“Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves,” said English computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web.
Can you imagine running a modern business without the internet? And without gathering business data— masses of data? These days, it’s the net that delivers most of your data straight to your inbox or cloud app.
But what exactly is data?
Data refers to unorganized collections of facts that take many forms. It might be words on a sticky note, a GIS map, or lists of sales figures. It could be a YouTube marketing video. The variety of data formats means you need to organize things before you can make sense of them or try to synthesize or combine different data for meaning.
As a result, any data collection is not very useful on its own until you understand it in context—until you transform it into information.
On top of this variety, there is the volume. Every day, businesses churn out more data. In 2021 alone, everyday people created an amazing 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. (A quintillion is 1 followed by 18 zeros!)
Data is a vast, vast ocean. And such vastness can be overwhelming.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to transform raw data into formats that make sense? And that can lead to actionable information?
Data integration can do this. Data integration means taking data from different sources and combining it to make it useful. How you do that will depend on your needs. When you merge the right data, your people can use it to gain better business insights.
Sophisticated data systems are becoming increasingly critical to a business’s success, and lay the basis for some new HR trends this year.
- Gartner’s Top Five HR Trends for 2022 predict the continuing trend of hybrid work arrangements, even after the pandemic.
- There will also be a need for more and new skills—requiring continual training options, even as the competition for talent increases with rising turnover.
- And Gartner also predicts there’ll be more calls from workers for their firms to value, understand and respect their issues, requiring innovative ways to do this.
Each of these trends implies solutions that will depend on effective data sharing and integration. New remote videoconferencing and video chat tools, improved Managed Learning Systems, or employee-focused websites and virtual or live events to encourage sharing and interaction, will all benefit from a foundation of sound data integration.
7 signs you need better data integration
Here are seven signs you need help with data integration.
1. Help! There’s just too much data
Business leaders may often feel overwhelmed by the variety of data facing them. Statista estimates that from 2020 to 2025, global data creation will grow to over 180 zettabytes. That’s enough storage for 30 billion 4K movies.
Considering this onslaught, how can you find time to analyze it all?
If you’re gathering data but not using it, you may have a problem. You need to organize it and find automated means to extract value from it. Integration will help you do that.
2. Long wait times to get what you need
Do you have to jump through too many hoops just to get access to the information you need to do a job? Or do you wait on approvals from department heads who control access to the data or systems you need to use? Both of these examples can be addressed by data integration enabling self-service access to information.
HR or Employee Self-Service (ESS) systems allow employees to access their own documents and details via a website. And many ESS systems also have a mobile app. So workers can use the app to do tasks remotely. This nicely eliminates long wait times for service.
Modern businesses are rapidly moving towards such more open access and self-serve cloud-based systems, based on data integration.
In addition, timing is key. If, for instance, you’re a bank trying to stop fraud, or a supply chain manager trying to plan operations around a hurricane, you need access to the latest data as soon as possible to make quick decisions. Integration helps you do that.
3. Too many tools, too little sharing
Do you have fragmented, inaccurate, or incompatible data? Part of that could be because of the many apps your firm uses.
Today’s large enterprises sometimes use a whopping 288 SaaS applications in a single firm—up 30% from 2020 to 2021. Even small firms may use over 100 apps a day. That’s a lot of apps—with a greater likelihood for them to be incompatible with your HR system.
Data integration will help reconcile the data from many apps and systems. This helps create a common pool of data that everyone can share. It also creates a more consistent, reliable data flow.
4. Your remote workers are frustrated
Poor data integration may be a reason members of your hybrid workforce are unhappy or unproductive. If remote workers have to spend too much time accessing information to do their jobs, that’s a problem.
If a hybrid workforce lacks the essential data connectivity to access certain services or get certain information online, that’s also a problem.
They may then get demotivated and their productivity may fall.
If hybrid work becomes a permanent feature, as seems likely, then technology and data integration are more critical than ever. You need it to retain and motivate good staff and build a healthy business culture via online and cloud connectivity that’s agile, responsive, and fed by the latest, most accurate data streams.
5. Poor decisions because of bad data, poor connections
Did a major client leave after you didn’t deliver an important service on time—because you had their name wrong in duplicated records?
Or consider another example. Perhaps a manager over-ordered an item because of poor data connections with the sales teams on the stock in demand. The excess stock then ties up money, time, and space in a warehouse.
These are just two instances of the many ways bad data can lead to poor business decisions. Bad data is any confusing, wrong, misleading, or incomplete piece of information.
Data integration can help avoid this by avoiding manual duplications of data entry and automating one central source of truth across your business.
6. You have too many integrations and it’s a headache to manage
These days, simple point-to-point integrations have become so easy that almost any business user can now connect systems to other systems.
But this may lead to an uncoordinated, exploding mix of connections that can get out of control.
If your existing number of integrations is becoming a bit of a nightmare to support, then you need help. You need oversight and governance in how you’ll streamline integrations for your entire organization.
7. You’re losing customers or clients
Consumers today expect a seamless experience. If you order a book on a store’s website, you’d like that order to be consistent on the firm’s mobile app.
In addition, the quality of engagement on a site matters. If you get a positive, engaging experience on one platform, you’ll stay longer there, and furthermore, you’ll expect that experience to be consistent in other media of the same firm. If it’s not, you may move on to another website or another brand or product that does it better.
Creating a great customer experience is the core of profitable e-commerce. The seamless customer experience nurtures brand loyalty and cultivates repeat customers.
Integrated data systems are the foundation for such seamless experiences. If some of your customers are leaving, perhaps it’s because you’re not offering that experience to them.
If your people are experiencing any of these signs, perhaps it’s time to re-examine the state of your data integration.
The payoff for a smooth, well-integrated data system is more than workflow efficiencies. It also means greater confidence and peace of mind that you’re making decisions based on the best available data.
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