—including in-company Learning Management Systems—empowers workers and managers to perform better.
Of course, you still need gatekeeping for confidential data. But for most routine business functions, the issue is not confidentiality but simple access. An integration solution can help you create that access.
5. Reduce risk with a single source of truth
We’re speaking here about two things: getting a single view of all your company or departmental data; and the integrity of the data itself.
First, good system integration will help you get one consistent view of all the latest data. It’s always good to work from one trusted company data source, not many.
Second, data is only as good as it is accurate. There’s this old saying that “The devil is in the details.” If you have lots of hidden and “dirty” data, those things can undermine your business.
Yes, metrics can show you truths and trends. Still, data can mislead, too—if your indices or original data inputs are mistaken.
Human error leads to unintended mistakes in manual data entry, contributing to delayed or faulty business decisions.
The automation of data entry, and the removal of duplicated entries, are good reasons for loving data integration.
Accuracy is a wonderful thing.
6. Visualize essential metrics
Have you seen all those snazzy bar charts and graceful graphs sashaying across the analytics dashboards on some people’s computer screens?
Those analytics dashboards are not just there to be cool and impressive.
They combine graphics with data to help you visualize and understand complex data and their relationships.
Visualizations help you grasp essential metrics and concepts faster. They can also be very engaging.
A picture or graph is worth a thousand words—or a thousand columns of dry numbers marching before your eyes like black ants.
Data visualizations, including dashboards, are a significant reason to love data integration.
7. Access the strengths of different data
Every data format has unique attributes, metadata, structure, and schema.
When you integrate data from different formats, you can add meaning that did not exist before.
Also, an integrated system often gives you the power to open and use data in different software.
8. Use live data feeds
Data integration can mean you can access live data as it comes into the company if a server or cloud solution is part of your integration approach.
Access to live data can be invaluable for organizations seeking a competitive advantage and a more responsive experience for their customers. More companies are making use of live event streams.
Live data also enables quick business decisions.
9. Create a better, digital-first customer experience
Integrated data helps deliver a more seamless customer experience.
If you’re shopping, you expect your Facebook experience to mirror the website, video, and other media experiences of that same firm.
This is the “omnichannel” concept—the idea that customers deserve a seamless experience across all of a firm’s multimedia channels.
Data integration underlies this seamless experience.
10. Reduce data complexity
Instead of getting mystified by masses of data streams and many interfaces, a good integration solution will simplify life. It will help clarify, organize, and deliver the exact data you need in the forms you need it.
You must love that!