Every data silo you allow to exist costs you
money, decreases your flexibility, and reduces your profit.
Here's how to change that.
When a business starts out, as a sole proprietor
ship or a partnership, data integration is pretty simple. A sole
proprietor does all his data integration in his own head.
Partners achieve data integration by talking a lot. As the firm
grows, data integration becomes more difficult, but no less
If you hire a Sales Manager, you have to
remember to tell her that you met a prospect on the airplane and
promised someone would call. Conversely, your Sales manager has
to remember to enter data into the Customer Relations Management
(CRM) software so everyone else knows how the call went.
In the beginning, financial data is easy to
track.You read your checkbook balance. Integration of financial
data with sales and production data was similarly easy. If you
had gotten paid, you had money in the checkbook to buy supplies
you needed for production.
However, the bigger the organization gets, the
more data there is and the more data needs integration. As you
create additional organizational units and open more offices you
disperse the data further. The key to the success and
profitability of your company depends on how quickly and how
well you achieve data integration.
It's not enough to do a good job of collecting
sales data within the sales department. Even bringing together
the sales data from all offices around the world isn't enough.
You have to integrate that sales data with financial data and
integrate both of them with production data.
The one advantage a small company has over a
large one is its ability to move quickly. This flexibility and
nimbleness is facilitated by the greater speed with which the
smaller organization can receive, integrate, and interpret data
in order to make decisions. Given that a larger company has a
greater ability to obtain data, the fundamental advantage is in
data integration in support of the decision making process. The
more you can make a large organization replicate the data
integration speed of its smaller competitors, the better able it
will be to compete profitably against them as well as its larger
To Each His Own?
Every unit in your business will be receiving
data. They know they need to process the data to provide
answers. They don't feel they have time to wait for a
coordinated effort, so the push ahead with solutions that are
available to them. Usually this means small, desktop
applications, databases built and stored in spreadsheets or
flat-file database programs, silo-ed solutions. As they use
these solutions, they become more comfortable with them and more
dependent upon them. This makes it harder for them to give up
these solutions in favor of an integrated solution.
Think of the difficulty the people in your
Thailand office have in communicating with those the Mexico City
plant or the Japanese with the French. The same is true with
data exchange between the recruiting application and the
accounts payable software. Even the New York office has
difficulty understanding everything said by the visiting
executive from the London office despite what is supposed to be
a common language. So it's easy to see why even the custom
accounts payable application may not always properly exchange
data with the third-party procurement software.
You provide a communications interface for all
your offices through a common language that all of them can
speak, probably English, even if it's with differing levels of
fluency. Achieving cultural integration among the people of your
different offices is more difficult and more time consuming, but
it is definitely worth the investment. The same is true of your
data. It's not enough to be able to exchange data between pairs
of data silos. You have to achieve data integration of all your
data to truly compete at your best.