As any business or organization continues to grow, so does the volume and complexity of data they retain.
In order to turn data into something meaningful, the reliability of data is a concern for any association. The fact is that the future will inevitably invoke changes that will only make the process of data integration even more challenging.
Implementing a data integration strategy is crucial to avoid complications down the road and to help ensure that your association has the most accurate data possible. A fully-realized data integration strategy is important to the process of data lifecycle management, giving structure to the flow of data, and creating guidelines for how data will be maintained over time.
In order to take steps towards crafting a strategy for your association, it’s best to start with an understanding of the best practices of data integration and how this process can have long-term benefits.
What is Data Integration?
When you consider the sheer amount of data your association must contend with, it’s important to keep in mind that all of this information is rarely stored in a single database or format. Data integration is what happens when information from multiple sources is consolidated in a single location.
Organizations that utilize multiple software solutions often run into problems because these systems are seldom compatible with one another — leading to the complexity of consolidating data.
When an association adapts and grows, so do the demands on their information systems. Over time, data may take on different forms as priorities shift within the organization.
A proper data integration strategy must be flexible and adaptable to accommodate data of multiple formats, regardless of whether it lives in the cloud or on-premises. Essentially, this type of strategy aims to find solutions which deliver trusted data from a variety of sources.
Benefits of a Data Integration Strategy
One of the methods of making data both actionable and informative is having a central location where this information is easily accessible. Not all organizations have the same needs or amounts of data, but ensuring that all data is accessible is a universal concept.
The largest and most apparent benefit of having a data integration strategy relates to how easy access to data can lead to better decision-making. More importantly, data integration empowers associations with a 360° view of their association membership, leading to more revenue down the road.
For example, say your association is maintaining a membership database that hasn’t been properly maintained in several years. Working out of legacy systems such as these are not only time-consuming, they fail to provide proper reporting capabilities. When you also consider that data is not being integrated from multiple sources, there could be massive insights you’re missing out on because you don’t have complete visibility.
Another benefit of having a data integration strategy is that it can help reduce the complexity of your data. Data integration is about managing complexity and creating a simple method to deliver data to, and through, any system.
Lastly, the integration of data can streamline operations, increase productivity, and help forecast future needs for any association. Data integration is how associations can leverage their data to make the best business decisions for the organization as a whole.
Data Integration Best Practices
Despite all of the benefits of data integration, a report by Experian revealed that 66% of businesses lack a coherent, centralized data strategy. Here’s a look at a few of the best practices for data integration.
Start Small, Gradually Ramp Up
When getting started, the amount of data and considerations that come along with it can be somewhat overwhelming. The first place to start is by taking stock of all the different data sources your association has access to, while also reviewing your organization’s existing method of data collection. Provided that you have the proper data collection approach, you can then focus on where your data is coming from.
Establish a Systemic Data Governance Approach
Associations need to put policies in place that can determine a given set of data’s use, ownership, compliance, and anything else which may be relevant. The idea is to protect your data and ensure that as it moves from one system to another the policies are consistently enforced.
Keeping Up With Trends
Many years ago, some of the emerging trends included cloud technology, Internet of Things (IoT), and big data — all of which continue to be areas of increasing importance across the globe. The value of data will only continue to grow, and so will the complexity.
Staying cognizant of trends can go a long way toward adapting your data integration strategy to fit the ever-changing technology landscape.
Modernizing Legacy Systems
Older or “legacy” systems aren’t exactly future-proof, so it may be worth considering an approach to replace those systems with more modern technology.
You can start gradually replacing legacy systems since this is a lot less risky and allows your organization’s costs to be adjusted accordingly. On the other hand, if you continue with your legacy systems, you run the risk of utilizing a set of disjointed systems, applications, and processes that won’t be able to communicate with one another efficiently.
Diving Into Data Integration
Getting immersed in your data integration strategy will feel daunting at first, but the benefits are far too powerful for your association to ignore it. Your strategy for integrating your data is an essential link between information and insight.
Data integration frees up time to concentrate on analysis and forecasting while also contributing to the overall reliability and hygiene of your data.
The important first place to start is by assessing just how much data you need to be consolidating. This means not only considering data from sources such as your CRM software, but for any data source, as it can get quite complex with more systems thrown into the mix.
The ultimate goal of your strategy is to establish rules for how your data is collected, where your data is captured, what disparate datasets exist that your organization needs to connect, and what tools or services are needed to combine your data into a single database.
Christina Wells is Director of Corporate Marketing at Omatic Software where she leads demand generation programs to drive awareness and interest in the Omatic brand and product suite. Christina holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication from Northeastern University and a Master of Science Degree in Internet Marketing from Full Sail University. A self-proclaimed “east coast floater,” Christina is a Philadelphia native who now calls Charleston, SC home.