Have you ever needed to reconcile the records in your CRM system with those in human resources? Talk about a logistical nightmare. That’s why an increasing number of companies is turning to MDM (master data management). MDM involves business-process analysis, data assessment, data cleansing, data consolidation and reconciliation, and data migration to ensure current, consistent and accurate information across a company’s disparate systems. Without such information, companies simply can’t expect to have a unified view of their customers.
It should come as no surprise, then, that research firm IDC predicts the software and services market for MDM will reach $10.4 billion by 2009. That’s because failure to integrate and manage data presents huge risks, especially when it comes to maintaining solid customer relations. “People have customer records in multiple systems, and when they’re inconsistent, strange things start to happen,” warned Bill Swanton, vice president of research at AMR Research Inc.
Take, for example, a company that is bound by a regulatory requirement that prohibits it from selling products to a particular class of company. While the company’s ERP (enterprise resource planning) system flags Business A as a member of this prohibited class, the CRM system may not, thereby creating the possibility for a regulatory violation.
Plenty of other issues can arise from inaccurate and inconsistent data. Consider the sales representative who is unaware that the marketing team has made several attempts to lure a particular prospect. Showing up on that prospect’s doorstep with a PowerPoint presentation in tow could forever spoil the company’s chances of turning that prospect into a loyal customer, never mind the sales rep’s embarrassment.
Fortunately, MDM can help. Here are a few steps to help you move toward establishing a successful MDM framework:
Purchase the right technology. Siperian Inc.'s MDM Hub, for example, is an MDM solution that reconciles disparate master data from distributed systems and synchronizes this reliable data with analytical and operational systems. The solution manages relationships among business-data entities — such as customers, products or accounts — across multiple applications and delivers a unified view of transactions across multiple data sources. Other vendors worth considering include SAP AG, IBM Corp., Oracle Corp. and Informatica Corp.
Specify processes and business rules. It’s not enough to simply throw technology at your data-integration and reconciliation woes. Rather, companies need to create policies for how master data is created, how it is to be maintained and what data elements need to be managed.
Write down your requirements. You may think you know what it means to manage customers, but don’t expect enterprisewide agreement until the details are in ink. What it means to manage customers, what customer data is required, what additional data will be needed down the line, what information is required to ensure top-notch customer service — these are all details that need to be written down and disseminated among disparate departments. Warned Swanton , “What you’ll find is that most companies have never actually written all this information down. The way they deal with customers has evolved over time, and a lot of it is based on tribal knowledge.”
Assign stewardship. “The biggest issue is governance,” said Swanton. “Somebody has to make it a priority for the company to decide how it’s going to handle its data.” That means creating a governance group to oversee the ongoing maintenance of accurate and consistent data via a master data-management strategy.