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Scribe Software White Paper

10 BEST PRACTICES FOR


INTEGRATING YOUR CUSTOMER DATA!
WRITTEN BY BETSY BILHORN VICE PRESIDENT, PRODUCT MANAGEMENT
PIERRE HULSEBUS SENIOR SALES ENGINEER

The more information


you have and the
more effectively you
use it, the greater
degree of success you
can achieve.

MAY 2014

CUSTOMER DATA INTEGRATION WHERE DO I BEGIN?


Information fuels success. The more information you have and the
more effectively you use it, the greater degree of success you can
achieve. The best of all possible worlds is achieved when all of the
systems you use to manage information are tightly integrated so
data from each can easily be combined to grow a deeper, more
intimate understanding of each customer.
Depending on the size of your organization and the number of
contacts you interact with, integrating these systems to accurately
share customer data can be a formidable task.
Perhaps youve already undertaken this project, or perhaps youre
in the process of persuading your executive management to
approve or fund a project to do so and need help building your
business case.
In either of these cases, this white paper focuses on bringing you
the insight, the experience, and the information you require to
leverage customer information most successfully.

Begin by establishing
a common lexicon
between all members
of your team and all
of your stakeholders
so there is no
misunderstanding or
misconstrued intent or
action along the way.
Scribe Software Corporation 1750 Elm Street, Suite 200

In most enterprises today, information about customers and the


business we conduct with them is managed by a variety of systems
including:
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications to track
transactions, inventory, accounts receivable and payable and
more. The ERP tends to see each customer as a singular entity, a
company, relating all relevant data to that company.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems that are
more complex than the ERP in that they see each customer
company as containing many departments and individuals, and
tracks sales, marketing and service activities related to those
individuals.
Marketing Automation (MA) solutions automate and tracks
performance of many of the marketing activities tracked by CRM.
Social Media, newest of all, creates new pathways between you
and your prospects and customers.
Manchester, NH 03104 USA

P: 1.603.622.5109

F: 1.603.622.3862 www.scribesoft.com

REPRODUCTION WITHOUT PRIOR WRITTEN PERMISSION IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED

Our 17 years of integration experience with thousands of different


customers and their integration projects has produced the
following set of 10 best practices to employ when approaching a
customer data integration project of any meaningful magnitude.

So, where do you begin? Here are your first ten steps.

YOU SAY INTEGRATION, I SAY INTEGRATION

Shared understanding of what you


integration assures better integration!

Its never safe to assume that everyone is on the same


page. Assure it instead!

Whether you mean combining, sharing, or referring to


information, integration must result in people and the
tools they use working better together to achieve
common goals!

mean

by

Any project of the magnitude involved in bringing together


multiple databases to aggregate related data will be highly
complex. Begin by establishing a common lexicon between all
members of your team and all of your stakeholders so there is no
misunderstanding or misconstrued intent or action along the way.
The word integration itself is often defined differently by
different people. Some think of integration as a migration of one
thing into another. Others use the word integration when
describing the connection that allows access to certain resources.
For some, integration is the process of providing functions from
one system to another. An example of this is having a screenpop triggered by an incoming call on a phone system. The data
from the company ERP is integrated into the phone switch.
Still others think of business process integration, such as combining
the activities of multiple departments, or multiple companies
during a merger.
In the context of a customer data integration project, it is
important that every stakeholder and every person involved share
a common understanding of the end goal of the integration
activity. It may be the enabling of a sales team to develop a
deeper understanding of their customers to increase their closing
ratio. It may simply be the automation of absorbing new leads
from new sources into a prospecting list. Whatever the desired
outcome, it is crucial to the success of the project that everyone
share the same understanding of what that outcome is.

