Work looks a lot different these days.

Your team members are more likely to check email from the train than from cubicles. You're just as likely to take a meeting in your pajamas in the kitchen as you are wearing a suit in a conference room--maybe even more likely.

With such a far-flung and fast-moving workforce, how do you keep everyone connected and marching in the same direction? The most common solution is apps. A recent survey conducted by Sage Software among SMB customers in North America found that today the average business uses up to 12 applications to automate functions like payroll, CRM, invoicing/payments, timesheets, and expense reimbursement. In the coming years, that number is expected to increase to almost 16 apps.

This all sounds very modern and high tech but there's a dangerous flip-side to this app onslaught. These disparate systems create isolated silos of data, controlled by isolated teams of people.  These siloes--"walls" keeping this information contained--make it difficult for us to gain real-time access to the updated data we need to make immediate decisions in a fast-paced business world. Relying on dated reports could mean we don't have visibility to the most recent billable client expenses, and so we miss out on charging for them. Or we waste valuable time manually importing data from one system to another, automation could make data access instant.

The hidden costs of all these siloed systems are often quite high, both in terms of labor costs and response times. According to a recent three-year study also conducted by Sage Software, an average SMB has about four employees doing accounting work that amounts to about $200,000 per year in labor or benefits. But only 13.6 percent of that work is considered high value financial planning. The majority (86.4 percent) is low value work, and a big chunk of that (almost 44 percent) is data entry and manipulation. The rest is split pretty evenly among tasks like company librarian, account firefighter, communications help desk, and miscellaneous meetings, projects and errands. That's an average of $173,000 a year spent just making sure data is accurate and available.

Unfortunately, it is frequently neither accurate...nor available! This gap drives up the hidden costs even more. Data isolated in silos is often entered and manipulated manually (see the 44 percent above), and human beings tend to make mistakes when typing in lots of numbers. The more typing, the greater the chances of human error. Siloed data is stored locally, so it's more easily lost or corrupted. And it's not always updated in real time. All of those factors threaten the accuracy of your data.

Plus, isolated silos of data can quickly become large and hard to manage. Isolated systems don't scale well with your business, and they are difficult to integrate with other isolated systems. As a result, sharing data across the business is a challenge. Because answering business performance questions requires manual intervention, the process can be painfully slow. In the same three-year studies those same four employees are seen spending an hour or more just to pull up project budget variances or sales rep performance metrics.

If you're not careful, all of that hidden overhead - both time and money - can eat into your profits. That's why forward-thinking SMBs are looking for ways to automate the passage of financial data through their disparate apps, connecting their siloed systems.

By integrating your business onto a single platform, you can reduce the human error associated with manual input and free accounting staff to focus on high value work. By automatically generating and analyzing reports, you can identify and fix potential errors before they become big, costly mistakes. And with total integration of all your apps, you'll have the data transparency you need to make quicker, smarter decisions.

Built on the Salesforce App Cloud, Sage Live is designed to end the frustration of siloed systems. Because it's not only an accounting solution but also a hub for all your financial data, it doesn't have to replace your point applications. Rather, it connects them, aggregating your data onto a single platform that lets you instantly access accurate business information.