Many organisations are looking to transform their enterprises with digital solutions. A question to senior leadership and executives in each organisation is how much are you using applications such as Microsoft Excel and Access to run your business?


The reality is that a lot of businesses still rely heavily on applications like these to manipulate data, create reports and make business decisions. These poor practices such as the heavy reliance on standalone applications also highlight poor data management practices where the manual processing of data is still commonplace in businesses.

“It’s not optimal, but we’re getting by”

This outdated modus operandi is a clear indicator that there are maturity gaps in important data management principles such as data access, data quality and data lineage. Data stored in spreadsheets and access databases limits the audience that can access this data to make business decisions. The wider availability of this data would allow for a greater level of self-service provision so that the right data is available to other users in the organisation.

Using siloed applications makes the job of ensuring the data is accurate and complete very difficult and leads to the creation of multiple versions of the same data. This makes the task of maintaining master data very challenging. Having a data governance model in place is essential to improving data quality and ensuring data compliance standards are met and adhered to. A high reliance on standalone applications also reveals the lack of an enterprise data model which is a type of data model that presents a view of all data consumed across the organisation.

Data lineage is important as it allows for the ability to track data from source through to how it is used. It also helps to build trust in the data being used and in investigative activities such as Root Cause Analysis, where it becomes easier to trace errors.

Data protection and having controls on how that data is accessed is of growing importance in both adhering to regulatory compliance and in cyber security. Lack of these controls increases the likelihood of data breaches. Cyber security at its core involves protecting data from cyber threats and so data governance is essential to cyber security.

“Out of interest, what am I missing out on?”

The manual processing of data highlights the lack of readiness for harnessing the large potential of an integrated system landscape. The lack of a joined-up approach to data management and having poor integration between your systems will hamper efforts to make effective business improvements. The benefits of an improved system landscape are discussed in another blog called ‘Are poor System Integrations slowing down your transformation efforts?’.

McKinsey’s report on digital transformation in 2018 reported that more than 70% of transformation projects fail.

Some of the greatest challenges in improving data quality highlighted in the report were:
  • The poor quality of data entry at the system of origin
  • Inefficient data architecture
  • Ineffective governance model

In the same report, the key factors for successful transformations were:
  • Tools that allow information to be more accessible throughout the organisation
  • The ability for self-service for employees and business partners

Improved data management is therefore a tangible incentive to improve current practices that will vastly improve operational efficiency, provide greater adherence to regulatory compliance standards, and support your cyber security measures.



Minimising the reliance on standalone applications to make business decisions and providing greater access from integrated systems, will allow for improved data management practices. These changes are in turn a good indicator that data is being stored systematically. The automation of what were manual business processes workflows will bring greater efficiency, consistency, and data quality.

The use of data lakes where structured and unstructured data from a vast range of sources can be captured, stored, and updated instantly will greatly improve data management. These initiatives coupled with other enabling solutions such as the adoption of cloud technology, allows organisations to be more innovative, allow for improved cyber security measures, and be more adaptive to change.

Organisations that have in place strong data management practices will be in a better position take advantage of new business opportunities at a much faster rate than their competitors.

What steps are you or your organisation taking towards improved ways of working?
In many organisations digital solutions are deployed to improve operational effectiveness and to promote better ways of working. Eliminating outdated and inefficient processes and utilising new technologies allowing greater collaboration, automated workflows, and faster access to business data are some of the benefits that can be achieved.

System Integration

What is often over-looked until it becomes an issue are the challenges of integrating solutions into old technology and old processes. The 2019 State of Ecosystem and Application Integration Report says that poor integration could cost organisations up to $500K a year. These losses result from operational inefficiencies through lost orders, missed SLAs and lost revenue opportunities.

Challenges can include mismatched data types, systems not supporting modern protocols, security inadequacies or simply cost. For example, SAP use proprietary BAPI interfaces which work well if you are integrating other SAP systems, but not well if you are attempting to use anything else. Often the challenges lead to integration being shelved in favour of dual keying data into more than one system. Once dual keying is accepted it can often be left in place for a considerable time which in turn leads to human generated errors.

Longer term strategic planning vs short term solution benefit

The system integration conundrum for many organisations lies in weighing up the cost and time required to undertake the necessary landscape/technology stack review and to develop a simplified integration strategy versus the cheaper and quicker system integration with workarounds/patches approach.


In many cases the proposed digital solution satisfies an immediate business pain-point or need which can make for a compelling case for the fastest deployment option. Workarounds and patches serve a purpose in the short-term to alleviate limitations, however inadequate process and systems integration also can increase complexity and costs over time.
The seamless connectivity of enterprise data is a key enabler for digital transformation success and requires careful planning and a staged approach.
System Integration planning should consider the following two-stage process:

Stage 1 – Assess the current operational landscape (AS-IS)
  • System landscape review - review and identify all the systems, including legacy and middleware, identifying each systems purpose and its connectivity (or lack of) to other systems. This should only be a high-level preliminary review based as for a large organisation this type of analysis could takes many months if not years just by itself.
  • Business Process Mapping – having up-to-date business process maps will identify manual processes and workarounds that are currently in place and will also highlight where operational improvements can be made.

Stage 2 – System Integration planning (TO-BE)
  • Operational landscape simplification – identify improvements and eliminate the manual processes
  • Data integration review – review and understand your data integration needs. This will identify the interface types required for system integration. An up-to-date data model will be a key output
  • Middleware consideration- identify the appropriate middleware to enable the planned architectural changes, where possible using existing middleware if the capabilities are sufficient.
  • Future vision – the output of the System Integration planning is an input to a digital transformation roadmap.


The benefits of a simplified systems landscape

The benefits of a better integration ecosystem include:
  • Elimination of costly manual processes
  • Automation of critical transaction systems
  • Greater visibility of end-to-end data flows
  • The potential replacement of costly legacy systems where integration may make systems redundant (such as when dual keying)
  • Increased revenue thorough improved business processes
  • Better decision making
  • Adoption of new business models
  • Easier integration with external systems allowing greater supply chain integration
  • Ability to scale digital transformation efforts
  • Maintain lower ongoing costs


System Integration planning is an important element in enabling digital transformations and the realisation of an integrated platform that allow for a faster realisation of your transformational goals.

An integrated system will streamline your processes, reduce costs, and ensure efficiency.

Not reviewing and simplifying your system integration landscape may lead to poor decisions being made and not being able to harness the full benefits and growth opportunities of digital solutions when deployed.

Please share your thoughts on this discussion topic which is a key enabler to successful business transformations.

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