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HAVE A PLAN WITH A MEASURABLE OUTCOME

With so many moving parts, its crucial to have a welldeveloped plan

Information aggregation is easier to achieve when you


do it in stages, not all at once

Establishing, tracking, and achieving very specific metrics


is your best strategy for assuring continued management
support for your project

The saying A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single


step has been attributed to Lao-Tzu, the founder of Tao Te
Ching.
While there is great wisdom in this observation it is also true that,
for anyone starting the journey toward integrating customer data,
that first step is preceded by extensive planning. That planning
begins with establishing a clear set of metrics by which to gauge
the success of the integration, the fulfillment of the goals of the
project.
Accepting that the integration task itself is a large one, it is also
important to break it down into smaller phases to bring a higher
likelihood of success. Rather than attempting to boil the ocean
all at once, it is recommended to seek milestones to measure
progress, and to approach each of these more achievable steps in
sequence building to the larger goal.
Beyond setting achievable and measurable objectives it is also
important to be very specific. If the goal is to increase the number
of new leads entered per day into a system through automation,
by what percentage will we increase that number? If the goal is to
reduce the equivalent of Full Time Employees (FTEs) assigned to a
task, how many FTEs do we intend to reduce? What actions will
cause this reduction to occur? In this way we can precisely define
what success will look like, what the intended outcome of the
integration will be.
If the goal is to realize a return on investment (ROI), how quickly
will that investment be recovered through savings and/or
increased revenue, and then by what percentage will it continue
returning per year.

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THE REAL BUDGET

Know your all-in budget, anticipating as many hidden


costs and surprises as possible

Dont limit cost to funds. Include time, skills, labor and


other resources in your budget

Consider the comparative cost of outsourcing certain


functions

There is a difference in definition between the price of


something, and its cost. For a retailer, that difference may be
the cost they pay to obtain merchandise and the price they sell it
to a customer. Subtracting the cost from the price yields the allimportant profit.
For the project or operational manager, however, these two terms
are defined differently. The price signifies the initial investment
required to commence the activity, such as the purchase of capital
equipment. The cost refers to the ongoing total cost of
ownership (TCO), the ongoing cost of operating and owning the
resources required to achieve the desired outcome.
Costs take the form not only of funds, but also of other
consumables such as time, skills, labor, research, learning curve,
licenses, real property, equipment, energy, and other resources.
All of these must be budgeted as part of a quality planning process.
The budget process requires a careful examination of past activity
to review how things were done in the past and at what cost. Then
you can analyze why each either succeeded or failed.
Since the budgeting process includes ongoing cost, we must also
consider the level of commitment required to sustain the
investment and see it through to completion. How will various
business processes be impacted by the project? If resources need
to be re-assigned from daily operations, how will those be
backfilled?
What functions may be outsourced? If an installation or
modification is only going to be performed once, does it make
sense to commit resources to learning how to do them, or does it
make more sense to engage an external resource with experience
performing these one-time tasks elsewhere?
Some refer to this as the all-in budget. Whatever you call it,
what really must be allocated to assure the success of the project
is a question that must be answered before taking that allimportant first step?
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4
Beyond the
fundamental
data structures
of your ERP,
CRM, and MA
systems its key
to understand
what the custom
workflows are
and how their
dependencies and
connections are
structured.

KNOW THY SYSTEMS

The deeper your understanding of each of the systems


involved in your integration project, the better

Remember that reality often varies


documentation. Anticipate inconsistencies

Many integration tasks are one-time events. It may be


more cost-effective to bring in an experienced installer
for these

from

the

By definition, the high-level goal of any integration project is to


make things work well together. To even begin such an
undertaking requires a thorough understanding how each of the
things works individually.
Beyond the fundamental data structures of your ERP, CRM, and
MA systems its key to understand what the custom workflows are
and how their dependencies and connections are structured.
What processes are triggered by each action, and which data
entities are involved. An understanding of the metadata layers,
how the workflows impact each other, and an understanding of
what the cascading effects of integrations may be will also be
important.
APIs
Armed with a thorough understanding of each involved system,
youll need to develop thorough familiarity with the Application
Programming Interfaces (API) provided by each. How do they
permit you to map fields in one system to their corresponding
counterpart in the others? How do they pass identifying
information, authentication credentials, and specific data elements
to each other?
Remember that the promise of a given API doesnt always match
the reality. The fact is that many APIs were originally purposewritten for a specific use case and may have been modified or
adapted to some extent for general use. Since your goals may not
align with the original intent of the API, the quality of those
adaptations may not always provide the facility required for your
integration.
Some more mature products have APIs that have aged and not
been updated or replaced. You may now want to use them in
ways that werent originally conceptualized or envisioned. This
legacy effect may negatively impact the efficiency with which you
can use these APIs to accomplish your intended integration.

