Six signs that data integrations & dashboarding could transform your business

In today’s world of multiple online tools in almost every business, the business manager has access to potentially way more information on customer behaviour than ever before. The smart businesses are understanding quickly how to harness this data to drive better decisions, whether in customer segmentation, marketing, sales approach or customer success functions, both at an aggregate level, but also on a customer by customer basis.

If any of statements below are true for your business, these are signs that data integrations and data warehouses could help your business too.

 – We use loads of marketing and customer success tools, but never seem to get a holistic picture of customers’ interactions with us
 – Our systems don’t talk to one another so we frequently do excel dumps and use vlookup functions to try to match them up
 – We rely on that junior person in the marketing/data team to figure out how to shift the data around between systems
 – My sales and marketing teams frequently complain of poor data quality
 – I think quite a few people in the organisation are spending time doing data re-entry
 – I just can’t get people to agree on the key reports that we need to look at

These are really common issues, because, let’s face it, hooking up systems is hard, and finding the time and expertise to develop really good KPI information is time consuming and skilled.

How does data integration work?

Most modern cloud based systems these days use technology and protocols developed for use across the world wide web in recent years.  In simple terms this means that the browser on your desktop, communicates with the server somewhere in the cloud, using GET and POST commands.  A GET command asks the server to send over some data to the browser (which it usually displays to the user) and a POST command sends data from the browser (that a user may have input using a keyboard) back to the server to be stored.

A piece of software, usually called integration software, can be programmed to use these same commands when certain things happen – for example a new record appears in the database of one particular tool.

The integration software understands the application programming interface (API) of each cloud based system it deals with,  so that it can fetch and post data correctly and reliably.

In this way, it’s possible to link systems together so that key data is shared automatically.  It’s still not that straightforward, since you need to consider all the edge cases of what happens if a record is corrupt, duplicated etc, but it’s a lot better than trying manually to keep systems in sync.

Where does a Data warehouse come in

Once the key systems are in sync, it makes sense to download data to a reporting environment and develop reports that give information back to the business. These can take the form of Key Performance Indicators (KPIS) usually time series reports that show an organisation whether they are improving or on track with key measures (sales, customer satisfaction, conversion etc), or they can take the form of ad hoc queries that are the topic of management interest from time to time.

Frequently data warehouses are held in secure cloud based databases with backups and suitable access security. Ensuring they are up to date, clean and deduplicated is not a short task, but is vital if you want to rely on the information for business decisions.

Further processing, such as cross tabulation of customer purchase behaviour with demographics or web activity is often necessary to derive the real key knowledge that can drive real business decisions.

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