Data, Data everywhere, but not a drop to drink.

Originally posted on March 7, 2012

Some of you younger whippersnappers may not remember the days when data was stored in file cabinets. That’s not a metaphor, I mean actual metal file cabinets. It’s true! In the olden days, we used to have rooms full of them.

We had a cabinet for employee records, another one for customer records, and others for tax records, financial records, payroll records, marketing records, sales records, active projects records, closed project records, old Elvis Presley records… let’s just say lots of cabinets.

If I wanted to get an accurate picture of a particular client relationship, my secretary, Doris, would go to about five different file cabinets and copy pieces of paper and staple them all together and hand it to me.

Then one day, software showed up and we started keeping records in folders on hard drives. Of course we did not trust software so we still kept records the old way also. ironically, technology actually added to our workload. My, how far we have come.

Now we have multiple applications for every aspect of our business, and most of our data today is stored electronically in various databases. There is only one file cabinet left for those items that for some reason we still feel we need a hard copy. We have applications for everything: project management, ERP, Payroll, CRM, Business productivity, website CMS, email, document management, etc, all neatly storing their respective data in various databases and electronic folders.

But something else has changed to; now if I want to get an accurate picture of a particular client relationship, I have to do it myself, because Doris has been deprecated :-(. No problem, I am now a technology whiz. I’ll just pop open my CRM and click on the client name. Ah, there it is, all of my info on Acme Corporation. There’s my list of contacts, all of my marketing letters, all of my communications… wait a minute, where is the info on that project we are doing? Oh yeah, that’s right, I need to login to our Project Management System for that… there it is. I wonder how much we have billed this client so far on this project?… umm, where is that information… ah-ha, it’s in our ERP, let me login to that. Where is it…. hmm, looking…looking… ah there it is, they misspelled the client name. Wait a minute, this still shows the CEO as Bob, but Bob left last year. CRM shows Bill is the CEO. I am starting to miss Doris.

All this technology, and I still have the same problem as before. All these data repositories are the same as the old file cabinets… separate. Suddenly the door busts open and here’s this dude in a blue cape screaming “I AM INTEGRATION MAN !”. Seriously dude… a cape? “Sorry” he says, and takes off the cape, and sits down and says what I need is to be able to integrate all these silos of data. “Let them talk to each other” he says and I picture my Project Management application hollering over to my ERP system and saying, “Hey ERP!, Bob is out and Bill is in at Acme… get with the program”. And ERP says, “oops, sorry, I’ll change it so our data matches and I’ll also let CRM know when he gets back from the gym”.

I kick back in my chair and imagine all of my silos of data talking to each other, comparing notes, becoming “one” really, and gossiping about the old metal file cabinet, “those handles are so 70’s”. I open my eyes and look up to see “Integration Man” putting his cape back on and walking out the door… he turns slightly and I see emblazoned across the back of his cape… “Forceworks“.

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