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False CDI prophets

Jill: I'm a segment manager in the Marketing organization of a Fortune 50 energy company, and I think I "get" CDI better than our IT people do, in spite of how you've described CDI as infrastructure. Our Vice President of Enterprise Systems claims we're already doing CDI, but, to use one of your examples, no one can assure me of the last time we actually talked to an individual customer, never mind who had that conversation. I'm a happy BI end-user, but our customer experiences aren't any better than they were before we implemented reporting and analytics. Our survey scores are down. Our commercial division has 27 different data marts. I think CDI is the answer, but how do I get IT to listen?

Jill: I'm a segment manager in the Marketing organization of a Fortune 50 energy company, and I think I "get" CDI better than our IT people do, in spite of how you've described CDI as infrastructure. Our Vice President of Enterprise Systems claims we're already doing CDI, but, to use one of your examples, no one can assure me of the last time we actually talked to an individual customer, never mind who had that conversation. I'm a happy BI end-user, but our customer experiences aren't any better than they were before we implemented reporting and analytics. Our survey scores are down. Our commercial division has 27 different data marts. I think CDI is the answer, but how do I get IT to listen?
Your question made me peevish. You are a victim of religious persecution. By that I mean there are people in your company who are worshiping at the altar of your existing technologies. Beware false prophets.

CDI and PIM (Product Information Management) can be threatening to people who "own" existing systems. They hear...

"single version of the truth" and think: "Wait a minute... I OWN our single version of the truth! It's mine, mine, mine!" After all, there's probably a Product Master (or two, or three) at your company. And -- to use a failsafe example -- what's your customer system of record anyway? Ha! Just as I suspected! There's more than one! That's a common phenomenon, and one that might be bigger than you.

CDI, PIM and other master data management solutions are about the real-time management, integration and deployment of certified data to different systems. They're not about where the data is stored, they're about how it's processed and propagated to support various business processes. CDI is infrastructure -- it's the authoritative source for customer data -- but it's also a business capability that promises both internal efficiencies and external improvements. And that includes enhancing the customer's experience.

Notwithstanding big investments in CRM and data warehousing, more relevant customer conversations remain an elusive goal at most companies. Explain to IT why it's still out of reach, engaging a savvy data steward in the dialog. Be ready to explain the business impact -- and, if you can, the revenue consequences -- of not being able to track multiple relationships with a customer. Show examples of duplicate account ids for the same individual. Secure statistics for what having contradictory customer contact details costs the company.

This is missionary work, my friend. I'll say a little prayer for you.

This was last published in September 2006

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