Try this simple exercise: pretend one of your employees changes their name from Jennifer to Jessica. How many places do you need to make that change? Payroll? HR portal? Time sheets? Job assignments? Phone list?
The more places you have to manually make that change, the more places you risk data entry errors in your business. The best case is a single spot: one entry where you make the change. All the locations that need to know her name reference that central location.
There are reasons that’s not easy: – separate departments: responsibility is usually spread across multiple groups of people – separate security: different people are authorized to edit different accounts (e.g. payroll and account management) – disparate systems that don’t interface with each other – some systems are manual, others are automated – flexibility: some people may want to name things slightly differently and not be “locked” into using the centralized, standardized name. – change – “we’ve always done it this way” is a powerful and awful phrase in many businesses.
Here are some reasons why centralizing the storage of certain data is a GREAT idea: – it cuts down on redundant work – it saves time – it saves money – it increases efficiency – it increases quality – it gets you to think about your business as a bunch of interrelated groups rather than distinct departments – it blows away your customers because they are expecting things to be inefficient.
Now try this exercise: call your credit card company, enter your card # when prompted, then ask to speak with a customer service agent. How often are you asked to re-enter or re-authenticate information you already provided? That’s usually because their systems aren’t talking to each other. Because it’s hard to implement. Or because they are managed by different departments. Or because it’s “too much” work to integrate them. And how do you feel when you’re asked for that question that you ALREADY answered? Peeved? Annoyed? You bet.
Integrating systems is hard work. But it’s worth it. And the more change your business experiences, the more you’ll benefit, and the happier it will make your customers and employees.