Many organisations have multiple database systems in addition to ETO software. It can often be a challenge to manage data in multiple databases and often leads to users having to enter the same data in multiple systems, which can be frustrating. If your organization uses multiple databases, it may be time to streamline your data management with an integration, helping you save time and reduce duplicate data entry.
Before doing this, you first need to determine if an integration is viable for your organization and your database systems. To do this, you need to be explore the following three questions:
- Is there a cost?– Determine how much time, money, and stress you are willing to invest in an integration. At this point in the process, you might not know the exact type of integration you will implement, but you can identify your organisation’s budget tolerances so you can work out which integration options are possible.
- Is the data useful?– Integrations create symmetry between your database software systems, which enhances the potential of ETO reporting. But not all data is worth entering into ETO software. Determine the value of the data that will be transferred with the integration in relation to your reporting requirements. How do you intend to use the data once it is in your ETO database? If you don’t plan on using the data, particularly in your reports, then it’s probably not worth moving over to ETO.
- Where will we put the data?– Poorly formatted data in an ETO database generally leads to database corruption, poor data quality, and reporting challenges. Don’t force data into your ETO database if it doesn’t fit. If the data doesn’t fit, you must either restructure your ETO database so it does fit or forgo an integration altogether. Outline where you will put the data in your ETO database first, and then define how you will integrate that data into ETO software.
ETO Software Integration Options
There are 3 primary integration options that vary in complexity. This blog will outline each one. It is important that your organisation evaluates each option carefully because the time, cost, and effort to implement them will vary and may not be suitable for your organisation.
1. Custom API integration
The ETO software application programming interface (API) exchanges information between ETO software and an external data source via the ETO secure Web Service. This option involves high upfront costs and a software developer will need to set up or program the integration. Once an integration is built with the API, it runs automatically without input from end-users or administrators (an API integration can also run on a schedule or based on a user prompt). Using the ETO software API is the most complex of the three integration options described in this blog, but it can be completely automated.
2. Standardised import procedure
ETO software can import data using the Batch Upload functionality. Batch Upload imports data into ETO software using CSV or Excel formatted files. This is often the easiest way to integrate an external data source with ETO software because imports are low cost and simple to set up. On the flip side, standardised import procedures require an investment of time. Unlike an ETO API integration which is fully automated, an import is driven by administrator action, where an administrator must start and finish every import process.
3. Manual data entry
Sometimes an integration isn’t the best option. Manual data entry is the default when imports or the API aren’t viable. Manual data entry is a solid choice when transferring a small number of records between an external data source and ETO software (i.e, less than twenty or thirty entries per week). If possible, always try to develop an import integration before manual data entry. But, if you choose manual data entry as an integration option, draft user guides for each data entry process to minimize data entry time for your users.
The Most Common ETO Software Integration: Imports
A standardized import procedure is probably the most common integration option that most organisations use as it saves time on manual data entry and it isn’t as costly as a custom API integration.
If you plan to integrate an external data source with ETO software using a standardized import procedure, you will need three things:
- Import Template– Regardless of where your data comes from, you will need a standard import template to bring that data into your ETO database. An import template is an Excel file that contains properly formatted column headers. Data from the external data source must be copied into this template before importing the data into ETO.
- User Guide– Users will need instructions on how to complete the import procedure. A user guide should identify each step from start to finish. User guides will reduce errors and increase data quality. User guides will also reduce the time to complete each successive import procedure as staff will be fully versed in what they need to do.
- Data Quality Procedures– Unlike an API integration where data is auto-formatted because the data runs through pre-defined scripts, the quality of an import can vary from import to import. Imports require human interaction, which adds the potential for user error. Overcome this limitation by creating data quality reports and reviews that assess data quality after each import procedure. Data quality reviews take extra time, but they guarantee that your data is accurate. It may be best to add these quality review procedures to your user guide as well to ensure they are completed each time.
Choose the right ETO software integration for your organisation
The goal of an ETO software integration is to streamline processes, save time, and reduce duplicate data entry. The “right” integration option will offer your organisation time savings that are greater than the cost to implement and ultimately manage the integration with ETO software. Because this will vary from organisation to organisation, discuss the benefits and costs of an integration internally before selecting and implementing a specific ETO integration option.