Do or die: Why data integration is a must

In the high tech world we live in today, the typical company has several programs, platforms and databases they use internally for everyday activities.

Cloud applications have grown to become the next generation of IT technology with, according to Netskope, an average company utilising more than 30 cloud storage systems and more than 40 marketing cloud apps.

The total volume of enterprise data stored in these programs meanwhile, is expected to grow by 50 per cent each year to around 40 Zettabytes, or 40 billion terabytes, by 2020, according to IDC.

Maintaining dozens of programs and platforms can be overwhelming. Transferring massive quantities of data between them only adds to the stress. With the cloud getting bigger, data integration is the only real solution for communication between all of your company’s cloud apps. Data integration makes wrangling programs and platforms easy by consolidating the data into one place, where it makes meaningful insights out of disparate sources of information.

Integrate or die

Data integration solutions not only allow programs to communicate, but they also help human teams collaborate and work towards a common goal. Greater data integrity and faster insights through integration, promote smarter business decisions across the company.

How do integration platforms ensure fast and accurate data? For one thing, the process saves time and effort spent on manual data entry from one business app to another. A task that used to take hours to complete can now be done in a matter of minutes, without any coding. Integration also eliminates the risk of incorrect manual data entry.

But integration is more than a value-add - it’s a necessity! If business systems don't talk to each other, the organisations they support might stagnate. The choice is clear: integrate or die.

For small and medium businesses (SMBs), integration of both on-premises and cloud-based applications and services is essential. Disconnect between the internal network and the cloud can result in misappropriated or miscalculated funds, with potentially calamitous financial results.

While integration is key for every business using the cloud, the best solution varies based on the business objectives and technological set-up of an organisation. It is important to consider different API capabilities before selecting a platform for data integration.

The Options

The range of data integration options include everything from DIY tactics to third-party software and plugins.

DIY Integration

While manual data copying, or DIY integration, is generally time-consuming and error-prone, for a company with a relatively small quantity of data, this simple method can sometimes do the trick. The key to successful manual data entry is a system of check and balances. It is recommended that manual data transfers be cross-checked by at least two employees to ensure the data remains accurate.

Unfortunately for DIY enthusiasts, IDC has shown that at least 90 per cent of data in the cloud going forward will be unstructured. This means the task of copying data into a different location will become more complex. For employees looking to avoid tedium, third-party integration solutions are a good place to start.

Native Plugins

If you’re working with a slightly larger data set, you may need a more sophisticated solution than DIY integration. Many SaaS platforms offer native plugins with their software that help log data stored in the cloud. This enables businesses to transfer data from one location to another, quickly and without error.

The downside of using a cloud platform solution is just that - platform is the priority, not integration. The plugin is not designed to deliver advanced findings by integrating many data sets; it simply categorises them in a way that makes analysis easier.

If your goal is to streamline the data-sharing process, plugins make an excellent choice. For companies looking to maximise the value of their data, third-party software produces richer results.

Third-Party Software

The biggest draw of third-party software for data integration is that the solution is intended specifically for accessibility and analysis. Companies can be sure third-party solutions will yield the most complete findings with the ability to visualise the information in one place. Better organisation means data is more readily available when needed.

Third-Party Software enables businesses to maximise their cloud program capabilities, by streamlining business operations and increasing responsiveness. Third-Party Software helps adapt rapidly to changing market conditions and scale with new business opportunities.

The Need

So, why should businesses consider ponying up for a data integration solution? According to cloud expert David Linthicum, there are several reasons to invest in integration.

First, there’s the legal aspect. Compliance should be a major consideration for any business, whether the concern is violating HIPAA or Public company regulations. Consumer privacy hype is at its peak and businesses that fail to protect data face public execution. Companies need effective data management with integration to ensure information stays in the right hands.

Privacy is not the only standard businesses must meet. Customers also expect sellers to be able to access information quickly, accountants to access reports immediately, and sales to pursue a lead instantly. Putting a customer, client, or executive on hold to pull up an order or report is no longer acceptable. Data integration allows companies to compete in the wild west of business.

If compliance and customer service don’t seem enough reason to deploy an integrated solution, consider this: over the last few years, businesses have discovered that data is an even richer resource than previously believed. Data integration is no longer nice to have but a need to have to efficiently and effectively manage multiple data sources.

The benefits of exploiting Business Intelligence, Cloud and Big Data insights are sweeping through companies of all sizes and data integration software is the only solution to the data mining challenge. If you’re looking to grow your business, data integration should be your next step.

Ravi Madabhushi Cofounder of Pipemonk