Data integration is a critical step on the path towards actionable business intelligence. The organization’s ability to effectively manage the collection and analysis of data from different areas of the business — including inventory, sales, marketing, and finance — in a timely and meaningful manner makes all the difference.
Every day, every person at every level of an organization makes countless decisions that impact the business. Organizations go to great lengths to provide the right information at the right time to their employees, so they consistently make smarter, faster decisions that yield streamlined operations, effective customer service, improved revenue, and market growth.
Data integration is a critical step on the path towards actionable business intelligence.
The organization’s ability to effectively manage the collection and analysis of data from different areas of the business — including inventory, sales, marketing, and finance— in a timely and meaningful manner makes all the difference.
Companies that integrate data successfully enable differentiated decisions solidly based on all available facts, which gives them a competitive advantage. Otherwise, when data is not integrated, a user has to make a decision based on information from a subset of total data available — e.g., the user has limited information with limited scope. This in turn reduces the breadth and sophistication of the questions the user can ask.
The more successful the data integration, the more empowered users are to generate questions and to improve the sophistication of those questions. Employees have access to all relevant information within an organization and thus can ask cross-functional questions whose answers provide a complete picture of the business conditions. This enables them to make fully informed decisions, every time.
Without integrated data, decision makers can only answer a limited number of questions in various subject areas. For example, imagine that a business analyst only has sales data available for a line of shoes for her eCommerce company. She may ask, “What are my top-selling shoes by store and region?” or “What other products are consumers most likely to add to their online carts when they buy this shoe brand?” While these are important questions, they are likely not any different than the questions that her competitors are probably asking and answering.
However, when subject areas are combined, new cross-functional questions can be addressed:
“Which brand of shoe is present in my most profitable shopping carts?” and “If I promote these shoes, which other products are likely to be sold as well?” These questions carry more business impact and could not be answered by one subject area alone.
Integrating more subject areas yields increasingly sophisticated questions:
“Based on current promotions, which shoes are forecasted to be out of stock at which locations, and how will that affect my best customers and other products I sell?” These new cross-functional questions are much more relevant to the business and provide forward-looking insight that enables differentiated, predictive decisions.
In addition to upleveling the kinds of questions that employees can ask, data integration significantly increases the number of questions they can ask as well. Figure 1 illustrates a scenario where the number of questions asked and answered grows rapidly with cross-functional data integration. A certain number of questions is possible within each subject area: product sales data can enable 26 questions, online shopping cart data 32 questions, inventory and vendors data 45 questions, forecast data 23 questions, and customer data 38 questions. Added together, the total number of subject-specific questions enabled is 164 (26+32+45+23+38). However, when the subject areas are integrated and new cross-functional questions are now supported, an additional 158 questions can be answered, yielding a total of 322 questions (164+158).
The pattern evolving is clear:
The more subject areas that are integrated from across the company and available when a decision is made, the more sophisticated and relevant the decisions become. There’s a double win. Data integration enables more — and better — questions to be answered with greater business impact.
Imagine making a business decision without knowing how it affects your customers, the sale of other products, or your bottom line. Organizations that lack integrated data will be challenged to make decisions with only partial data or in a potentially untimely manner. Those companies with integrated data will leverage the ability to make rapid, informed and differentiated decisions and discover new avenues to innovation. As a result, they will emerge as leaders among their competitors.
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