Customer data onboarding is one of the most challenging problems faced by both Information Technology (IT) staff and business users. As companies seek to implement automated, recurring data exchanges with their customers, they are often encumbered by time-consuming barriers. Since each customer can require different data formats and data access methods stemming from the wide range of applications, databases, systems, and other technologies they have, it would seem hopeless to imagine some automated means by which business users could quickly connect, transact, monitor, and manage data interactivity across company boundaries.
In the previous blog post, we noted 10 factors that make customer data onboarding a hard problem to address. What makes this even more challenging is that the technology solutions available to address this important business process are mostly inadequate. In another blog, we help CIOs to identify 5 signs that show that they are doing customer data onboarding wrong.
However, we have good news for you. There is a simpler and more efficient way to execute customer data onboarding. Here are the key differences that make the new approach much better.
There has been a seismic shift in how the overall solution for customer data onboarding is thought about. Traditionally, this problem is addressed by IT staff using developer tool technologies to create individual, point-to-point data exchange connections with customers and partners. This is a very limiting approach that permanently locks-in a slow, labor-intensive, highly technical solution. The new and better approach is to seek a business application solution for solving the problem of customer data onboarding. This means that web browser-based application is used rather than thick-client developer tools. Instead of IT scripting and coding, business users have self-service capabilities to manage customers and partners and also configure connections. In this new approach, data exchanges are centrally managed from one glass pane, making error-handling and troubleshooting processes easier.
The key idea is that just as applications like Salesforce are used by salespeople for managing the sales process, HubSpot is used by marketing teams to manage marketing campaigns, Zendesk is used by support team to provide customer service, and Workday is used by HR teams for employee hiring and benefits tracking, a business application should be used by operations teams for customer data onboarding. The business application provides a system-of-record and a single-source-of-truth for all information related to this key process of managing all inter-company data exchanges.
Another key difference in the new approach for customer data onboarding is that business users do the operational tasks related to the day-to-day work of configuring, managing, tracking and monitoring of data exchanges with external entities. In traditional approaches, this work was done by IT teams and developers at the request of business users who waited for IT to finish the work of creating and configuring data integrations. In the new approach, business users have self-service ability to configure B2B data integrations using pre-built templates.
Customer data onboarding data flows span across companies’ firewalls as the data has to flow from one company to another for true end-to-end automated data exchanges. This means that an element of configuration of the data integrations is to have data access information from the external customers’ side such as FTP or SFTP credentials, security certificates, data format information, API access tokens, and etc.
A key but major difference in the new approach for customer data onboarding is that even the external users, such as customer and partner users, also have access to the business application to self-configure end-to-end data integrations. This significantly reduces the need for coordination, meetings, information exchange, testing etc. as these external users can provide this information directly within the business application by configuring their part of the data flows. This was not possible with the old approach — at least not without a significant investment of highly skilled IT labor on the part of your customers.
The new approach for customer data onboarding significantly changes the role of IT teams. So far IT teams have been setting up and creating data integrations with the customers and partners on a daily basis. But in the new approach, their daily role is shifts to the more important (but less labor intensive) role of governance where they focus on security controls and compliance. During the initial setup phase, IT developers create pre-built templates that enable self-service for business users who then take over this day-to-day B2B integration operational role. This helps improve IT team productivity as they free up from intricate data mapping and other traditional integration details.
As mentioned earlier, traditionally customer data onboarding involves creating unique point-to-point data integrations with each customer or partner for each data exchange. Imagine that for a business ecosystem of thousands of customers and partners, and you’ll find this will involve creation and management of thousands of distinct data integrations with little overlap and reuse. This is not an exaggeration, and at Adeptia we have encountered numerous clients with tens of thousands of unique B2B data integrations built using the traditional approach, that they are managing with their business ecosystems.
The new approach of customer data onboarding places higher priority on enabling reusability of data integration objects, such as pre-built templates. With just a few pre-built templates, that use common objects such as data formats and protocols, data transformation mappings, data validation rules and events to be used again and again in configuring data connections with different sets of customers and partners, IT is able to equip their business users with great self-service capability. This approach makes the process much faster to create new data exchanges as well as maintain them when changes happen as only few objects need to be modified and all data integrations using those objects get updated automatically.
The new approach for customer data onboarding requires the solution platform to support multiple data integration scenarios and use cases. It has to support automated data exchanges with all the customers and partners in your business data ecosystem. Different customers require exchanged data via different channels and methods - some prefer emails and manual file uploads and downloads while others need data exchanges via standards-based file transfers and yet others use real-time APIs.
Traditionally, customer data onboarding has been implemented by using different developer tools for different tasks, such as MFT servers for file transfers, web portals for file uploads, ETL tools, B2B gateways and Web Services platforms etc. The new approach enables all data exchanges to be set up and managed from one platform, so your customer data onboarding can provide powerful and complete data integration features.
These key differences in the new approach for customer data onboarding combine to create a powerful and superior alternative to slow and labor-intensive traditional methods. Adeptia Connect is the only business application available on the market that is designed from the ground up with these differentiators in mind. It provides a powerful solution that helps companies transform customer data onboarding into a truly self-service approach.