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Why integrating your data is a waste of money

All the information you need in one place. Sounds good right?

Data integration combines data stored in several locations, displaying it in one place, in a form that makes it useful to those examining it. It can be a powerful tool that saves you time and give you a vantage point from which to make strategic decisions. But if you’re not careful, it can eat the lion’s share of your budget without paying for itself.

You don’t actually need it

Just because data integration can be useful, doesn’t mean it’s always the right choice. How much data do you have? And what would you be integrating it for? If you think it would be impactful, put a price on that impact. There’s no point spending tens of thousands on an integration that is worth a fraction of its cost to you.

Your resources are valuable and not every spend has an equivalent reward. So if you’re only updating contact details once every five years, it might be cost-beneficial to update two systems manually rather than relying on what could be an expensive integration. Of course, it could depend on the volume of updates but it’s good to do the maths. After all, you don’t need to buy a combine harvester to pick the carrots in your allotment.

You’re integrating more than you need

Imagine a library catalogue: You want to be able to find an author, a book title, perhaps the year it was published. You probably don’t need to compare the colours of book covers, or discover how many novels have the word ‘The’ in the title. At its best, data integration connects relevant data so you can make informed decisions. But not all information is relevant.

Which data do you need to join the dots between? Give yourself time to decide which data is important to connect before thinking about how. If only a small part needs to be shared, then you can seek out a more targeted solution that does just the job it needs to and saves you money.

You’ve got dirty data

Before you think about integrating data, it is essential to check if it needs cleaning. In other words, removing or updating all inaccurate or irrelevant information. Otherwise your data integration will have more in common with a scrap yard than a working machine. A lot of data becomes redundant over time and it can become costly clutter to have around, not to mention the new GDPR requirements for retaining personal data and ensuring it’s accurate.

In the same way, data can be unnecessarily duplicated or formatted in a way that makes integration a pain in the neck. Take dates for instance, which may be formatted 23-Feb-2003, 23/02/03, 23rd February 2003, Feb 23rd, and so on. Without cleaning and making these consistent, integration will present you with data that is incorrect or takes far too much time to make sense of.

Off-the-shelf integration is not simple

There are off-the-shelf solutions that promise to connect all your data on their pre-existing platform. But the set up is not as simple as it seems. Their platforms often still need tailor-made solutions for each client, which require expensive experts to create. It maybe far better and cheaper to get someone to make a bespoke solution that selectively integrates important data.  You want the simplest integration with the most relevant data for the biggest impact - and for the sake of your wallet.

You need a smaller solution

You don’t have to figure it out on your own. Find an expert who has hands on experience of connecting data for organisations. They’ll be able to tell you if your data is even possible to integrate in its current form. At times, you can find common databases and simple rules to connect data yourself - such as connecting your Twitter account to another sign in. But for proprietary software and data, you’re going to need advice and you won’t regret asking for it. You probably don’t need a big corporate with expensive consultants, just as you don’t need an industrial crane to build a good-looking fence. You just need someone who understands your challenges and is handy with their tools. And they won’t cost you millions either.

7 months ago | Education

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