Along Data's Journey Into Might

The toughest issue in managing customer relationships is not a lack of data, but a lack of organized information that powers successful behaviors. For customer data to reach maximum value, it needs to undergo a journey in which it is transformed from a thin fact at the point of collection to a mighty asset driving effective business initiatives. This transformation involves mining different kinds of data; uncovering the cause-effect relationships among areas touched by the data; and deploying statistically validated practices to use the data. First, the transformation requires three kinds of distinct data. Content is raw, event-oriented data, the who/what/when/where details captured in internal systems like SFA, contact management, or CRM applications. Context
is data that supplements content and contains nuances like customer demographics and psychographics. Rich context includes the alignment of a wide variety of internal and external, or third-party information sources. Last, analytics is information that uses BI tools to analyze and add meaning to content data and contextual relationships. There are many software tools available to assist with analysis, from data mining and predictive analysis, to trend evaluation and reporting. Second, the transformation of data should flatten silos. CRM requires an integrated view of the cause-effect relationships among sales, marketing, and support. For example, cost reductions in support could drive increased spending in sales and marketing. Research has found CRM strategies that integrate sales, marketing, customer service and operations increase upselling and cross-selling revenue, and decrease marketing and support costs. Removing the boundaries becomes more imperative as the domain of traditional CRM expands to encompass the entire value chain of customer-facing, back-office, and channel solutions. Otherwise, for instance, advances in sales could create logjams in support if inventory systems can't handle increased volumes. The savings the market has come to expect from point systems, such as a CRM application for customer support, pale compared with the potential efficiencies created when an integrated CRM solution is linked into enterprise resource planning and supply chain systems. This is not easy, and requires a comprehensive blueprint of each business operation, including its strategic goals, organizational structure, processes (especially at customer touch points), applications, and infrastructure. The analysis must also reveal how each operation interconnects with other business functions. The payoff, however, is dramatically more powerful and predictable CRM programs. The third point: The transformation of data into action has to be based on sound metrics. Companies today have an insatiable desire for CRM data; however, they have no good measurements to discriminate a subjective, observed best practice from a proven, predictable best practice. Managing the client relationship cannot be attained within the confines of a specific application--no matter how robust. Organizations need to charge customer data with new energy, let it course through critical business operations, and inform astute business decisions on the best way to create value as defined by their clients. About the Author Stephen Olyha is vice president and managing partner of Unisys Corporation's global Enterprise Solutions practice. The Enterprise Solutions practice includes CRM, Enterprise Business Solutions, and Supply Chain Management. Prior to assuming the position Steve was vice president of the Worldwide Customer Relationship Management practice, where he was responsible for expanding the strategic direction of the practice and delivering high-quality CRM technology solutions on a global basis. Before joining Unisys Steve was a partner and managing director at Computer Sciences Corporation, where he led the North American CRM Practice, and was the chairman of the international committee developing a global operating model on CRM. Prior to CSC, he served as vice president of sales at The Estee Corporation, and held executive sales and marketing positions at Cadbury Schweppes, Mott's USA, and Kraft General Foods.
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