Despite economic challenges, America continues to improve productivity often due to IT infrastructure, systems and technology that allow companies to “do more with less”.
With the progress we have made, there are some companies that find these benefits elusive. Many of us are still working with systems that are antiquated, redundant or inefficient.
Why is that?
New systems, if not architected from an Enterprise point of view, can actually create inefficiencies. They must be integrated properly with existing systems… or the efficiencies promised… are rarely realized.
Redundant systems cause all systems, to be out of sync. Instead of one clean data set, there may be many “dirty” sets of the same/similar information available. The situation actually confuses users, creates duplication and can cause “rabbit trails” for problem resolution. Your business experiences confusion… when what it needs, is clarity.
Here’s an example:
Most companies have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Even with CRMs, it’s not uncommon to have multiple users, and additional locations of customer records. Whereas duplication may be unavoidable… if not handled properly, there is the potential for data conflict. Customer accounts may be incomplete, or out of sync, causing the business to provide poor service.
Ever called customer service only to hear “I don’t have that info in my system”. WTH? (What the heck?;-)
Expecting the solution to come from “geeks” like us? The truth is: “Anyone can align their systems if they follow the concept of System of Record”
As a starting point, most companies would agree with the following Objectives:
- Streamline systems to create greater productivity
- Eliminate redundancy and duplication to eliminate bottle necks, rework, and drive efficiency
- Maintain clean data (You’ve heard “garbage in = garbage out” think quality data “in”…to get quality decisions “out”)
Define the System of Record for each step in the business process or the information used for each step.
A Simple 5 Step, Systems Integration Process
You don’t have to be an expert in systems engineering:
- Document the steps in your business process. Create a spreadsheet to capture the tasks performed and tools & systems used by each user/role active in the process.
- Research the data used in each step. Include the information found in each report, screen, or document used in the process. Create a data dictionary of all data fields and the system they come from (and who “owns” that data).
- Agree on the company “system of record” for each data point within each step in the process.
- Locate the duplicate data – Check the steps recorded and the systems involved. This step is key. The goal is to standardize the data formats and establish a comprehensive “data definition” that supports the business.
- Migrate all data directly into the “System of Record” and then integrate the down-stream systems into it. Make the system “share data” across the enterprise, not duplicate it.
Following the “system of record” concept will provide valuable benefits such as:
- Reduced IT costs
- Streamlined business processes
- Improved productivity
- Increased profit
- Happy Users! (Hey, nobody likes to input data into multiple systems)
Many of the corporate strategic and tactical initiatives are tied to the systems that support the business. If the systems aren’t efficient, it will be even harder to grow and scale the company in the current economic environment.
Having an accurate “system of record” can bring clarity to business discussions, roles and responsibilities… so don’t just add another systems upgrade into the budget, without planning for systems considering integration and the impact on the current system of record.
If you have follow up questions about the article or want to discuss how to implement at your firm, please contact us. We are here to serve and offer Systems Consulting, Systems Design and Systems Development services.