• October 1, 2019
  • By Paul Greenberg, founder and managing principal, The 56 Group

Where Systems of Record Will Go from Here

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In 2016, insight engine vendor Coveo began calling what they used an “ecosystem of record”—which beyond its literary merits, is a smart way to imagine an expanded system of record. Think of thousands of data sources, even millions. A pipe is sunk into each of these sources. Each time a query is created, all of the sources are searched, and the pertinent information is carried by the pipe to a central clearinghouse where it is aggregated, analyzed, and then made visible on a screen at the clearinghouse to the customer or whoever is asking the question. But the data is never moved from its original source. It is, in effect, copied from its original source and made readable and relevant. But the data itself stays at its source and remains dynamically available and is not stored in a customer record per se—though the query and its results might be.

This differs from the schema of the “network of record,” which has been put forward by B2B intelligence platform provider Radius. If I had to characterize the network of record, it is a meta-system of record—a system of records of systems of record. It takes all of the systems of record out there, and the data captured from engagement systems and data sources, and aggregates them (and stores them) in the cloud as a humungous data store. Here’s John Hurley, marketing director at Radius, explaining it far better than I can:

A network-effect-driven model is used by very few, if any, business-to-business applications, but the most disruptive consumer platforms (Facebook, Amazon, Uber, AirBnB) use the methodology as the foundation for their defensible positions. It is defined by a product that improves with every new user that joins. The Network of Record combines hundreds of data sources with data aggregated and anonymized from more than 760 million records contributed from their customers’ systems of record. It effectively connects hundreds of CRM systems together to create a single source of truth.

These approaches—the network of record and the ecosystem of record—are the cutting edge and well-suited for dealing with data’s volume and velocity.

These meta-systems are one of the directions we are seeing with systems of record, which are not moving to oblivion and replacement by systems of engagement but to greater “thickness” by their evolution to something more meta than they have been in the past.

But it’s not the only approach.

Another approach that is almost directly counter to these meta-systems has been gaining credence for a few years—customer data platforms. Unlike the network of record or the ecosystem of record, the CDP is an aggregate source of data that has been optimized for marketers only, meaning that it is data with a highly specific focus.

There are three attributes of a CDP, according to CPD Institute director and marketing technology thought leader David Raab.

  • It has to be controllable by the marketer. What the system will do and what data will be included is the choice of the marketer.
  • The data has to be unified and persistent. Marketing-relevant customer data must be assembled from multiple sources and made available permanently in a single place.
  • The system needs to be accessible by other systems. Through the use of APIs or tools that can extract specific useful data for use in other systems or via query languages, the data is available to use in, say, a standard CRM customer record, which might include the transactional data or the case management data. This becomes increasingly valuable as marketing departments align more and more with sales.

In late 2018, David expanded the scope of CDP’s definition to this: A customer data platform is packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.

What’s notable about this is that it is no longer for the marketer only.

All of these are increasingly valuable extensions of the system of record at both a meta level (network of record, ecosystem of record) and a micro to macro level (CDP). All are invaluable to the accessibility of the data needed to foster engagement, so take heed to these advances.

Hopefully, this gives you a little bit of insight and, if the state of the system of record has kept you up anxiously at night, some peace. At least know that the system of record, while changing its spots a bit, isn’t going anywhere in the near future. 

Paul Greenberg is the author of CRM at the Speed of Light, called the “Bible of CRM.” His new book, excerpted above, is The Commonwealth of Self Interest: Business Success Through Customer Engagement (2019), available on Amazon.

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