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By definition,
the high-level
goal of any
integration
project is to
make things
work well
together.

Its also critical to develop a clear understanding of vendor


limitations that may be imposed by trademark, licensing, or other
rules for the data. There may be storage fees required. Using the
API to access a given system may consume a user license that must
be purchased. It is far better to uncover these parameters prior to
creating an integration that depends upon resources you may not
have rights to.
Perhaps the most valuable resource you could have would be the
experience of people who are familiar with the realities of the APIs
involved. What are the idiosyncrasies of the code? How does the
real performance of the API vary from the documentation? How
will performance differ from a testing environment to an actual
production environment? If they are available, people who have
utilized these systems and these APIs can be invaluable.
One last note on experience: There are many upgrades,
migrations, and installation activities that are one-time events.
That is, once you have performed them once you will likely not be
called upon to do so ever again. Determine the relative value of
having an external provider perform these rather than investing
the extreme time and training funds that can be consumed when
having your own people learn how to perform these one-time
events. You may often find it far more cost-effective to have them
done for you.

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5
The most
important system
you will integrate
will be the
community of
people who will
actually use the
integrated systems
and data.
As important as
it is to know your
technology systems
and data
structures, it is
even more critical
to know your user
community.

MAP TWICE, INTEGRATE ONCE

You cant get where youre going unless youve carefully


mapped your way there

Involving stakeholders every step of the way always


improves mapping processes

Your ability to choose the best tools for your integration


project absolutely depends upon careful and accurate
mapping of information, processes, and peoples roles

The most important system you will integrate will be the


community of people who will actually use the integrated systems
and data. As important as it is to know your technology systems
and data structures, it is even more critical to know your user
community.
Your planning must begin and end with them. Begin by
understanding what you will be integrating and how those
integrated systems will be used. Put the entire process down on
paper. Map each process specifically and in full detail. To do this
will require that you sit down with all of the stakeholders and users
involved and walk through each process. Get screenshots from
each involved system to aid your understanding, and really fill that
use case out before you develop your plan of action.
When we refer to mapping, were not only addressing the mapping
of like fields between databases, were also focusing on mapping
out business processes step-by-step. You may map these
processes using Visio, for example, and then detail the related data
field mappings in an Excel spreadsheet, but everyone involved
must agree on how things are actually done in real life to assure
that the systems adapt and support those activities effectively.
This process mapping must be accomplished before any tools are
purchased or approaches are considered as these decisions will
often be deeply informed by the outcome of this all-important set
of conversations with the users and stakeholders. Some tools will
be more appropriate in situations where data must be moved from
one system to another. Other tools are more event-driven,
enabling related processes to be triggered by specific actions.
Our point here is your integration designs need to be helpful for
picking approach and platforms. You must achieve agreement
about what youre actually going to do.
Note: This step all too often gets skipped. Theres a degree of
tension between traditional application design and more modern
waterfall processing. The traditional way was to develop, design

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and deploy. In the more modern, more agile approach, we


discover changes as we go along. Get started and then hold
workshops to discover more information. What you see today is a
hybrid between planning and learning as you go.

GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT

Bad data discourages users from adopting new systems,


slowing your project to a stop

Good data is good in the context of the system


currently using it

Cleaning data properly almost always requires multiple


passes, multiple processes, and painstaking vigilance

It is obvious that bad data will always have a negative impact upon
your results. What is not often considered is the impact bad data
can have on user adoption.
When you evaluate system initiatives that have failed in the past in
an attempt to determine where the project went off track, the
likelihood is that the root cause was the failure of users to adopt
the new system. This may be caused by a failure or lack of training,
but more often than not it is caused by the users perception that
there is no value for them in the new system. This perception is
often created by a lack of data quality.
When data is clearly erroneous, the typical user will not assign
blame to the data. Rather, they will see the system as failing.
More than one occasion of bad data can easily cause users to
simply stop using the system and find ways around it, usually using
what they had previously used to accomplish the same functions.
Data Context
Each of the systems involved has a different focus, a different
context that the data exists in, and may see specific data entities
differently.
For example, an account in an ERP is usually a company that
does business with you. Of course, if your finance department is
looking at it, an account is really a categorization for a given
income or expense flow that exists on a Chart of Accounts in the
general ledger. By contrast, your CRM sees an account as a
container for many contacts which may have a wide variety of
activities and events related to them.
The ERP is focused on invoices and inventory. The CRMs focus is
far deeper, a far more intimate understanding of each customer
and each contact within each customer company. The CRM may
be considered to have more focus on the hierarchy within the
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Careful review
during the
integration
process can
often uncover
flawed or less
efficient
processes that
can readily be
improved
during the
integration
process.

customer organization; specific people and specific actions. These


variations in context and focus from one system to the next must
be considered when integrating data flows between them.
Also be sure to review any business processes which may impact
the data flows. Careful review during the integration process can
often uncover flawed or less efficient processes that can readily be
improved during the integration process. You may also preclude
finger-pointing later as you prevent one department from accusing
the other of having less-than-accurate data.
Cleaning the Data
The ability of various systems to fully clean up data in any given
database improves every year, but there are still going to be
situations in which humans must review and cleanse the data,
preferably prior to completing any kind of integration of those
databases with others.
Casing the data is one good example. Many older users became
accustomed years ago to clicking the shift-lock before entering
data, so everything was entered in ALL CAPS. Of course, nothing
looks more artificial than incorporating such data into a mailing.
Nothing screams bulk-mail louder. One goal of modern
marketing is to personalize the experience for each customer, and
quality data is required to accomplish that.
Anticipate stopping your integration processes occasionally to
assure that the data is clean and accurate. Include a staging
process wherever possible so that data is staged somewhere so it
is convenient to review and revise before completing each
integration process. It may be more efficient to order the data by
geography, or alphabetically by company or contact name, or
some other sequence that facilitates rapid review. In this
environment your data goes from source to staging where it is
reviewed and cleaned, and then on to the new target application.

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SELECTING AN APPROACH

Highest efficiencies are achieved when the process you


create today can still serve you the next time and the
next time

Break down the project into manageable tasks and


prioritize each task prior to execution

Be careful to only make changes that will survive the


next vendor upgrade. Stick to the APIs wherever and
whenever possible

Scalability is always a key issue in any IT planning. Allowing for


future growth avoids the need to discard investments and replace
them with greater capacity solutions. This presupposes that one
solution can and will do it all if it has sufficient capacity or potential
capacity.
This is not the case when it comes to something as intricate as
customer data integration. In most cases, integration will require a
variety of tools and technologies to be available for use in various
different ways at different times. To paraphrase the popular
saying, customer data integration is not a nail, so a hammer alone
will not suffice. One size tool simply does not fit all.
Decisions regarding what approach to take and what tools to use
to accomplish customer data integration should not be made
based primarily on available technology, but rather on the needs of
the business at any given point in time. Some integration tools
excel at the orchestration of transitions, and others are designed
to be point-to-point migration tools.
Prioritize
Begin by breaking down the larger integration into smaller, more
achievable pieces.
Attempting to perform a complete
integration of everything all at once increases the possibility of
failure and frustration while approaching it in phases makes each
phase easier to accomplish allowing for steady progress with
meaningful gains at each step.
The first phase should be a comprehensive planning exercise. This
will help to set and manage the expectations of all stakeholders
while also making it easier to present and obtain approval for your
business case.
When selecting tools to help accomplish each phase, stay focused
on the importance of maintaining agility for the long run. Some of
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Remember that
users quickly
become impatient
with anything they
perceive as not
providing
reliability and
value.

your platforms may include built-in integration tools beyond APIs.


