Companies handle more data today than ever before, and many of us take the databases and systems that we use to store and access our data for granted. But having a comprehensive data integration and management strategy is key to reaping the benefits of all of the information that your organization gathers and stores.
Today, there is a wide variety of methods and systems available to help businesses manage their data, and choosing the right tools is vital to ensuring that your company has the information you need, when and where you need it.
What Is Data Integration?
Fundamentally, data integration is the process of combining data from different sources into a cohesive, unified whole. While this may seem like busy work, proper data integration is vital to keeping your business running efficiently and avoiding common struggles like data silos.
In order for an organization to stay viable, all team members need to have access to relevant, accurate information. Business processes depend on accurate, up-to-date data for daily operations, reporting, analysis, and decision-making.
Common Data Integration Challenges
There are a number of common issues that companies face when attempting to manage their data. In data-centric sectors like insurance, managing these challenges and effectively dispatching the resulting problems can make or break a business. This is especially true in organizations that take in data from multiple sources. Let’s take a look at some of the most common data integration challenges that businesses face today.
One of the most obvious information issues that businesses can face is incomplete data. Organizations put a lot of effort into gathering useful insights, but missing pieces of information in a data file can make it difficult to leverage. While incomplete data is sometimes the result of flawed data collection, more often, it stems from databases that have been poorly integrated (or not integrated at all).
Of course, it’s not all about the mere availability of data. Even when all of the relevant data fields have been filled, the accuracy of that information is crucial. In many ways, incorrect data is even more harmful than data that simply isn’t there. There are two especially common types of poor-quality data:
- Outdated information that has not been updated
- Information that was not entered and stored correctly
Like with missing data, incorrect or compromised data can be the result of data collection issues. In many cases, however, database management is to blame. Overlooked changes, incompatible data formats corrupting each other, and simple human error can all cause data to become inaccurate and unusable.
Where there are data quality issues, data silos are often to blame. A data silo refers to any repository of data that is controlled by a single person or department, separate from the rest of an organization’s database.
There are many reasons that data silos can occur. For instance, unless a specific data integration platform or strategy is used, all collected information may be stored locally by the person or team that collected it, where it remains inaccessible to other employees. To make such data more widely accessible, each of these respective stores of information must be integrated into a single location or data silos will soon form. Likewise, data from different sources is sometimes stored in differing programs or formats, which may not be compatible with each other.
So how can organizations address these and other data integration issues? In the past, data management was a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that involved a team of people regularly going through a company’s data stores and attempting to aggregate all relevant information in a single place. But even when a company has the time and resources to attempt this process, data is constantly being added and changed, often faster than those working to consolidate it can keep up. Likewise, human error is a major concern tied to this approach, especially when there is significant time pressure placed on data management teams.
Ultimately, as with any problem, the best solution to data integration problems is prevention rather than cure.
Solving Data Integration Challenges
To keep your data accurate and accessible from the start, there are ways to efficiently and effectively manage large, multifaceted stores of information. Thanks to the rise of automation, computer programs can take over tedious, data-centric tasks, cutting out manual errors and allowing employees to focus on other responsibilities.
Automated data integration and aggregation tools are available in the form of premade, off-the-shelf applications, or as fully customized business solutions. Leaders in every industry are increasingly looking to automation to solve common data management problems. This is especially true in sectors where outdated “legacy systems” dominate the industry, setting those who adopt newer, more efficient solutions firmly ahead of the competition.
Whichever tools your business chooses, finding the right data integration strategy means finding the right integration partner. While many companies rely on outdated systems for managing their data, these systems are often inefficient and inaccurate. Taking the step to automated data integration can transform an organization, saving time and money and avoiding costly errors from incomplete data.
When done correctly, data integration can provide businesses with a 360-degree view of their customers, operations, and performance. As a result, data integration can help enterprises to improve customer service, optimize marketing campaigns, and make better decisions. In short, data integration is essential to business intelligence. But you don’t have to implement it on your own. If you’re interested in automated data integration for your business, Populus can help.
IT and Data Support from Populus
Populus Technology offers various services, from data integration and analytics to fully customized applications to manage your business processes. Experienced in providing technology solutions, we help support growth by managing partnerships and directing our clients to the best third-party vendors in the industry. We also assist organizations in updating and automating their business processes, even creating custom software solutions for unique workflows.
If you need help transforming your organization’s data processes, Populus has the solutions you need. Contact our team to learn more!