Data Considerations When Choosing Software
One of the most frustrating situations I encounter as a business intelligence specialist is when a customer’s software locks me, and my clients, out of their own data. This makes my job much more difficult in that I can’t fully analyze the data, but it puts my clients in a very tough spot as well. When I say that I’m locked out I mean that the software interface limits exports to a single element at a time with no correlation. For instance, I can export customer transactions, customer lists, product lists, and revenue by employee; but I can’t put them together. So, showing revenue by product is easy but I can’t see what each employee specializes in selling, or view products by customer.
Why is this an issue
My primary purpose is to break every element down to its fundamental elements, quantify it, and then find outliers to cut costs and increase efficiency. But when data can’t be linked between these elements natively it makes me work a bit harder. Sometimes this requires working through the profit and loss or cash flows to come to the conclusions, other times it’s pairing the available data to matching elements by division, or in the worst case breaking the data out of the software database. While this isn’t an impossible problem it certainly adds difficulty to the task.
What this means to you
As a business owner this type of software puts you in an even tougher spot. This is particularly true when you need to change software or upgrade. For instance, you run a health spa, and your customers, products, employees, and appointments are all logged in the same system. This system stops being supported, or you want to upgrade to a larger system, and you find that you need new software to manage these elements. Because your legacy software doesn’t allow you to export these elements together you face the impossible decision of staying with your legacy system you don’t want or losing your customer history and starting fresh. This is very much a no-win situation. This is often done by software companies as a method of locking you in by holding your data hostage.
When choosing software for your company, no matter how small, ensure that the data can be exported. By exported, I mean that information can be linked, grouped, or related to one another. This can come in the form of unique keys that transfer between exports, a flat file that includes all transactions with all employees and products by customer, or some combination between these. Regardless your preference, ensure that you’re not locked out of your data.