Portals eNewsletters Web Seminars dataWarehouse.com DM Review Magazine
DM Review | Covering Business Intelligence, Integration & Analytics
   Covering Business Intelligence, Integration & Analytics Advanced Search
advertisement

RESOURCE PORTALS
View all Portals

WEB SEMINARS
Scheduled Events

RESEARCH VAULT
White Paper Library
Research Papers

CAREERZONE
View Job Listings
Post a job

Advertisement

INFORMATION CENTER
DM Review Home
Newsletters
Current Magazine Issue
Magazine Archives
Online Columnists
Ask the Experts
Industry News
Search DM Review

GENERAL RESOURCES
Bookstore
Buyer's Guide
Glossary
Industry Events Calendar
Monthly Product Guides
Software Demo Lab
Vendor Listings

DM REVIEW
About Us
Press Releases
Awards
Advertising/Media Kit
Reprints
Magazine Subscriptions
Editorial Calendar
Contact Us
Customer Service

Marketing Systems:
Real-Time Customer Views

  Column published in DM Review Magazine
February 2004 Issue
 
  By David M. Raab

In the world of marketing systems, no clich is more popular than "360- degree view of the customer." This refers to assembling a complete set of data from all systems that record customer interactions. The underlying assumption is that this comprehensive picture will allow highly tailored sales and service treatments that ultimately return higher profits.

Of course, reality is a bit more complicated. Not all data is equally valuable nor is it equally accessible. Therefore, determining exactly which data to gather requires balancing business, technical and political factors. The result is something less than a complete view of the customer, although hopefully still broad enough to be useful.

Traditionally, this merged data has been placed in a central repository such as a data warehouse, where it is used for analysis and reporting. Feedback to operational systems is mostly through batch transfers such as lists of customers with segment codes. When fresher data is needed (in particular to react in real time or near real time to customer activities), a layer such as an operational data store is added to consolidate new transactions as they occur and, in the most advanced systems, perform analytics and select appropriate reactions.

Yet these real- time layers are still basically appendages of the underlying data warehouse. Given the difficulty of merging data from different sources, it makes sense for the real- time system to leverage the consolidation functions already built for the warehouse, rather than recreating them separately.

However, not every firm has a data warehouse, and not every warehouse can be effectively adapted to support real-time interactions. At the same time, providing operational systems with a shared (if not necessarily complete) customer view often yields tangible benefits. As a result, many firms are looking for a solution that produces this shared view without the foundation of a traditional data warehouse.

Companies that focus specifically on providing a real-time view of current, consolidated customer data include DWL, Journee, Nimaya and Siperian. Because sharing customer data is technically similar to sharing other types of data, these firms also compete with less specialized data integration and synchronization vendors such as GoldenGate, MetaMatrix, Ascential and DataMirror.

The general approach of the customer data sharing systems is to present a single resource that operational systems can access when looking for customer data. This resource may be a physical data store (DWL and Siperian) or it may be a data model that is mapped directly to the actual source systems (Nimaya and Journee).

The obvious advantage of building a physical record is that it provides quick, consistent access times: the data is already assembled in one place, so there are no problems with slow or inconsistent response times from the original sources. This approach also makes it easier to deploy sophisticated matching and reconciliation schemes because these processes take place while data is being loaded in the background rather than when an operational system is impatiently waiting for a response. Updating the customer record whenever source data changes also lets these systems generate alerts or kick-off business processes in response to specified events. This allows proactive customer treatment rules to be built directly into the data sharing system rather than requiring a separate process that scans for significant changes.

The mapping approach, which lets operational systems read customer data directly from source systems, has its own advantages. Reading the source systems clearly ensures that the most current data is presented. This is particularly important when managing real-time interactions, where knowledge of the customer's latest activity is essential. The on-demand approach may also reduce the total amount of processing because source data is extracted only when needed. Thus, information that changes frequently but is rarely used -- such as a bank account balance -- is posted much less often. Both Journee and Nimaya include options to store customer data internally when on- demand access is inappropriate.

Determination of the architecture that makes the most sense will naturally depend on the circumstances. The fundamental advantage of these products -- making it easier for multiple systems to access unified customer data -- is the same. Compared with general- purpose data integration tools, the specialized products provide some features aimed at the particular problems of managing customer data, such as selecting among conflicting values for the same element and maintaining hierarchies of relationships among individuals, households and businesses. Perhaps surprisingly, none of these systems appear to have their own fuzzy matching engine to identify related customer records from different systems.

The long-term prospects of specialized customer data sharing systems are unclear. Buyers may find their features worthwhile or may choose to apply general-purpose data integration products; or, they may even make one operational system the primary customer data repository. However, for companies with immediate specific requirements, these products provide an option that's worth a look.

...............................................................................

For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Database Marketing and Real-Time Enterprise.

David M. Raab is President of Client X Client, a consulting and software firm specializing in customer value management.  He may be reached at info@raabassociates.com.

Solutions Marketplace
Provided by IndustryBrains

TechExcel CRM
TechExcel CRM sets the standard for high-end CRM: powerful, configurable, affordable and easy to use.

TechExcel HelpDesk Software Suite
With both Windows and Web user interfaces, TechExcel HelpDesk provides powerful solutions for help desk, Web forms, asset management, and customer/employee Web portal functions.

Find CRM Consultants
Post You Project for Free. Get Bids from Thousands of Pre-Screened Consultants.

Customer Relationship Management for IT
Web-based CRM and more with Autotask: Great business management software optimizes resources and track billable project and service work. Get a demo, then try it free with sample data. Click here for your free trial!

Strategic CRM Analytics White Paper
This white paper explores how companies can extend their CRM applications by using BI tools to turn CRM data into actionable information to drive strategic decision-making and improve ROI.

Click here to advertise in this space


View Full Issue View Full Magazine Issue
E-mail This Column E-Mail This Column
Printer Friendly Version Printer-Friendly Version
Related Content Related Content
Request Reprints Request Reprints
Advertisement
advertisement
Site Map Terms of Use Privacy Policy
SourceMedia (c) 2006 DM Review and SourceMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
SourceMedia is an Investcorp company.
Use, duplication, or sale of this service, or data contained herein, is strictly prohibited.