The Benefits of Integrating Data and Information Applications
Ensuring that Your Business Applications Work Together to Enhance Performance
There’s no question that the effective management of data is absolutely essential to the success of any business enterprise. But just as important—if not more important—is the integration of your tools and systems for collecting and utilizing that data. You could obtain and employ the best individual applications for every aspect of your business—CRM, sales, production, marketing, human resources, accounting and finance, help desk, etc.—that’s an approach many companies choose.
In a dynamic business, however, data changes and additions are almost nonstop and have a potential impact on many different data sets. Without proper integration and interrelation between your applications, you may spend more time and money to get correct information, or you may even lose business because your different applications aren’t talking to each other.
There’s good news—the technology exists to allow you to reliably integrate your data applications so that changes in one database will be made across your data in real time. Still not convinced that you should seriously consider an integrated business application system? Here are some of the key advantages to securing the software to ensure effective communication between your business applications.
Integration Improves Efficiency throughout Your Organization
By integrating business applications, you can often avoid the need to hire new employees to manage increased sales and/or productivity. You can also re-direct the activities of key employees to tasks that produce more value, or that promote innovation and growth in your business.
Studies show that the use of an integrated business suite can produce tangible benefits to productivity and efficiency. One study found that employing an integrated system accelerated sales close times by up to 50% and sales productivity by almost 13%. Integration has also been tied to a significant reduction in order processing time.
Integration Can Provide the Improved Visibility to Help You Make Better Real-Time Decisions
Often, decisions need to be made within a relatively small window of time. In those situations, it’s critical that you have accurate, current information at your fingertips. You don’t want to have to gather data from a number of different sources. With an integrated system, there can be access to complete data almost anywhere, and you won’t have to worry about duplication of effort or lack of access to necessary data.
Integration Has Significant Potential Cost Savings
When you integrate your business applications, you eliminate the need for IT personnel to obtain, install, troubleshoot and update multiple data systems. Without an integrated system, your IT team may find itself continually dealing with individual upgrades, and continually working to ensure that systems work as cooperatively as possible. With an integrated system, you’ll save precious IT time, that can be used to enhance other potential areas of productivity.
Integration Promotes Rapid Growth
When your sales, order, accounting and invoicing processes work together simultaneously, the whole sales process can be shortened. In addition, because of increased visibility to all data related to a customer, it can be easier to up-sell/cross-sell new and existing customers.
Integration Encourages Innovation
With an integrated system, it’s much easier (and typically takes less time) to incorporate changes, enhancements or upgrades. As a result, employees who use the integrated system can be motivated to redesign or improve processes and applications to maximize productivity and performance. That can free your IT staff to work on other projects that can benefit your bottom line.
Putting an Integrated System in Place
So we’ve convinced you about the importance of implementing an integrated approach to your business applications. Where do you start?
First, be aware that there are many options available to you, so you’ll have to do your homework. Start by identifying the key data fields that you need from a system. Every product will be slightly different, either in terms of the functionalities that are offered and/or the data that can be managed. Make certain you understand how the system will treat the data, as well as any limitations on both data and function.
A good place to start—create a data map. Identify all the data that you need to collect, manage and use. Identify where you get that data and how that data relates to the different applications—customer relationship management, sales and marketing, accounting and finance, human resources. Be certain that the data actually provides tangible value. Don’t fall into the “all data is good data” trap or you can waste a lot of time, money and energy on useless information.
As you integrate your applications, make certain that there are adequate points of contact between applications. One of the obvious benefits of an integrated system is that data records can be synced across applications, so that changes in one area—sales or marketing—immediately implement changes in other relevant areas—billing or invoicing, for example.
Of course, with anything of value, you must test the system and be willing to make changes to achieve maximum functionality.
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