An integrated ecosystem can enable businesses to serve their customers better, drive more revenue through new avenues, and gain a competitive edge.
Digital transformation is not a buzz word anymore – it has now become a reality and a goal that most businesses want to achieve. We live in an age where customers expect you to understand their needs, know their requirements, and provide them with offerings that match their expectations – all after a single interaction. This is not an easy feat, but it can be achieved through an integrated enterprise ecosystem.
See also: Inside McDonald’s Digital Transformation
In the past decade, businesses focusing on growth and evolution have implemented multiple systems to help them store, manage, and evaluate information as the first step towards digital transformation. The challenge here is that the information usually resides in disparate systems. There is no consolidated system for accessing all the information related to business operations, which can lead to erroneous reporting and missed opportunities.
To address this, the first step towards digital transformation should be to integrate these independent systems. This will help you establish lines of communication between departments and solve interoperability issues.
How Integrated Digital Ecosystems Drive Value for Businesses
With an integrated ecosystem, enterprises can streamline business processes to become more efficient and profitable. Here are the various ways in which an integrated system can add value to your business:
Generates New Sources of Revenue: An integrated digital ecosystem can offer new streams of revenue by showing a more precise and broader picture of your business operations. For instance, you can strengthen your revenue-generating processes, such as sales by creating a 360-degree view of customer and sales data.
You can easily track, analyze, and take action on information when it’s accessible in a single place. For example, if you identify that customers are asking for a different product, you can dedicate more resources to R&D and develop new products to sell.
Reduces the Cost of Business Processes: By automating several processes that would otherwise have to be done manually, an integrated ecosystem can benefit greatly in terms of reduced costs.
For instance, with independent systems, a person in each business unit would be responsible for generating departmental reports and consolidating them with other departments every month or so. This could be a problem because sometimes the same data is stored in different systems with varying names. A customer reference in your CRM might not be the same as in the sales system, so this data will have to be modified manually, which is a time-consuming task.
Fortunately, this process can be automated through integration. When all the internal systems are connected, duplications are removed by running quality checks within the flow. This will reduce the number of manhours required. Moreover, the increased efficiency of the business processes results in reduced operational costs and thus, contributes to the organization’s ROI.
Increases Speed and Flexibility: Integrating systems helps synchronize business operations, so organizations can make complete use of technological advancements and get ahead of the competition.
For instance, legacy software that struggles to keep up with the modern enterprise processes can now be replaced with cloud services and SaaS solutions, and easily integrated and synced with one another.
How Data Integration Impacts Digital Transformation
Businesses that have multiple independent systems to handle their operations are limited by their functionality. An integrated system not just helps each department conduct its tasks more efficiently, but it also enables them to analyze relevant data from other departments for better outputs.
For example, let us consider customer data. A sales team within an organization is typically limited to the information being shown by the CRM system. This includes the information customers share about themselves (declarative data) and the past purchases/interactions of the customer with the business. However, when you look at the complete picture, this information is just one piece of the puzzle. Other data that the sales team can use to their advantage may include:
- Behavioral data regarding customer interactions with the website (what they did, where they clicked, which pages they showed interest in), how often they place orders, do they make payments on time, what is their average order size, and what kind of products they prefer. All of this is stored in different systems and must be consolidated to provide a complete overview.
- External data about customers, such as online activity and social media interests, which can be retrieved using Google Analytics and social media APIs. Once you have access to this data, you can integrate it with your internal systems to get deeper insights into the customer journey.
Now imagine that your sales team has access not just to the data provided by the CRM, but with behavioral and external data as well. This would provide them with a 360-degree view of each customer from the start of their journey to the end, highlighting their full experience with your business. This holistic view will allow your sales team to develop better strategies, predict customer behavior, and improve conversions significantly.
Making use of all available information for decision-making and streamlining your business processes is one of the key components of a digital ecosystem. You can achieve all this through data integration, which plays a major role in the digital transformation of any business.
Framework for Creating an Integrated Enterprise Ecosystem
We discussed the importance of an integrated enterprise ecosystem in the previous sections, but how should you go about creating one? There are two general methods that you can use: the first is to allocate an in-house team that writes codes to integrate enterprise systems, and the second is to use a third-party data integration tool, a code-free alternative.
The first approach is not recommended because it has greater operational costs and high chances of failure. With a third-party integration software, the entire process becomes as simple as using a drag-and-down interface for creating ETL pipelines and building process flows.
Given below is a framework for integrating internal and external systems to create a holistic enterprise ecosystem using a data integration tool:
- Link internal enterprise systems through pre-built connectors: Data integration tools come with a repository of pre-configured connectors that can be used to access diverse source systems, including CRM, ERP, SCM, and databases. Using these connectors, you can easily and quickly connect to these systems and retrieve data from them without any IT intervention.
- Make use of APIs for connecting to external sources: If you want to access and consolidate data from external sources (such as website statistics from Google Analytics), you can make use of API connector. Simply define the API endpoint and token within your data integration tool, and it will handle data retrieval for you.
- Automate onboarding: Often, businesses have to onboard suppliers and partners, which requires them to ingest, filter, and process data. Using an enterprise-grade integration tool enables business users to automate the onboarding processes through an ETL pipeline. Therefore, it replicates the same process for different vendors, which may include fetching data from the supplier database, filtering it based on predefined rules and conditions, transforming it so other systems can use it, and then loading it into a master database that can be shared across the enterprise. This will make the entire process much more efficient.
- Consolidate data for better reporting: For decision-makers, it is important to have a 360-degree view of all business operations to make informed decisions. Therefore, when all your enterprise data is stored in a central consolidated repository, decision-makers can generate reports on-demand, and slice and dice it as required (so they can view it both from a bird’s eye view and at a granular level as well).
Success Stories of Digital Transformation
Industry-leaders in almost all sectors have undergone a digital transformation that allows them to explore new opportunities and gain a competitive edge. Pharmaceutical companies, food retailers, and financial services are examples of three sectors that have started to take the next step towards digitization by building an integrated ecosystem. As competition in these sectors grows, digital integration plays a vital role in helping enterprises stand out amongst others.
Here are some examples of how digital transformation is revamping businesses in different industries:
- Digital healthcare: Digital healthcare encompasses technology advancements in hospitals, clinics, and other medical institutions. This type of system includes information regarding the medical history of a patient, insurance claims processing, healthcare provider details, and more to provide better patient care. This information can be further combined with financial institutions, government organizations (such as regulators and governing bodies like the CDC), and other partners to provide a transparent view of the performance and quality of healthcare to all stakeholders involved.
- Fintech: Fintech is short for financial technology that aims to improve delivery methods and customer experience with financial services. It focuses on enhancing efficiency, accessibility, and availability of financial products and services (such as loans) to customers.
Statistics show that 70% of businesses either already have a digital transformation strategy, or they are working on one. This is only natural because the benefits are immense. An integrated ecosystem can enable businesses to serve their customers better, drive more revenue through new avenues, and gain a competitive edge.
New business requirements, as well as external factors, are now putting additional pressure on organizations to create an integrated enterprise ecosystem. Data integration tools can help you on your path towards digital transformation and create a framework that can be used as a guiding principle for successful integration.