Data and systems integration — benefits and solutions of real connectivity
Data integration is nothing new. Businesses have been doing it for many years. But with the sheer volume of data now available and new technologies with which to analyse it, data integration has now become an essential part of every business from the largest to the smallest. So great is the perceived need for data integration that 65% of businesses said they feared becoming redundant if they don’t keep up.
The good news is that data integration is now easier than ever. New tools and technologies, combined with many newer systems following a design approach that assumes the need to both consume and expose data, makes data integration more straightforward, predictable and less error prone. The cost of not integrating your data is clear — bad data costs organisations an average $15 million per year.
Benefits of data integration
The benefits of using data correctly are numerous. By pulling together the data from different streams of the business, it provides the information to make big strategic decisions, reveal gaps in processes, uncover inefficiencies, and highlight missed revenue opportunities.
Merging data streams provides valuable insights into your customers’ behaviours, buying traits and continued loyalty, helping improve customer retention and life-long value. Similarly customers’ personal data, when merged and viewed through the lense of a proper CRM, can give a far richer 360-degree profile, enabling the possibility of one-to-one personalisation in communications and marketing. By having this greater connectivity between data points and systems, businesses can better commit to GDPR by being able to see the data they have permission to hold is reflected throughout their business system infrastructures.
Integration improves data quality and speed and, crucially, allows you to review data from any point in the system whenever you need, enabling real-time insights into processes and interactions. And up-to-date, clean and relevant data helps ensure you remain compliant — an important issue with GDPR regulations and the threat of massive fines for mishandling data.
Intuitive interfaces that allow decision makers to make their own data requests without having to go through the IT department reduces dependencies and frees IT staff to focus on longer term projects that add most value to the organization. This empowers both non-technical and IT staff by allowing them to spend more time on higher-value tasks and less on making or handling data requests. Furthermore, the single source of truth provided by data integration means that everyone across the organisation is on the same page.
Integration is not just about sharing data but about connecting the systems that hold that data. By connecting the different IT systems within a business, each system is optimised in how it performs. This is because, without data silos, every system is regularly being fed the most up-to-date data from across the whole business, covering every aspect of a customer’s journey, a product’s delivery schedule, or any other important process which the data can track.
Travel and hospitality
Travel and hospitality is an example of an industry that is ripe for data and systems integration. Hotels are rife with legacy systems that are often unconnected. In any single business you might have a property management system (PMS), central reservation system (CRS), customer relationship management (CRM) system, , revenue management system (RMS), and point of sale system (PoS), all of which might be operating separately with different and overlapping data sets. Connecting these systems, and merging the data not only provides huge efficiencies of time, money and effort, but is often key to their ability to function. For example, a modern RMS is not only consuming historical and current reservations and folios from the PMS, but it also needs accurate data from the rate shopping system, market benchmarking system, flight data, event data, and weather forecast data, to provide the most value.
Although the advent of open APIs is sometimes reducing the effort of integration, it remains that an average hotel has more than 30 disparate IT systems which generally all need to communicate with each other in one form or another. Outsourcing these tasks to connectivity and data integration specialists can deliver results quickly without the worry of long timelines or budget overruns.
What integration can do for your business
Greater integration of systems and data can improve the way your business operates, helping it become more efficient, more collaborative across departments, better at sharing data internally, quicker and more efficient at responding to new data, and more effective at responding to the market, leading to overall greater revenue generation.
System connectivity and data integration can seem like a daunting process, especially if your business is lagging behind with legacy systems and overstretched IT support. But with today’s modern outsourced and API-first technologies, it no longer needs to be a headache, becoming instead a clear deliverable to improving the bottom line.