5 Key Requirements to Break Down Data Silos
On speaking with the CTO of a global hospitality brand recently, they revealed that a typical interaction with their call center requires the agent to interact with an average of 8 different systems with over an 80% data duplication rate. This sort of employee experience has to result in a bad customer experience.
It is commonplace in the news today to hear stories of big brand growth through merger and acquisitions (M&A). However, the merger of companies is not trivial on the back-end, each company will have its own set of technologies that support its operations. Even if those technologies were from the same vendor; the business processes, data collection, and governance will have been unique to each enterprise. The reality is typically further complicated by business functions being supported by different solution vendors. Each of these technologies has been in place for years with significant customization and thousands, if not, millions of dollars of investment.
Customer Experience: IT Support, Training, and Cost
Consolidation of brands can lead to a simplification of Customer choice, but the business entity needs to maintain the customer experience or risk jeopardizing the investment it has made.
Returning to our hospitality CTO, imagine a global call center with hundreds, or thousands, of agents. The costs of the system inefficiency on every call they take is huge. In addition, you have the training and documentation costs to bring each agent onboard and maintain their skills at a sufficient level to make the customer experience as seamless as possible. Additionally, with every interaction the risk of a mistake is inevitable and subsequent brand reputation is at risk.
Then there is the IT department who is having to maintain all these duplicate systems with duplicate, sometimes redundant, skills required. These legacy technologies may even be obsolete or legacy. My hospitality CTO talked of systems and databases from the very early days of my technology career that I had long since forgotten about. What are the costs for the resources with these legacy skills?
There are traditionally two choices available to the enterprise at this point:
- Live with the problem and manage through human middleware (where humans have to do the work to make the connection between systems
- Consolidate the solutions
Consolidation involves choosing a single technology vendor, unifying data and business processes and then embarking on a project to migrate to a single system. Projects, such as these, involve third-party system integrators, take months or years to complete, typically are over budget, expose the enterprise to significant risks, and ultimately considerable re-training expense on the workforce. I had a customer share with me that they were a few years into their 12 year SAP consolidation project. 12 years? Technology will be fundamentally different in 12 years with innovations that are only just being ideated today. It is with this perspective we can see why most enterprises choose option 1, particularly with ongoing M&A activity, as IT is fighting a battle they cannot win.
Single-Pane of Glass
But there is an alternative. Commonly referred to as a single-pane of glass solution, where businesses can add an experience layer on top of all of the existing systems and create a consolidated view connecting all that disparate data into one ‘window’. For Customer Success and Support focused companies this is especially compelling for managing all their customer data and touchpoints. Update a customer record once and the single-pane-of-glass technology handles updating however many back-end systems need to be updated. Essentially, you avoid having to consolidate all your systems (option 2 from above), and you still get the benefits of a consolidated view of all your data. As ongoing M&A activities or new departments needing new solutions bring more technology into view, only the single-pane-of-glass needs to be updated.
As with any project, there are a spectrum of ways to approach it. Bespoke development requires spinning up a software engineering project to design and build the solution. Unfortunately, this can often put a company back into a time consuming, resource intensive, and costly project. Every time a new M&A completes or a new system is added to the tech stack, the project team will have to be brought back and the solution updated. The approach will address the problem, but it still requires additional development resources, and be very costly to complete.
However, in recent years, more solutions have been introduced that have obfuscated the need for custom development – or even for any significant engineering effort – while still achieving a single-pane-of-glass solution. One particular category of software is enterprise no-code app platforms such as Appify. These solutions all have the capability to
- Connect to existing systems allowing the data to “live” where it currently resides, and eliminating the need for middleware and lift-and-shift data duplication.
- Store additional data and extend the data models of the existing systems, to allow for the capture of additional data to enable new capabilities and make it easy for a company to scale quickly without having to adjust the existing, more rigid, technology back-end.
- Provide a consistent user experience lowering training and resource maintenance costs.
- Support easy drag and drop definition of the single-pane-of-glass experience, so it can be up and running in just a few weeks, and as new systems are brought online, reduce the time and maintenance to get them included in the consolidated single-pane-of-glass experience.
- Work with any type of device, whether employees are deskless or knowledge workers, thus giving all potential employees the capability to benefit from a single view of a customer and all their touchpoints.
For customer success professionals, it is obvious that something needs to be done to bring together all of the customer information that the business has been collecting. But it is not always obvious, HOW to bring this data into one clear view of the customer and their experience. While custom building a solution that brings together these systems with an experience layer on top can be one way to solve this challenge, testing out a no-code platform like Appify can be a simpler and more cost-effective method to start this transformation one step at a time.