A raving fan—that's what every account manager wants in a customer. CRM software alone doesn't do the trick, because the best relationships go beyond the interactions with account reps.
Customer perception, which is based on connections customers have with all of their vendors' people and content they interact with on a regular basis, is of primary importance. Experiences might include billing support with accounting, finding information on an FAQ Web site search, and customer assistance.
Data virtualization allows users to access and join information stored in multiple systems without a nightly Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) or cube fresh. This means that all data is always fresh, and you can update the system and immediately see the results in the reports and dashboards.
For example, your CRM system may contain information about closed opportunities, while a separate accounting system receives updates when invoices get paid. Without virtualization, you'd have to hire an expensive consultant to set up a data warehouse that copies and integrates data from both systems every night.
With virtualization, companies can plug the reporting system into both databases and do a "virtual join" that shows which opportunities are actually paid. The data is pulled in real time, and you are looking at live data rather than data from yesterday. This means different departments no longer have to request status updates from each other. Everyone knows what's going on, as it's happening.
To provide the best customer experience, account managers need the ability to access company insight—they need to see what pages the customers are viewing or what keywords they search on. Accessing their invoices and payments from accounting and the status of anything the customer is gaining from support and operations will equip the account manager with the right tools to service a customer most effectively.
Historically, getting this kind of perspective has involved building a data warehouse that utilizes ETL tools to move data daily, at full volume. I've observed that today's manager sees the potential of data virtualization, which can deliver the same benefits at a fraction of the cost while providing the advantage of real-time data.
Real time is now required
Traditional data integration initiatives that rely on ETL techniques can transform a periodic data company into a single data warehouse. Unfortunately, yesterday's data may be as useless as yesterday's news. Even worse, because data volumes are growing much faster than network or hard drive speeds, companies may have to resort to weekly or monthly schedules because they have too much data to copy overnight.
For example, when a customer has a major issue one morning, yesterday's dashboard won't be too helpful in satisfying that customer quickly. Or when a customer receives a call about an unpaid invoice that he submitted a few hours prior, that response will reflect poorly on the organization as a whole.
The important thing to realize is that the data is already out there; it just demands to be pulled in real time.
Virtualizing data is key to compliance and data quality
Sometimes things just don't add up. Sales managers may think they closed $3M in renewals while the accounting department sees that it's going to be $2.9M because a customer was acquired by another company and decided not to renew her maintenance agreement.
Real-time data virtualization lets you combine data sources and search for discrepancies, outliers, and gaps. Rather than this being done in a quarterly audit after it's too late, today's real-time data virtualization products let teams discover these anomalies as they happen. This lets you fix the data if it's a data quality issue, or even respond faster than the competition if it's a business issue.
Memory costs $100 while DBAs cost $100 per hour
Performance becomes a major concern when handling hundreds of millions of records. Before, companies required a DBA to optimize the database and the ETL process. This can take many hours (even thousands). One industry secret is that spending $100 on more memory and running to an advisor might give you the same benefit.
Having more memory than data will allow for lightning-fast performance and in-memory analytics. Additionally, switching from a traditional hard disk to SSD storage can give 100 times faster results for some queries, resulting in a huge benefit in the performance of your CRM system.
Because modern hardware is so fast, data virtualization makes lightning-quick query times possible by grabbing just what you need, when you need it…rather than moving the entire database overnight, every night.
Deliver value 24/7
The main benefit to data virtualization from a CRM buyer's perspective is the possibility of delivering new capability over the weekend with a few data sources, and adding more over time. In contrast, the average data warehouse takes 18 months to deploy in an all-or-nothing manner and is ineffective and unusable until it is complete.
With today's rapid product cycles, what you are selling may be obsolete before the data warehouse is ready for deployment.
Sanjay Bhatia is the founder and CEO of Izenda, an industry leader in ad hoc reporting, embedded BI, and data virtualization for SQL data. Prior to founding Izenda, he held engineering and consulting positions at Radiant Systems, Trilogy, and Microsoft.