Organizations want to understand their customers. At least those with the ambition to stick around for a while longer. And now, it’s actually possible, even for a large, complex organizations with multiple lines of business, products, and services.
There’s nothing new in this desire, and nothing new in a professional services company extending that promise, backed by a technological innovation. The first generation of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) pioneered by the likes of Siebel in the 1990’s promised a centralized view of customers and all their interactions with the company. The interface may have looked appealing, but companies lacked the data infrastructure to properly organize their information and bring in new data consistently and accurately. A properly implemented CRM also required organizations to re-structure themselves, which many weren’t able or willing to do.
Most established organizations were not built around customers. Instead, they were conceived around product lines (insurance, investments, mortgages, categories of goods, service offerings) and/or functions (risk, marketing, finance, sales, etc.). The larger the organization, the more likely a product line or function would be an organization unto itself, which would naturally produce its own data and its own particular understanding of that data. The result: data silos, and different interpretations of what certain data meant across the enterprise.
Enter MDM (Master Data Management) and CDI (Customer Data Integration) in the 2000’s, which proposed bringing all of the organization’s data into a centralized data hub and propagating it to various applications, tailored to the needs of particular groups of end users.
This generation of CDI/MDM was equally unable to reap the harvest of a truly single version of the truth. The blame falls equally on internal organizational issues, and on the meagre capabilities of the technology that was sold to support these projects. For one, despite the supposedly enterprise nature of the project, some organizations, for political or budgetary reasons, did not include all parts of the enterprise. Or, they would initiate multiple “enterprise” solutions in different parts of the enterprise.
The technology vendors in this space are also partly to blame. The platforms they offered did not fulfill all the requirements for a successful MDM solution: scalability, performance, flexibility, and usability. If just one of these elements is missing, forget it. If the technology won’t grow with you, or your users can’t get what they want fast enough, it simply isn’t a viable solution. The technology failed because megavendors were kludging together products developed by other vendors, integrating them into an ersatz solution through acquisition and often brilliant salesmanship. Fundamentally, MDM vendors were expecting customers to apply an enterprise-wide solution by engaging all parts of the enterprise through analysis and process revision and data modeling and data analysis, without applying the same rigour to the technology that was to support that effort. It didn’t help that the majority of organizations lacked the courage to look beyond the megavendors for a solution.
Today, things have changed. As many organizations have discovered, there are now MDM technologies, such as those developed by Ataccama, that are truly capable of the scalability, flexibility, performance, and usability successful enterprise customer centricity requires and that also work seamlessly and natively in the Big Data and Hadoop ecosystem.
What’s more, companies are realizing that integrated customer knowledge has become mission critical. Before, it would certainly have made work easier and increased margins; the lack of it was not going sink a company. Competition in all areas of business is more and more intense, and the pace of change is now breakneck. Financial service and telecommunications companies, for instance, are assailed by new entrants to the market, new models of delivery that threaten the very core of their business. Margins are under threat, price competitiveness and customer service are becoming paramount. Add to that the increasingly labyrinthine requirements demanded by regulators, and there is simply no way to profitably proceed without having clear profiles of customers, along with their preferences and interactions. In fact, a broad understanding of customer behaviour and preferences based on data they already have may just be the vital competitive advantage large, established financial services organizations have over upstart Fintech companies.
All this is before we even begin to consider the impact of social media. Substandard customer service gets amplified on social media by disgruntled influencers, swiftly damaging reputations and requiring significant investment in damage control and monitoring. Also, social media proffers tantalizing data sets capable of enriching data profiles and deepening an organization’s understanding, if only they had the well-organized and meaningful profiles of internal interactions, and the means to import and parse unstructured data. (The time for this has also come, but first things first!)
So, we have the technology, and we have the organizational will. What’s next? Understanding the problem and the opportunity as it applies to each individual market and organization. That’s where Adastra comes in. We help organizations explore the gap between where they are and where they need to be, and we build a plan on how to get there. We know what it takes, and with two decades of business knowledge and technology expertise, we build you a strategic business-oriented MDM solution, find the right technology fit, establish the right approach to integration, and optimize how your organization works so that you can take advantage of accurate, insightful, quickly delivered information.
In this era of Big Data, effective integration of MDM and Big Data solutions will distinguish the leaders from the laggards. Adastra is the partner that will get you on the right side of the equation.
Contact our Data Management Practice Lead, Krasen Paskalev for more details on how to make customer centricity part of your organization's competitive advantage.