A Connected Enterprise Will Unlock Business Growth
Most businesses share one common formality, data (and management of that data). Clients often come to us in search of a way to turn their business data into something more meaningful and easier to use. In the age of big data, we see the singular best of breed solutions failing to manage the repertoire of information most enterprises have come to acquire; whether by choice or otherwise. Ultimately, a connected enterprise system may be the only way to effectively manage this data in a meaningful way.
Let’s back up. At the forefront of modern business projects is this vision of a connected enterprise. An idea that summarizes the practice of integrating digital systems (usually software) into a single data hub that can provide the organization with a universal source of data truth. Ideally, integrated software acts as a single purveyor of TQM and data control. Having a connected enterprise allows business to strategically save time, money, mitigate risk, and capitalize on new opportunities. Unfortunately, with non-connected investments in various enterprise software, many business don’t currently view this an achievable outcome today.
Why an integrated enterprise makes business simpler
Modern customers require a rapid response from suppliers and vendors — even if they don’t know it yet — and that expectation is growing.
Software integration enables the enterprise to provide an end to end solution for its buyer without manual processes, dual-data-entry, etc. By connecting E-commerce, CRM, BI and an enterprise suite, the margin for lead time can be significantly lessened. This actually makes everything far more simple and easy, not to mention better for the business. Essentially, integration exists as single line of data that is sync’d across systems; which in turn, allows the business to drive a singular uninterrupted flow through the business process.
Adopting an integrated data model empowers users with a 360 degree view of the business, regardless of their particular silo. When data is ported into ERP, it instantly displays the same data in CRM. When BI encounters a correlation between sales and production, managers in all the different silos have access to this information. Depending on the unique processes of your business, data can be queried from multiple entry points and posted in a simple format to reporting dashboards. Given the rapid change of today’s market, adopting a hands off value center for decision makers is critical.
Over time, data has grown organically inside each of these separate software systems; making the overall business system fairly complex. What’s beautiful about the idea of a connected enterprise is that it solves many of the modern era problems, while providing new strategic opportunities, and actually is lessening the complexity of the system itself.
Integration and the “hybrid system”
A growing number of data management models are supported by what’s called a “hybrid system.” These systems consist of complex, on-premises back office systems separate from agile (usually web-based) front office applications. Unless these machines transfer data back and forth, they’re useless for business application. A connected enterprise always makes the most sense for these setups. To truly support operations, all hybrid systems must be integrated. Integrating software allows the digital ecosystem to work in tandem with business processes. What good is software if it doesn’t support the process from end to end? Isn’t that the reason it exists?
A Connected Enterprise Can Drive Better Quality Data
Enterprise inter-connectivity pushes a firm to improve the quality of its data. For most businesses, data quality/integrity is an issue. Generally, we find that a business’s historical data will be unclean and incompatible with modern software. Systems should be free of irrelevant data and duplicate entries, as these only create risk and bogs down processes. The best way to ensure that data remains purposeful, and is not duplicated or irrelevant, is to sync it across all silo’s and departments. Each piece of data is best managed by the users tasked with its greatest level of importance. This is best practice for database management.
During this process, it is up to executive leadership to identify pertinent data and determine how to best manage it moving forward. This lessons the chance for contingency throughout the integration, and enables the project team to build out impactful solutions to support priority data. Additionally, polished data shortens the length of time it takes to go live with the integration. Understand, if data is unclean projects will run well over the initial scope; due to unforeseen challenges.
Why Are Companies on the Fence?
Many businesses only employee a small IT division. For that reason, IT can be skittish to issue funding a project surrounded by contingency. We see IT teams whom take it upon themselves to implement software or integrate applications onto a platform the company has deployed for years. This can lead to extremely poor practice and sunk costs. It’s akin to keeping an old car running. The system runs slow, applications don’t function well, and as a result, the IT workload becomes complex. As a result, IT forces the new system to perform rather than support distinguished business models. Having a connected enterprise actually could lighten this workload and free up more time for IT to work on innovative projects rather than maintenance projects.
Going back to the fundamental issue of budget — from the outside looking in — integrating a digital ecosystem may appear costly. It requires numerous customizations, BPMs, and data migration. Not to mention, if data is unclean, expect an added deliverable in the process. But without software integration, latent mistakes generally occur across multiple departments. These incremental mistakes are contingent side effects of an absence of data visibility and failure to instill a data-driven business model. Ultimately, it costs multiple departments valuable man hours, projects to fall behind and businesses to miss out on invaluable opportunities.
Ultimately, it’s not the cost, but the ROI of the project that really matters. ROI is actually very simple to demonstrate on connected enterprise projects. Businesses can usually account for time inside of processes, and the time that it takes employees to execute certain tasks. By measuring and analyzing these factors (among others) businesses can usually demonstrate project ROI extremely quickly.
Not everyone in your company might buy into the idea of a connected enterprise. Some may believe this project is a waste of time and insist on not fixing what “already works”. The truth is, most users aren’t technical, and they don’t understand how their current processes could be holding the business back. It often takes a third party integration team to uncover what processes are in place and train users from an unbiased perspective on why integration supports them. It is these users who will make or break an integration project.
How do we build a connected enterprise?
Starting at high level, executive sponsors will need to share the connected enterprise model with the implementation team. This phase of the project prompts stakeholders to drill down into processes to create use cases for the newly integrated system. From here, business leaders reveal which data is required for the process, and which data is unnecessary going forward. This can be a tedious process depending the systems you’re currently working on and what systems you plan to integrate. From there, leaders will need to prioritize which data needs to move from those systems, and how:
- Read Only?
- And how often does data need to be refreshed?
As long as systems are properly implemented, and data is clean, a software integration can occur in as little as three weeks.
How will the connected enterprise work?
A successful connected enterprise system provides a business with a single source of truth. Data is clean, duplicate entries are eliminated, and once cumbersome functionality now steadies work flows. All departments are operating using singular data, and the data is managed by those tasked with keeping up to date and in quality condition. All the data integrity of the firm is held to a single view available to each user inside the organization. Data is rendered current and is ready to be managed and reported upon. Overall, connected enterprise systems promote greater convenience, data clarity, and transparency.
To achieve integration success, it is critical to find an expert integration partner whom knows the ins and outs of the software you’re trying to connect. Avoid using a partner whom has exclusive ties to either CRM or ERP. Each system has it quirks. Failing to address those quirks in the mapping can cause users to reach error or become unable to query all the information from either system. learn more about how Datix integrates enterprise software systems.