Data exchange

5 data onboarding challenges developers face

Despite advances in automation in all areas of our personal and business life, data onboarding – the task of importing customers’ required data into a new software product – has remained a mind-numbingly manual process for many companies. The lack of automation means data onboarding problems fall squarely into the lap of the organization’s development team. In smaller companies, this translates to one or two individuals focused on importing customer data when they have many other more important tasks on their plate, such as building new product capabilities. But those responsibilities often fall by the wayside as harried developers drop everything to grapple with issues surrounding data importing.

Here are five data onboarding challenges that developers frequently face.

1. Formatting data: What you see is what you get 

One of the biggest issues developers face when it comes to data onboarding is that they have no control over the condition of incoming data files. In particular, formats can be all over the place, making the data import process extremely difficult. 

Many organizations that need to onboard data regularly try to mitigate this problem by sending their customers templates that  standardize the formatting of files. Unfortunately this rarely works because the customer lacks the technical resources to properly use the templates. The end result is that incoming files will require manual intervention – often by a developer.

2. Clean up in column X

A serious resource drain for developers during the data onboarding process is the time spent wrangling with files that contain multiple errors. These messy files are often unorganized and unlabeled and must be cleaned before they are imported into a solution, otherwise they will not be able to meet the needs for which they are intended. 

Issues with files that require manual correction include inconsistencies within the data for things like formatting dates, phone numbers, currency and country codes, misspellings, missing rows or columns, errors in sub value or category mapping. 

3. Reinventing the wheel: Developing a custom solution again

Correcting file errors takes an enormous amount of time and in many cases must be manually handled for every file that comes in. Without some automated way to handle data onboarding, developers will be required to manually enter SQL queries into the database. They would have to open the file, copy out parts of it, write it into a query, and hit submit in another piece of software. 

The problem is compounded since a developer must find or create a parser for each file type that arrives. Also, your team has to spend time scheduling a feature request for each new file format that needs to be imported. This process is like redeveloping a custom solution for every new import request. Once again, this wastes time and drains limited developer resources.  

4. Need it yesterday…or sooner

And it’s not like developers can handle all this additional work at their leisure. There is constant pressure from the business to get data onboarded quickly. The sales team might have been working for months to land a new client and when they finally seal the deal, they want to quickly demonstrate the benefits of their product. This can’t be done without loading customer data into the software application. 

For developers, that means dropping whatever project they’re doing and working with the new client to get their data onboarded quickly. This is normally the first interaction with a new client and performing flawlessly at this early stage is critical to showing the client they made the right choice. That puts the onus on developers to perform rapidly and accurately - ensuring data is migrated effectively.

5. Limited developer resources

When it comes to the data onboarding process, developers often become the most popular people in the room. Importing data into a software application can be a highly technical task, so every data import issue becomes a new problem. In smaller companies, there may be only one or two trained developers on staff, so data importing places an enormous strain on these limited resources. 

While a developer is consumed with solving data import problems, many other value added tasks like adding a new feature set requested by the organization’s customers are put off to the side to be dealt with later. This can lead to developers spending an inordinate amount of time handling short term data onboarding problems rather than focusing on longer term product development that could lead to greater organizational success.

How Flatfile can help developers

Flatfile’s data onboarding platform is an automated data importer that allows developers to get to usable data faster so you can focus on more pressing to-dos

Flatfile's data importer:

  • Implements in hours with just a few lines of code

  • Helps you set a target model for data validation, allowing users to match incoming file data

  • Learns over time how data should be organized, saving time and making the process more efficient

  • Provides validation features giving customers control over how data is formatted

  • Ensures imported data is clean and ready to use

Are you a developer constantly dealing with data import issues? Flatfile can get you out from under the burden of data onboarding so you can focus on more value-add development tasks.

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