On Customer Data Integration (2)

This is post 2 of a 4 part series on the concept and application of Customer Data Integration (hereafter referred to as CDI). The first post dealt with the definition of a number of concepts that make up the field of CDI. This, the second post, deals with applying these concepts and defining an overall CDI approach. Post three will deal with key success factors in implementing CDI. The fourth post will highlight some of the application solutions that provide CDI specific solutions.

Defining a CDI Solution

There are many reasons for wanting or needing an integrated CDI environment, such as the need for a consistent customer view across all channels and specific touch points. One way of doing this could be to support all these channels and customer touch points with a single application and generic and uniform processes. Over the past years it has been proven to be rather costly and difficult to integrate legacy applications into a single platform, whereas this does not always lead to quantifiable benefits. A more feasible solution, especially in today’s Service Oriented Architecture World is to create a single system of record for customer data. This single system of record is then integrated to other applications over an Enterprise Service Bus for Create, Read, Update and Delete functionality (See slide 1 of the integrated Slide Share Presentation).

Climbing the CDI mountain

In order to reach the top of the mountain, or in other words an implemented CDI application, one would have to complete 4 distinct steps (see slide2 of the integrated slide share presentation). Much of these steps re-use elements of a typical CRM, Business Process Redesign or Generic Enterpise Application Implementation approach and may seem rather obvious.

  1. Identify the pain
  2. Develop the vision
  3. Select components
  4. Deliver value

each of these steps is detailed in the following paragraphs.

1. Identify the pain

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. First perform an assessment of whether a problem exists and if so, what the cause of this problem is. This can be either quality of data, such as customers that appear multiple times, with a slightly different spelling of the last name, or the fact that data or updates are not made available to all channels in a timely fashion. The pain-points are most easily identified through performing an customer data quality assessment and identifying all application, touchpoints and processes that use customer data. The outcome should be a simple identification of pain points and the rationale behind why they are pain points.

2. Develop the vision

The keyword in developing the vision is prioritization and value. Do not spend months of process re-engineering and application implementation work and budget on that one system that only makes up 10% of your customer contacts. Use the pareto principle and if simply developing a service bus that integrates two specific customer systems does the trick then do that, instead of trying to convert and integrate these two systems into a single instance. Focus on defining quick wins,for instance improve quality of data through applying a data quality tool such as Informatica IDQ or Human Inference on existing Customer systems, instead of developing new ones. Another example would be discovering that most value is gained by integrating two existing touchpoints, but not by replacing their systems. The outcome of this phase should be a roadmap and a business case.

3. Select components

Redesign your organization, technical application architecture and processes, based on the roadmap created in step 2. Select the tools for your CDI approach, what technology needs to be implemented and who is going to do it (a vendor, third party or someone / a department within the organization?). Also define who’s in charge of implementing the vision. The outcome should be a technology and organizational change focussed set of initiatives that are to be performed / completed within an 12 – 18 month horizon (preferably quicker)

4. Delvier value

Implement the initiatives and measure the result. Ensure your business case is met by identifying if the pain points have been resolved or partly resovled. Can you perform an administrative move of a customer quicker, do less customers complain that they still don’t have that product you promised and less customers complain on the quality of service and speed with which changes / complaints are handled.

The next post is on measuring how this value is delivered, what are do’s, don’ts and key performance indicators.

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