It’s Time for Small/Medium Businesses to Get Past Fears on Data Integration
I’ve worked in and with many small and medium-sized companies over the years, and even in high tech businesses the supporting software systems were most often a dog’s breakfast of disconnected or cobbled together apps. I totally get it. There’s usually only a small IT team, and between keeping the hardware infrastructure going, making sure business critical apps stay running and up to date, maintaining backups and necessary upgrades, getting the most out of the growing volume of available data barely gets a second thought. Yup, I get it.
The good news is, more and more companies are recognizing that to remain competitive, to grow, to really manage their businesses efficiently, they need to be able to access and use all their data, regardless of whether it resides in a legacy accounting system, a cloud-based CRM, or an online customer portal. So that’s the good news. The bad news: most of the time this acknowledgement only results in a longer and longer IT wish list from the business side, with little work done to accomplish the tasks.
In fairness to the IT team though, in most small- to medium-sized businesses they are overburdened, and there’s little time for perceived “nice to haves” to crack the priority list. A big reason for that is that is that application and data integration is typically a horribly painful, time-consuming and expensive effort, one that requires lots of work and custom code, so it’s better ignored than acted upon. To make matters worse from the IT point of view, data integration is like painting a bridge—you’ll own it forever and it will never, ever be done.
In reality though, these requests are not nice to haves! They’re business imperatives. The sales team desperately needs to know as much as possible about their existing customers so they can better target new ones. Customer support reps need to be able to look at call history, purchasing records and warranty information to handle calls. Business executives need to be able to slice and dice company data to make fully informed strategic and important tactical decisions.
With the business pressure to improve integration, it’s time for IT to find a way out of its conundrum. Happily, the recent advent of new integration technologies such as data virtualization and Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) and have led to a generational transformation of how to get even complex application and data integration done. These tools eliminate the need for writing and maintaining custom code, are exceptionally flexible and can often detect and accommodate changes, such as version updates, in underlying applications with little or no IT intervention. Perhaps the best part of all from the point of view of a small or medium-size business, certain vendors are providing these new generation tools very cost effectively and they can be implemented with minimal IT support and up-front expense.
To sum this all up, it’s finally time for IT teams to think past their current assumptions about integrating applications and data, and begin investigating the emerging generation of data integration solutions which are designed to meet current and future integration needs without the expense, overhead or limitations of the previous tools.