Bringing it all together: Why systems and data integration is more important than ever

Posted by: Clay Nelson, Relationship Unlimited Founder

Pretty much every business or organisation today uses technology from multiple vendors to serve their customers and keep their operations running.  

With the advent of the cloud, SaaS and the app economy, the growth in this multitude of technology platforms and systems has been near exponential. 

In fact, according to a connectivity benchmark report released this year, the average enterprise now has 900 applications – and only 29% of those applications are connected to each other.  This situation can create disjointed customer experiences, as well as a lot of operational inefficiency.

Think about your own organisation, does your point of sale system talk to your inventory system? Is it truly connected to your CRM and accounting systems?

To create synergy, operational efficiency and a single source of truth requires bringing all these disparate systems, devices and data together.

Unfortunately, many organisations just muddle through with a clunky workaround, usually involving a lot of manual data entry…

Why is good systems integration so necessary?

Over 75% of customers today expect engaging and consistent experiences with businesses and organisations across every single touchpoint.

If your organisation still relies on a cobbled together mess of disconnected systems and data to engage with customers (and operate the business) then you are heading for trouble in today’s customer driven and connected world.

Poor integration not only forms the basis for poor customer experience, but also poor employee experience (if employees have to endlessly navigate and reauthenticate between systems just to complete basic tasks).

And in today’s world, you definitely do not want to be known as the company that provides, inconsistent, slow and frustrating experiences for both customers and employees alike.

A successful integration of multiple systems re-assembles scattered data (and context) to create cohesive, consistent, and engaging experiences. GREAT integration, however, can even add very significant additional value by creating deeper insights and understanding.

Traditionally, systems integration is addressed at the data layer through a process known as Extract Transform and Load (ETL).

This process essentially extracts data from one system, then transforms that data to match another system’s format, with the data then loaded into a new system.

While ETL is a tried and proven approach, it doesn’t usually address user experience and other important considerations to the degree it should.

By contrast, Salesforce takes integration further, by starting with the goal of a single view of the customer by integrating with external systems across four distinct layers:

1. Data Layer

2. Identity Layer

3. Process Layer

4. Presentation Layer

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail…

1. Data Layer

By integrating at the data layer you can eliminate the requirement for users to switch between systems. You can also create data transfers that can happen on a schedule, when changes occur or through any other trigger event.

2. Identity Layer

When systems do not share identity, the result is multiple logins and conflicting records for a single person. When systems area integrated at an identity layer, then records from one system can be associated with records in another system in a consistent and trusted way.

To enable this, Salesforce Identity solutions can leverage an organisation’s Active Directory to extend a single trusted identity across all of an organisation’s apps and devices.

3. Process layer

With process layer integration, you can create automated workflows that will coordinate real-time activities across numerous apps and devices to keep systems and data consistent and synchronised.

4. Presentation layer

The Salesforce goal of building a single view of a customer is realised most fully (and obviously) in the presentation layer.

Essentially, Salesforce enables the surfacing of Salesforce within external apps, as well as surfacing external apps inside of Salesforce, meaning the divisions between systems disappear.

Bringing it all together…

Many integration projects fail because they focus solely on the mechanics of moving data from one system to another, without any deeper consideration of the system layers outside of just the data layer. 

Truly transformative integration projects will also always keep the end user top of mind. 

By integrating across these 4 distinct layers, organisations can produce seamless experiences that combine, in one view, data and functionality from multiple systems, so that users can focus purely on their objective (not the underlying systems).

With Salesforce integration tools and partners like Mulesoft, you can bring together all manner of disparate external systems including; SAP, Oracle, Microsoft (and more) to build a single unified view of your customer and dramatically reduce integration time.

If you want to create a more engaged customer and employee experience through data and systems integration then get in touch with the team at Relationship Unlimited today.

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