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integration and implementation of technology-focused business solutions

December 2018

Integrating data to avoid silos

December 18th, 2018

Data silos are a significant challenge for many businesses. You might have time tracking software in one system, payroll in another, invoices in another, production numbers in another, and so on. It can get pretty messy pretty fast with that many different systems in play.

In some ways, cloud computing has made this even worse. There are lots of different cloud vendors to meet the needs of companies in any of these areas. Some will say they can do it all, while others specialize in one specific area. But even among those who say they can do it all, can they really?

When companies are evaluating systems and tools, it’s important to really think about how things go together. If you’re evaluating time tracking software, will it integrate with your payroll software for hourly employees? If it doesn’t, how much time will it take you to manually transfer data between two systems?

While there may not be one single system that fits everything you need, it’s important to realize if you’re headed down the path of multiple data silos. If you don’t want to head down that path, then expect to invest a little more money in a tool that can help prevent those frustrations.

With small businesses, there’s typically a price point issue with some of the higher-level systems as well. You might not need the full functionality of that tool, and it’s not exactly in your budget. But there isn’t a mid-range tool that has what you need within budget, so you end up with a handful of different tools.

In just about every software tool out there, there’s some way to get data in or data out. That’s often where we come in. While we’re a software development company, we’re also a systems integration company. We can help companies pull the data from different systems into one place so it becomes actionable data. We can also help them evaluate new data systems they might be adding to the mix.

If you find yourself dreading the routine of maintaining, downloading, and importing to keep data in sync, there’s a better way. That could mean a more comprehensive system that does multiple things in one place or a custom data integration so that different systems share data automatically.

Data is powerful for companies, but you can’t unlock that power if your data exists in silos. You need the ability to view your data across systems, which is why data integration matters.

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Are your software tools slowing you down?

December 4th, 2018

When it comes to businesses of any size, a lot of us are trapped in a never-ending state of using the wrong tools to accomplish a task. Maybe we think it’s working okay, or maybe we’re comfortable because it’s the software system we know best. And maybe there are workaround procedures in place to help it work as it should.

But there’s a better way with better software tools.

In some companies, the software systems are so old it’s like the treasured stuffed animal that’s been passed down in three generations of a family. It’s pretty dirty and maybe a bit threadbare. But everyone loves it, so when the next hole appears, someone patches it so the stuffing somehow manages to stay inside.

I’ve seen many software systems that looked much the same. Holes, patches, and workarounds to keep it limping along. But software isn’t a stuffed animal that comes with three generations of memories. It’s a tool meant to help you work more efficiently. And if it’s not doing that, it’s definitely time to move on.

Many times, companies are trying to use Microsoft Excel for far more than it was intended to do. There are multiple copies of a spreadsheet floating around, and nobody quite knows which one is the most recent version. Or maybe there’s one copy on a shared drive, but it gets corrupted when three people try to access it at once.

The other issue is when spreadsheets are accessed by multiple people and somebody changes a calculation along the way. There could be hundreds of calculations, and maybe there are some macros in place too. If even one of those gets accidentally changed, you could be looking at completely inaccurate numbers. There’s a better way!

The same is true for companies using Microsoft Access for far more than it was intended to do. While it’s a little bit better in terms of avoiding multiple versions of a spreadsheet, it’s still not the most robust system available.

A lot of times, people are simply working with the tools they have available or the tools they know. They might not realize what other options exist, or they might not have support from their internal IT team to put something new in place.

This is something we help a lot of small businesses with. It’s pretty easy and affordable to transition to better systems, and it can save you a lot of time and hassle in the long run. Upgrading to a better system can also put the data at your fingertips, whether that’s on your phone or from any other device wherever you are.

The data in enterprise data systems also has a better chance of being backed up regularly than individual spreadsheets on an employee’s desktop. And when it comes to data of any kind, regular backups are critical.

There are certainly still some tasks where a basic spreadsheet is sufficient. But as businesses grow, it’s helpful to step back and ask if the systems you’re using are really the most efficient and effective systems or if it’s time to upgrade.

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