Unlocking Your Inner Data

Unlocking Your Inner Data

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When companies build websites, they often focus so narrowly on marketing and promotional content that they fail to enhance the site with internal data. Internal data refers to information inside the company that customers and partners might find useful. Some obvious examples:

  • Store locations
  • Dealer/Rep information
  • Product Data

Getting that data onto the site can appear to be a daunting task and not worth the monumental effort. And who will then maintain the data on the site? That, too, can be daunting, if managers assume that it will be a tedious manual process.

Don’t give up before you start. That data has great value, and loading and maintaining it might not be as difficult as you think.

Take a closer look at the first example, store location data. If a visitor comes to your site at 2 a.m. looking for a store location or product rep and can't find one, but they can find one on your competitor's site, which of you will get that visitor’s business?

OK, so you agree -- you really ought to get that store location data onto the site, but how? It's sitting in an Excel spreadsheet on Bob's computer or, if you're a little more sophisticated, you have that data in a database or CRM system. Now, you have to answer such questions as:

  • How do I get the data out of my internal software systems and onto the site?
  • In what format should I export it?
  • How should I transport the data to the website?  FTP? Web Services?
  • How frequently should I update the data on the site: Real-Time? Nightly? Weekly?
  • What information should I export to show on the site and how should I present it?

Let's address these questions in some real-life examples.

First up, Milwaukee Public Schools. MPS wanted two important pieces of data up on its site: School Data and Job Postings. In both cases, MPS exported the data, in XML format, from its internal systems and placed the files onto an internal web server.  We built the MPS site on the Titan Content Management System. Each night, Titan executed a job that pulled the XML data over and automatically loaded that data into a Titan Data Node (an internal data-content repository).  That data node drives the content display. The solution is simple, seamless, and requires little or no human oversite. You can view the results here.

MPS Data Node Example

Second, let’s consider product data stored in an Excel spreadsheet.  Spreadsheets aren't particularly robust solutions for managing product data. But they are very popular because they can be easy for users to maintain, especially in smaller businesses without big ERP systems. Dispense-Rite used Excel for all of these reasons. We worked with them to create a spreadsheet layout that contained all of the product information that they needed to show on the website in a column format that the Titan CMS could understand and import.  Dispense-Rite employees update their product data by simply uploading their spreadsheets to Titan. Titan takes care of the rest.

Dispense Rite Product Data Management

Some critical data must update more frequently than once every 24 hours.  Mutual fund and stock price data and other time-sensitive information might need to update on the website instantly as it becomes available. We've dealt with several such cases with a variety of techniques, including building custom Web Services to accept the data and update Titan Data Node.

Marketing and promotional content matter on your website. But without the hard data users need, your calls to action lead to dead ends. Identify your company’s crucial data and let Northwoods help you get it onto your site and serving your customers.

Originally Published: Wed, June 08, 2016
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