Remember that these were not necessarily designed with your
other platforms in mind. They may or may not be fully compatible.
They may also lock you into a singular approach selected by the
platform vendor which ultimately may limit your agility.
The same is true of many free integration tools that may become
obsolete or incompatible at the next release of any of your
platforms, or of the tool itself. Select tools that will continue to
serve you independent of the actions of any of the developers of
any of the technologies involved in your environment. This was
the driving force behind the development of APIs which has helped
many to preserve and enhance their agility over time.
Remember that users quickly become impatient with anything they
perceive as not providing reliability and value. In todays cloudbased IT market users can easily obtain external solutions by
subscribing on a website using their credit card. It is easier than
ever for them to become rogue users who operate outside of IT
direction. This can cause confusion and later increase your ITs
support requirements.
Make certain that your integration
planning benefits from their observations and input. Users are the
most important component to integrate tightly into your plans and
your approach.

DESIGN VS. PERFORMANCE

Resist achieving performance increases by going


directly to the data. The APIs preserve your connection
to the solution developer and their upgrades

Exercise caution when deciding to replicate data instead


of integrating it

When you must replicate, be sure to include an


intermediary quality assurance step so you dont transfer
bad data

Design each phase in the context of a viable metric that is based on


business value. How many records must be transitioned in a
specified period of time? How accurate must the data be as a
percentage of the total volume of data? This directly impacts how
much you must budget for each phase, what the anticipated
duration of each process must be, and what type of tools and
technologies will be required to accomplish each.
The API Economy
We mention in the previous section how developers may modify
their applications over time. This includes changes to the
fundamental structure of databases, to the overall schema of the
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data employed in each platform. Having to then modify your own


customizations and modifications created during integration of
systems can be a very expensive proposition in terms of lost
productivity, lost time, and repeated expenditures.
This is why we speak of the API economy. While the database
might change, and the schema might be modified the API is a
programmable way for a developer to connect directly into the
application. They can then pass a user name and password from
one application to another and programmatically trigger a desired
activity. The API exposes the application in a secure way allowing
you to interface programmatically with their system. Instead of
direct access to the database you are getting access to an
application layer.
While it is seems it would be faster to go directly to the data,
performance can become an issue as each access requires
authentication and careful checking to maintain database integrity.
Integration vs. Replication
Remember also that there is a substantial difference between
integration and simple replication. In many cases you may simply
want to access and display specific fields of information to
facilitate user action instead of replicating that data across to
another system. The replication could include millions of records
which would introduce unacceptable latency.

When replication is definitely required, consider using a three step


approach that takes the data from the original source, replicates it
to a staging area where it can be quality assured through various
verification processes before it is finally passed along to the target
environment.

SETTING EXPECTATIONS

Manage your users response to your system first and


foremost. Its valueless unless they use it

Find or create champions within the user base to help


promote your cause

Commitment to specific results is critical, but remember


that preserving some agility always helps

One of the most important things technology support personnel


are taught is to fix the customer first. That is, be sure to carefully
set and manage the users expectations. Often users will not
understand what will happen when, and how it will happen. In
many cases, not knowing what is possible, they will want and
expect the impossible. This must be managed from the beginning
and throughout the integration process.
The best way to assure effective user expectation management is
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to make users a constant part of the process, from consulting them


during initial integration planning, to building in frequent User
Acceptance Testing (UAT) rounds in your process. Not only will
this assure that your approach is addressing their needs, it will also
make them your ambassadors to their own teams as they go back
and report on their progress with the integration of the systems.
Much as technology providers issue a Statement of Work to inform
their clients as to what will happen and what will be accomplished
during any given project, it always helps to give your user
community tangible evidence and clear communication of what
can and will be done during the integration of systems and what
functionality they can expect as a result.

10

Keeping agility in mind, be sure to constantly remind users that


your statement of work can and will change over time as a result
of their input and other factors. This assures them that they have
input into the process, and sets their expectation that nothing is
set in stone.

