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Open-Source Data Quality and Integration
When it comes to profitability, high-quality data is CRM's most critical success factor.
Posted Jan 8, 2008
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As businesses today seek to become more efficient, increase their competitive advantage, and reduce their costs, CRM evaluation and implementation has become a basic building block for most enterprises. Organizations typically engage in rigorous evaluation processes -- with vendors as well as with internal constituents -- to determine their strategic choice and the core business deliverables that choice provides. Within this evaluation process, however, a key element of a successful CRM implementation is often overlooked: the current state of the enterprise data.

Research from the The Data Warehousing Institute ("Taking Data Quality to the Enterprise through Data Governance") supports this overall corporate state of denial, with 50 percent of respondents saying that data quality is worse than their overall organizations believe. Furthermore, more than half of respondents indicated their organizations had suffered losses due to poor data quality.

Data quality is the foundation of any CRM implementation. CRM systems cannot provide customer insights, sales information, service benchmarks, or unified client views if the information entered in the system is not clean and correct. The old adage of "garbage in, garbage out" is clearly demonstrated in CRM systems where the data-evaluation stage is omitted. CRM systems integrate and compile information to provide reporting and dashboards, however they cannot change the intrinsic nature of the data entered in the initial implementation or in subsequent updates. Erroneous data will produce erroneous reports, bad analysis, and, ultimately, flawed decisions.


The Data Solutions Marketplace: Fueling Complexity and High Costs
Organizations typically realize the impact of their data quality issues when a CRM implementation is road-blocked or when the reporting and dashboard information provided is incorrect. This realization drives key business sponsors to seek a solution that will address the issue rapidly while maintaining budgetary and business commitments. Today's marketplace is filled with data quality solutions, but many are mired in proprietary software licenses, hardware costs, and term-contract commitments that significantly increase the timeline, cost, and complexity of a CRM implementation.

Furthermore, the purchase of a licensed-software solution adds to the already-complex application landscape present in most organizations today. Industry reports indicate that many organizations are running up to 70 applications at a time, not including unstructured data repositories. Integrating all of these disparate systems can prove a daunting and expensive task, and including a data management solution that involves a licensed-software component complicates the situation. Recent IDC research revealed that every dollar spent purchasing a licensed-software application leads to five dollars spent integrating that application into the company's infrastructure. These financials are especially daunting for organizations seeking to demonstrate a measurable return on their CRM investment in the short term, and in the long run serve only to negatively impact the organization's profitability.


Open-Source Data Quality: Driving the Profitability in Your CRM Implementation
In recent years, open-source solutions have gained attention with their flexible integration, cost efficiency, rapid deployment, and turnkey scalability options. Open-source data quality solutions, however, have not gained as much prevalence in the data management industry. Despite this lack of visibility, open-source solutions are an ideal option for addressing data quality issues.

Open-source data quality solutions provide flexibility in integration across organizations because they are not encumbered by software-license restrictions, enabling all the data entered into a CRM system to be as clean and accurate as possible.

Open-source solutions are also more rapidly customized to address the unique needs of both the CRM system and the data repositories within an organization. Open-source solutions do not restrict a user from modifying the software or extending it for a specific customer need -- a very serious drawback of commercial software. Another key benefit of open-source data solutions is that they offer significant cost savings over solutions driven by licensed software. Since license maintenance and management are not required, the cost savings are immediately evident and impact bottom-line ROI.

Lastly, since open-source solutions are not mired in complex contracts and term commitments required of most commercially available data solutions, organizations can deploy them rapidly to address their data quality and integration needs.

Open-source data quality solutions provide organizations at all stages of a CRM implementation a unique alternative to drive profitability and ROI in the face of ubiquitous data issues. These solutions can enable organizations to reach their goals and business commitments without significant impact upon budgets, timelines, or deliverables. Utilizing an open-source data solution provides organizations the confidence that their CRM implementation will provide the strategic insight needed to drive competitive advantage now and in the future.


About the Author
Subbu Manchiraju is a vice president at Infosolve Technologies, and its lead architect. Infosolve Technologies (www.infosolvetech.com) provides business clients with comprehensive data solutions leveraging the power of their enterprise data to achieve business objectives and create strategic opportunities -- without the burdens of cumbersome licensing agreements, complex term contracts, and expensive hardware requirements. The Zero-Based data solutions suite features signature offerings including OpenDQ for comprehensive data quality and OpenCDI for customer data integration.

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