The Power of Unlocking and Unifying Data

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Man on laptop who is unifying data.

Every day, humans produce 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. Just to put that number into perspective, there are 18 zeros in a quintillion. Unifying data can allow you to take advantage of it and benefit your business.

The vast majority of organizations have collected nearly endless amounts of data. Yet, these same organizations are starving for information that can be used to make more informed decisions. Information may be stored in databases that don't talk to each other. Some of it's probably in the cloud or in Office documents. When big data is spread all over the place with no strategy to connect it, you cannot use it for metrics and analytics.

 If you want to unlock the "big picture," you need to be able to take the steps toward unifying data. Learning good data management techniques will be your first significant step in achieving digital transformation in your company.

How Data Gets Lost and Locked

Despite the best efforts of information systems leaders, data tends to get lost as companies grow. Databases and applications enable the workforce to create products, track customer information, manage projects, and more.

As the saying goes, "There's an app for everything." And that's part of the problem.

Databases can't easily communicate with each other. They tend to use proprietary methods of categorizing, collecting, and reporting data. When two different data sets are correlated, things often don't match up. Human intervention is necessary to bring them together. Doing this on a large scale is unfeasible, making data analytics impossible. 

A lot of customer information will get stored in office documents, text files, and messaging apps. Fellow employees may not even know about the existence of this data, leaving it untouched in silos.

This hurts companies where they can least stand to take the hit—successfully marketing to their customers.

 Unify Marketing Data to Maximize Potential

In today's business world, marketers and organizations need to connect and analyze data from multiple sources, then use that combined data to enable actionable insights. The goal here is not to centralize data but to blend data from multiple sources to create a singular view. 

In a SalesForce study, 72% of marketers reported that it's harder to meet customer expectations than the previous year. Much of this can be attributed to a lack of unified customer data. With data spread out or lost in silos, customer needs analysis just can't be done correctly. Marketing teams can't measure demand for their product, and product developers cannot understand the customer journey. According to the Association of National Advertisers' Marketing 2020: Big Data and Analytics Survey Report, 30% of marketing departments in underperforming companies rarely work on big data strategies with their IT department. To become a truly data-driven organization, companies should strive for access across all departments. Only then will data-driven decision-making become a reality.

The Challenges of Unifying Data

As we look toward the future, it's clear that artificial intelligence systems, machine learning, and apps will create the foundation for technological advancement. In the present day, however, every organization is faced with the need to unify its data. And doing that is anything but simple.

 Once a company looks at the steps to take toward unifying data, It quickly becomes apparent that there are several challenges in unifying and unlocking data. Here's a look at three of the big issues technology leaders run into when developing their data unification strategies:

  • A lack of standardization: Databases cannot easily communicate with each other due to differences in how data structures and communication protocols. More often than not, when two data sets come together, they will not e rendered into a usable format. Sharing data between disparate systems requires a standardized format. Data sets will be stuck in silos until databases communicate via languages they both understand. 
  • Inefficiency: An open data marketplace currently doesn't exist. This hinders the process of selling and acquiring data. Business leaders have to figure out what data collection activities make sense to spend time and money on.
  • Insecurity and no transparency: In the era of smartphones, a lot of data is collected, stored, and exchanged. There are numerous risks for compromised information and data breaches. When it comes to transparency, the average user will have no awareness of what happens to the data they generate. There is no way of knowing how one's data is being used and who it's being sold to. 

From the IT department to the C-suite, business leaders are looking to APIs to unify data and unlock its potential. API stands for Application Programming Interface and allows applications to interact with a third-party software program. There are several reasons why APIs are of immense strategic importance.

Beyond allowing companies to connect their many data sources, businesses can also deliver data via APIs as a revenue stream. If you need evidence that a new data marketplace is emerging, look no further than the API market. Analysts expect it to reach $13 billion in annual revenue by 2030.

Numerous companies are beginning to recognize the potential of APIs, providing opportunities to advance and expand into markets they would never previously consider. IBM's Watson is the perfect example. Watson can scan through massive data volumes to answer questions. Instead of leveraging the unique potential of Watson for its own exclusive use, IBM opened access through APIs. IBM's goal is to attract revolutionary ideas and inputs from third-party firms around the globe, allowing them to access new markets, including healthcare. 

Still, a unified strategy is needed. Without a plan to use data coming in and out, you'll still hit the roadblocks outlined above. APIs alone are not the answer; a unified API platform and strategy are needed to optimize the power of data.

The Power of an Omnichannel Strategy

Omnichannel analytics is when an organization uses data from multiple channels to improve operations and customer experience. But as we established above, it's not as simple as making some API connections. Careful thought and planning must be made to reach the point of a successful strategy that makes the most available data. 

How you get there is by employing an omnichannel API platform. As the name implies, omnichannel means managing all channels simultaneously, both inbound and outbound.

Omnichannel unites communication for the entire marketing process across any platform. The communication methods we use daily (voice, email, SMS messaging) all have multiple APIs. So you really have two choices: find a way to manage all those APIs, or restrict communication to specific platforms, like old-fashioned phone calls.

Imagine a scenario where a customer messages your company using WhatsApp. That customer will expect that the employee who replies will have the history of previous conversations available to them--even if your company doesn't use WhatsApp. Likewise, customers don't want to be told that they have to use a specific communication platform to communicate with your company.

Spending lots of time connecting, disconnecting, and managing multiple channel APIs means less time collecting and analyzing data. When APIs are integrated by way of an omnichannel platform, customers can be contacted or receive notifications via their communication channel of choice.

With data flowing in and out between multiple products and services via APIs, customers also have control over what data they share, easing security concerns. Businesses can now take real-time action on the customer data they receive and develop insight-driven marketing strategies.

If a company is in the business of making apps or selling digital services, managing outbound data via APIs is another key business concern. As we mentioned earlier, the API marketplace is already lucrative and has a bright future. Even businesses that aren't in those spaces have the potential to sell data delivered by APIs. A true omnichannel strategy enables companies to monetize the data that comes in or goes out.

With an omnichannel strategy in place, data is no longer hidden in silos and locked away. It's now going into analytics that help strong companies gain insight into their market segments. As a bonus, this data was collected and unified without having a draining effect on productivity. With the automation of API data going in and out, employee workflows are improved.

Finding Your API Platform Solution

The solution to unlocking and unifying data lies in choosing the right API platform. Making the right choice will be one of your most important decisions.

As the amount of information available from APIs increases, a unified API platform becomes more important. APIs allow apps to exchange data with each other. But managing the massive amounts of data generated every day can become time-consuming without an omnichannel strategy.

At DreamFactory, our team of experts has advised thousands of companies around the globe on their API needs. By making API integrations simple, we make your omnichannel strategy quick, easy, and affordable to achieve. The team at DreamFactory is available and ready to discuss your specific needs. Contact us now to start your free hosted trial of DreamFactory today!

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