CUSTOMER INVOLVEMENT

The real measures of success are the results users get


from using your integrated solution

The best way to prevent users fears is to keep them


involved hands-on as much as possible

Your project is only successful when your users are


successful

Customer data integration is not an abstract exercise. It does not


end when the applications are sharing process and data. In fact, it
does not end. People use the integrated platforms on an ongoing
basis. Properly executed, your integration activities will enhance
the ways in which users work, increasing their productivity and
therefore their job satisfaction. While your intended metrics may
focus on number of records transferred, leads input, or hours
saved, the real metric will be the adoption and acceptance by the
users over time.
Any change is met with some fear, some trepidation. Part of your
goal must be to mitigate these concerns by offering users many
opportunities to get hands-on with your integration project as
often as possible.
Eliminate surprises.
When users are
disappointed by the results of your integration that may delay
adoption resulting in broken workflows and the inability to actually
achieve your goals.
Remember that data only gains value when it is in motion, and it
only goes into motion when users are actually using the data to
accomplish business objectives. Involve the users early in your
planning and keep them involved throughout the project. This is
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the best way to eliminate surprises and design for enthusiastic


acceptance, adoption, and use.

GETTING STARTED - LEARNING MORE


Integration of CRM, Marketing Automation, ERP, and social
applications is best approached gradually and organically. Start by
identifying the highest value understandings you want to obtain,
and also by identifying the understandings you can gain most
quickly. In this way youll enjoy some early success at integrating
relevant data while also establishing pertinent goals for the
process. Trying to architect and build an overarching integration
strategy will most likely result in more delay, more frustration, and
fewer immediate results.

The more you


learn about
each contact the
more finely you
can tune your
targeting to
reach each one
with just the
right message
through just the
right channels.

Dont expect the knowledge to come solely from within your


organization. Consult with experts in the field of data integration.
They can guide you to the right tools to use to define business
rules and snap the data between systems. Upon identifying a new
anonymous visitor the right tools can locate an identifiable piece of
info that takes the data back to a prospect master record in CRM
and captures that change.
The more you learn about each contact the more finely you can
tune your targeting to reach each one with just the right message
through just the right channels. By taking a stepwise approach and
committing to it long term, youll immediately begin to enjoy more
value from the data youre already collecting, allowing you to
engage prospects and customers on a far more personal
interactive level.

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About Scribe Software Corporation


Scribe is an established global provider of solutions that easily bring customer data
anywhere it is needed regardless of IT infrastructure. Scribes award-winning
products help 12,000 customers and 1,200 partners use customer data cloud-based,
on-premise or a mix to increase revenue, provide superior service, and create
business value faster. Its easy-to-use, enterprise-ready solutions are backed by
extensive support options and training, and service customers across a wide array of
industries including financial services, life sciences, manufacturing, and media and
entertainment companies. For more information about Scribe please visit
www.scribesoft.com.

About the authors


As Vice President, Product Management Betsy Bilhorn is
responsible for leading Scribes new product initiatives and
guiding the companys corporate and product marketing
efforts, including the execution of Scribes go-to-market
strategies.
Prior to joining Scribe, Bilhorn held several leadership positions
at SaaS pioneer WebTrends, including participation in the
evolution of WebTrends OnDemand. She has also held
leadership positions at system integrator, Lease Dimensions,
where she managed large deployments of global CRM, ERP, and
financial systems, including acquisition and integration. Her
clients have included American Honda, Baxter Healthcare, Cisco
Systems, Ford Motor Credit, HP, Transamerica, and
Volkswagen.
Senior Sales Engineer Pierre Hulsebus has over 24 years of
experience in information technology, sales, and marketing, his
duties take him all over the world meeting with organizations
to help them understand how to integrate complex customer
data. After 10 years in the Hardware and telecommunications
side of the business, he started CRM consulting in 1999 and has
since been involved in hundreds of CRM projects. He has
worked with Microsoft Dynamics CRM since its release in 2003,
and built a successful Microsoft CRM Gold Certified consulting
practice. Pierre is a nationally-recognized expert in Microsoft
Dynamics CRM, and complex data migration and integration
projects.

Scribe Software Corporation


1750 Elm Street
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10 BEST PRACTICES FOR INTEGRATING YOUR CUSTOMER DATA
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