small business data silos

How data silos hurt your small business

Small Business IT Strategy

Sometimes it’s not what we DO that hurts our business growth, but rather what we fail to do… like planning out our small business IT strategy. Data silos pop up because we don’t have an IT technology plan. We don’t always ask the right questions to help us decide between cloud and desktop software or know how to evaluate SaaS solutions.

Let me ask you 3 questions:

1. How many small business software programs do you own?

 Think about the different areas of your business you manage with software, including: 

  • Email Marketing Software to nurture prospective customers as well as existing customers
  • Customer Relationship Management Software to track sales and projects
  • Accounting Software to manage invoices and payables
  • Order Processing and Shipping Software to accept the order, process it, and ship it out
  • Website eCommerce Software to enable online orders
  • Support Software to handle case management and problem resolution
  • …plus, all that day-to-day information that lives in your company’s email system and in Excel spreadsheets.

2. How well are your systems connected?

 Do you have integrations built between the different software programs? Are you manually re-typing the information? Can you type information in once and have it flow to the other systems? (For most small-to-medium sized businesses, the answer is a resounding NO!)

3. What is it costing to have disconnected small business software?

There’s a real cost to having your business information spread out across multiple systems – but it’s a hidden cost. Because you’re not writing a check for it, you may not be thinking about the costs. If you’ve never calculated the hidden costs, you may find the list below to be eye-opening!

6 Ways Data Silos Kill Your Small Business

  1. You can’t see the big picture and therefore make informed decisions. Without system integration, you’ll never be able to get a 360 view of your customers – or your business. Finding ways to integrate your data means you’ll be able to view information from different angles to find root cause issues and identify opportunities for growth.
  2. Your cost of overhead is too high. Administrative re-typing of information is not a high-value task.  You may be “making due” with duplicate entry for a short time…. And yet, because you’re so busy, you never make the time to actually find a solution to eliminate duplicate entry.
  3. It’s difficult to train new staff. How can you delegate tasks effectively, when you have people jumping from software application to software application?
  4. Your data isn’t reliable. When you’re running multiple software programs that overlap, it can become nearly impossible to keep the information in sync.
  5. You can’t grow your business effectively. What if your business doubled overnight? Could you handle the additional workload? If you’re spending lots of time on administrative work, adding customers will also mean adding more staff. Technology is an easy way to grow your bottom line, not just add customers and revenue.
  6. It’s growing difficult to manage network security. More systems and more passwords mean more data security risks.

Follow these Small Business System Integration Strategies

Have I convinced you? Maybe I have, but you’re still wondering…. what do I DO? I need these software programs to run my business. 

  1. Start by developing an IT Strategy. Companies acquire too many different software programs when they are working reactively, instead of sitting down and considering the best way to accomplish their objectives. Developing an IT Strategy ensures that your software programs can work together, either through API integration – or because they’re designed to work together.
  2. Follow the KISS principle. Keep It Simple! We’ve seen lots of clients over the years who have over engineered low-value processes. Keeping your processes and systems simple helps you create consistency in your business. Document your business processes. You want your flow to be as simple as possible – but also to give you the information you need. Ask yourself if you have collected the data you need to make informed decisions. For example, you can’t analyze clients by location if you’ve never collected their physical address.
  3. Integrate your systems and/or data. If you’re careful about always buying software with API integration, sometimes your systems can be simply tied together with Zapier, Microsoft Flow or IFTTT (If this then that). When you need a more extensive integration than that, it pays to hire a software developer (like us) to build integration and workflow. If your systems need to be kept separate (like for HIPPA compliant software), you can use Business Analytics tools like Power BI to bring the key data points together for analysis.

The key is to find out what’s possible. We make that easy by offering a FREE “Explore the Possibilities” session with one of our IT Consultants. Take advantage of this amazing offer so you can make your next year in business your best year ever!

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