Have you ever stopped to think how many occurrences of customer data you have within your organisation?
Apart from the crucial one – the bookkeeping system – chances are you have them in at least a handful of other places.
They’re there on your email address book, probably in a sales database somewhere, within your website Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and, chances are, even in a rolodex.
Yes we are literally swimming not just in customer data but in duplication.
It’s kind of lucky our respective storage and processing capacity has grown the way it has or we would be wasting a whole lot of storage on duplicated customer data.
A productivity chasm
But storage is now the least of the SME operators’ problems. Smart bosses realise every incident of duplicated data is not only a massive waste of labour time in making that copy but any time there is a change to that data all the rest need to be updated too, leading to a chain of productivity failures.
Then it takes just one data source to be missed and the customer may well miss out on a vital piece of information that might retain them, or even pay their bill!
Of course the Holy Grail of all organisations is to provide a central store of customer and other data that then feeds into the various departmental records.
SMEs embrace databases
Some small business have come a long way and have managed to do this by employing clever CRM systems.
But no matter how hard we try, there always seems to be one or more systems that refuse to talk to the CRM and continue to create that pesky duplication and its associated labour and error costs.
For some time now, there’s been a solution that finally cleans up the last of these time bandits.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have been proving a godsend to larger business for many years now and are finally making their way to the fingertips of smaller businesses.
Sensational system synchronicity
APIs are the technical conduits that allow disparate data sources to finally become synchronised.
Using either manual or time-based triggers, APIs interrogate a data source for any additions or alterations and synchronise affected data in a second or further data source.
APIs are literally the missing link of the data chain as they ensure all organisational data is actually on the same page when it comes to information.
Best of all, APIs are now well within reach of the smallest business operator – providing the systems in question don’t use a weird and wonderful development platform that wont ‘talk’ to others in this way.
Just today I came across the perfect scenario for an API.
My business is charged with preparing, creating and distributing email marketing and communication for our financial services client.
Like most CRMs, the system we use relies on its data being constantly updated so as to ensure the right people get the right communications.
The problem is, up till now there has been no procedure to get manual sales data back into the email CRM. This literally means customers may be getting either the wrong information or no information at all.
There is nothing new here. Organisations all over the planet have spent hours creating and maintaining procedures to ensure a flow of information alterations between departments but despite this, they invariably come unstuck.
An API outcome
The obvious solution in this case is to have an API ensure any new or updated sales record is synched to the email CRM to automate this update procedure and save the organisation significant sums in manual synching and checking procedures.
That way, all we have to do is either log in to the email broadcast system to see the changes that have been made at a given time or hit a button to do it on the spot.
The savings and convenience really are music to a boss’s ears.
Which data sources in your organisation are candidates for an API ending?
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.