Importance of Data Integration
Welcome back to the “Improving Your Business Performance with CRM” series. In this series we cover five crucial features provided by modern CRMs that help improve process efficiency and sales volume within your organization. This article discusses how a modern CRM can transfer data to external systems through integration APIs. The last installment covered how to improve processes with CRM process automation.
What Is an API?
In today’s IT world, the term ‘API’ is seen everywhere. Tech companies advertise their applications by mentioning API capabilities and how they can improve processes and relationships for their customers. But what is an API and why is it so important in today’s commerce? API stands for Application Programing Interface. APIs are essentially sets of tools provided by a software application for a developer to create, modify, expand or customize its capabilities.
As a simple example, APIs can be compared to the tool belts used by carpenters. If a nail is sticking out, the carpenter simply grabs the appropriate tool, probably a hammer, and pushes the nail back into the wall or floor. If a carpenter is tasked with laying carpet down in a room, a variety of tools such as measuring tape, stretcher, hammer and clippers will get the job done. If a CRM user wants to enhance his or her data integration capabilities, an API will be the tool of choice.
What Is Data Integration?
Have you ever logged into your bank account online or on a mobile app? The data you are reviewing is a common example of data integration. Accessing your bank account balance, credit card statements, loans, and bills at your fingertips illustrates why data integration represents a crucial service offer for any business. Data integration is essentially the transfer of data between two separate systems without native integration capabilities.
The purpose of data integration is to consolidate data into a single screen known as a single view of truth. Your bank account information, your credit card balance, and paying a bill online is data that is stored and maintained within different databases or systems. Imagine having to log into separate accounts to view all this information. Viewing data on one screen by obtaining it via data integration from remote systems makes life much easier for your employees, customers, and partners because the amount of time the data is retrieved is reduced significantly.
How Does Data Integration Work?
Data integration is easily programmed with modern systems due to the minimum number of tools required to do so. You either use a REST or SOAP API. Essentially, every modern system has these tools at their disposal, and they standardize how data is transferred between systems. Therefore, no matter the platform a system is built upon or how the data is managed, REST and SOAP protocols require all data meet specific data structures schemes: JSON and XML. JSON is lightweight and has gained popularity because of the easy-to-configure data scheme that simply requires a ‘key: value’ property set up. XML uses data tags to store its data values. Both REST and SOAP have their pros and cons but no matter the data transfer objective, either one can handle the task.
CRM Data Integration Capabilities
Modern CRMs have built in data integration capabilities allowing an employee to retrieve information from any legacy system within your company or external remote systems. Therefore, if you store a customer’s accounting information on another system, you can build an integration between your CRM and said accounting system, in which specific information can be retrieved automatically, or with the simple click of a button.
You can also push information to external systems either with the click of a button or automatically. This allows partners and customers to view information important to them, increasing transparency and brand loyalty. This concept ties back to establishing a central hub of data for key personnel to execute important responsibilities without having to use multiple systems to do so. CRMs are designed to store all the information necessary for your business to perform at an optimal level, and data integration is another tool available to accomplish just that.
Cristian Diaz is the certified Salesforce Administrator at Amur Equipment Finance. Mr. Diaz is responsible for CRM app configuration as well as integration for the sales organization, bringing more than six years experience.