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Overcoming data silos: A range of options

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Since data integration has been around for a long time, is siloed data still really a problem? An IDC survey of IT leaders stated that more than half of enterprise data was siloed. And a study by Forrester indicated that only 1% of enterprise data is actually used, in part because it is inaccessible. Yet the incentive to solve the problem is huge—the Forrester study stated that just a 10% increase in data accessibility could produce millions in new revenue for a typical Fortune 1000 company.

In most cases, the root cause of siloed data can be summarized by a single word: change. Silos appear during mergers and acquisitions when companies’ information systems are separate and incompatible. Internal growth of a company produces new data sources outside of existing enterprise information systems. The implementation of new technology may leave legacy data isolated as current data is being put in a new system. Departmental barriers to data sharing occur when marketing, sales, and customer service develop their own repositories that function independently and are not designed to interact.

As a result, insights are lost that could have been achieved from a deeper understanding of enterprise information. The drawbacks of siloed data are evident when a contact center agent trying to resolve a customer complaint does not have a full picture of the customer’s experience, or when a researcher must go from one document repository to another in order to find a key piece of information.

The use of integration platforms in which multiple data sources are connected to a central location and orchestrated by the platform is one method of unifying data. The demand for integration has led to a robust market dominated by companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP. According to Global Market Insights, the 2022 market for data integration was $11.4 billion and is predicted to grow at more than 10% per year from 2023 to 2032 to $31 billion, driven by the steadily increasing volume and variety of data, as well as dynamic market forces.

Integration platforms are not the only way to bring data together to achieve a more complete view, however. Enterprise software solutions such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, contact centers, search technology, and document management systems can all provide comprehensive views of information through the use of APIs or other methods of connectivity. In September 2023, Salesforce and Snowflake teamed up to create a platform to share data between Salesforce’s CRM system and Snowflake’s cloud data platform. Such partnerships are helping organizations use more of their enterprise data.

Achieving a full view of the customer

CRM systems evolved from database marketing and contact management software products in the 1980s through sales force automation (SFA) in the 1990s into platforms that can integrate with numerous enterprise applications to manage the full customer journey. This ability provides a core value of today’s CRM systems. “When we first interact with a company and gain an understanding of its goals, we begin to add value by bringing its data into a common platform,” said Christian Wettre, senior VP and GM for CRM platform at SugarCRM.

The next step is to define processes that should be connected but have not yet been integrated. “We bring customer-facing teams together,” Wettre added, “including marketing, sales, and service.” Finally, the SugarCRM platform integrates a checklist that is carried forward through each phase of a process.

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