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SMB/SMEs need a Corporate Data Integration Strategy



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I am always reminded when I take sales calls that SMB and SMEs need to take data integration seriously. They need to have an overall strategy to handle inbound and outbound data in an efficient and cost effective manner. Why? Because if they don’t its going to cost them $$.  Pretty obvious you would think? You would be surprised!

Recently, I have been taking calls asking to setup a partner that has been rolled into a major Canadian retailer. No big deal we have the solutions. Youlayout the options for the potential customer and some thing interesting happens. The approach does not fit with the management directive – find the quickest, cheapest and least painful way, and hey I needed it yesterday. You start probing and low and behold they not only want the cheapest, quickest and easiest solution but also they have no corporate strategy on how EDI or any other data integration fits into their business. Why? Because its a pain and it costs money! You probe further and you find out that they have multiple web form EDI solutions, they do some EDI in house with a custom developed program, the programmer who wrote it is long gone and no one knows how it really works, they use a customer web portal and manually enter transactions. A real mess that on each iteration was cheap or free to get into but now is costing them lots of money and from which they derive questionable value. The justification is integration is too expensive! I must have heard this today about six times.

That is all great and good but what these people forget is that not having a corporate data integration strategy means they are actually spending more, way more than they should be. How is that possible when they are ALWAYS looking for the cheapest solution? It’s all false economy.  By saying integration is too expensive they actually reveal that they have no strategy, no real knowledge of how data flows through their organizations. The company is paying lip service to data integration and wasting money in ways it doesn’t even realize! Furthermore, the cost of the manpower (sorry ladies) or lady power to handle transactions is never factored into the statement that integration costs too much. So what they end up with is a mishmash of solutions, none very effective, all costly to run.

The solution is very simple. Management needs to step back and look at all the data that flows in and out of their organization. You are going to be surprised at how much does come in and go out of a company. Prioritize the data flows that create value and those that create unnecessary costs, which ultimately sap profit. Both are prime targets for integration. Look at the front of the business, but do not forget the back of the business. In all the businesses I have ever looked at, the back of the business is the one that gets left out but it’s also the one where the greatest ROI can be achieved with integration. Sure we all need to ensure that we have satisfied the customer but do not forget the manual processes that exist in purchasing, customs clearance, transport etc.

Once you have itemized the data flows, look at getting a good middleware package and stay away from custom coding unless its a one off never to be used again situation. If you have a one off integration consider using an integration as a service or cloud brokerage platform rather than building it yourself. All sound simple? It really is, but a company needs to recognize that it has a problem before the problem can be addressed.


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Categories: technology