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Customer Data Integration Adds Holistic View

SearchCRM reports that not everyone has bought into the concept of customer data integration (CDI) tools -- and that played out during the keynote speech at a CDI event.

The idea that CDI is just a new name for old practices is similar to the thinking when customer relationship management (CRM) first emerged, expert Jill Dyche told about 50 attendees during her keynote speech at the Customer Data Integration - Americas Summit.

CDI is legitimately a brand-new approach, said Dyche, partner and co-founder of Baseline Consulting Inc. and co-author, with Evan Levy, of 'Customer Data Integration: Reaching a Single Version of the Truth'. Until a few years ago, there were no technology tools and best practices to reconcile, standardize and cleanse customer data in real time. And, despite common misconceptions, CDI can't be done effectively with a CRM system or a data warehouse, she said. CRM systems weren't designed to deploy integrated data, and data warehouse systems weren't designed for operational data integration. That's when one audience member politely interrupted and disagreed.

Why can't data warehouses do CDI?

A data warehouse can accomplish many of the things that new CDI technology can, the attendee said. It integrates data and could be that single version of the truth that companies seek with CDI.

Yes, a data warehouse has some similar integration functionality, but it can't deliver CDI in near real time, Dyche countered. Real-time integration, cleansing and synchronization are critical for CDI to support daily operations. The contents of a data warehouse are latent and designed to be used for business intelligence (BI) and analytics.

"Data warehouses have a different purpose and companies should let them do what they're good at, which is BI and analytics," Dyche said. "Data warehouses are only as good as the ETL [extract, transform and load] processes feeding them."

I like that explanation, and based upon my own recent experience I would add that CDI should be applied with the intent to gain that 'missing' holistic perspective. In a recent client engagement, we described customer experience management (CEM) as having three basic elements -- historical, real-time and forward looking. Analytics helps understanding within the first and third elements, but it's the near real time (or just-in-time) view where service oriented architecture (SOA) really offers the most promise.

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