Cloud-Based Master Data Management: The Missing Link to a Better Customer Experience

Whether selling to customers or organizations, you need to know who they are and recognize them at any point of contact. But to achieve this, you need to be able to reconcile records that are stored in disparate business systems, sometimes across departmental boundaries. Organizational insight begins with knowing your customer but, in today’s virtual, technologically advanced world, this is becoming increasingly difficult for many.

In fact, for nearly all industries, digital tools are disrupting the business environment and require significant changes in operations, communications, and selling; and it is about to get much worse. The adoption of new sales channels, the abundance of product options, and the emergence of mass personalization have increased consumers’ expectations and price sensitivity, leading to less brand loyalty than in the past.

With the proliferation of smart devices, the reliance on technology for conducting day-to-day transactions and interactions as a company or as a customer only continues to increase. The number of systems that house or rely on data about companies and/or customers is vast and fragmented, with each operating independently of one another. The challenge of identifying and reconciling data across these disparate and siloed systems makes creating a complete and accurate view of a company or customer almost impossible. Today, no single system contains this view across all lines of business within an enterprise or is designed to manage the complete life cycle of the data. As a result, nurturing relationships with customers is increasingly difficult, as organizations struggle to see the true picture of them across all channels and applications.

Using Data to Super-Charge CRM and Customer Engagement

As organizations look to create a single, trusted source of customer information, many are turning to master data management (MDM) to help solve data discrepancies. A key enabler to a successful CRM initiative, MDM solutions combine the technology, processes, and services needed to set up and maintain an accurate, timely, complete, and comprehensive representation of a company or customer. Managed in one location, master data is integrated from multiple sources of associated data in multiple application systems and databases, is cleansed and consolidated, and is then applied across multiple channels, business lines, and enterprises.

According to Gartner, MDM is a critical success factor in constructing optimal CRM processes and, through 2017, CRM leaders who avoid MDM will derive erroneous results that annoy customers, resulting in a 25-percent reduction in potential revenue gains. “Over the last several years, CRM software sales have outstripped overall IT spending,” said Bill O'Kane, research VP at Gartner. “CRM leaders must understand the benefits of the MDM discipline to CRM and make it part of their CRM strategy. MDM is critical to enabling CRM leaders to create the 360-degree view of the customer required for an optimized customer experience.”

With an MDM strategy in place, organizations can establish a golden record for each customer that allows them to make decisions with confidence and know that the data is complete and accurate. When used in conjunction with an existing CRM system, MDM solutions are able to vastly improve customer engagement and create an overall better experience across marketing, sales, customer service, e-commerce, and all other customer-facing channels. However, this approach requires an understanding of the customer’s entire relationship and interactions with the company at any point during the customer journey. So, while CRM and other business applications or suites may store their own data and offer their own application data management capabilities, MDM solutions act as the “middle hub” that reconciles, manages, exchanges, and governs the core master data shared by all applications.

How Cloud-Based MDM Is Driving Digital Transformations

Today, nearly all MDM solutions are deployed on premises largely because most commercially available MDM platforms are either not mature enough, lack the processing power, or do not offer enough incentives from a technology perspective to migrate to a cloud solution. People understand that new cloud or multi-tenant software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings provide a quicker time to value by allowing participants to share and access data faster. However, this is often achieved at the expense of flexibility. Purpose-built MDM apps, offered as SaaS, are both market- and business-case-specific, which may be the reason there has been an increase in demand for these solutions.

Understanding customers more holistically in real time and providing a true and reliable experience to them—combined with the desire to be able to configure MDM offerings as easily as existing data quality tools—is now of utmost importance and will continue to be well into the future. Organizations now expect an MDM solution to go live in weeks instead of months/years via the cloud, and to support transactional data such as automatic free trial signups, paying via credit card, paying per use, etc.

Because everything that surrounds customer master data management has already achieved a solid maturity state, customers will soon push vendors to bring to market more mature, business-user-centric and enterprise-grade MDM offerings in the cloud. On-premises or hosted information-as-a-service (IaaS) solutions remain essential for companies that care about flexibility and their ability to leverage their investment across the enterprise. For the past few years, organizations have expressed interest in mastering multiple types of data, or data domains, and relating those with one another to create a better customer experience and/or effect a digital transformation. For them, mastering product data is key, mastering customer information is urgent, and being able to connect that data is imperative as it allows them to address untapped opportunities. With MDM, companies can kick-start their digital transformation and accomplish the following results:

  • gain a single view of each customer’s information, through all channels and touch points;
  • better understand the customer’s total worth, influence, and loyalty by creating a golden record that connects through the entire information supply chain;
  • create a more accurate and informed view of each customer by incorporating critical data elements from data sets within the enterprise or from a third party; and
  • improve customer experience at the point of engagement, produce better insights, and make better business decisions.

Today, there is more value in connecting data to derive beneficial information than found in the original data itself. Consequently, by connecting data and generating insights, MDM can be a critical driver in achieving an organization’s ultimate goal: an outstanding customer experience.

Christophe Marcant is senior vice president of strategy and communication for Stibo Systems, the global leader in multidomain master data management (MDM) solutions. For more information, contact him at chrm@stibosystems.com or visit www.stibosystems.com

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