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You can’t handle the (single) truth

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In most of today’s digital agendas you’ll find something like Digital Commerce, KYC (know your customer) and Next Best Action. You want to sell better, faster and more. To do so you need to understand who your customers are. You don’t only want to know what was previously bought, but also that the buyer, for example, is a father of two kids, that likes to play sports and has a college degree. That shouldn’t be a problem in this year and age, right?

The reality is often a different story. Even a simple question like: “how many customers do we even have?” results in different answers depending on the department or person you ask. Why? because they have different sources. One looks in the CRM and the other in the E-commerce portal. And so we have a conversation about the information that is scattered over different applications which than leads to: duplicate customers in one system and customers missing in the other, one system says he lives in Rotterdam and the other says he lives in Amsterdam, different email addresses, et cetera. Bottom line: Missed commercial opportunities, disinvestment in marketing campaigns and decreasing customer satisfaction, no clear and up-to-date customer information, and so on. 

Resulting in a frustrated outburst like: “Just give me the (single) truth! How hard can it be?”. The answer is: You can’t handle the truth! 

Image: single truth illustrated

In jargon we often call this topic Master Data Management (MDM). MDM is the process that creates a uniform set of data on customers, products, suppliers and other business entities from different IT systems. To get MDM in place you should focus on: 

  • Leadership 
    Via governance you set the policies and guidelines and you create an organization where roles and responsibilities are clear. But more important, you manage behavior by explaining the Way of Work and encouraging the right behaviors. 
  • Supporting Technology 
    There are tons of smart technology solutions that claim to support you in getting that desired single truth. They can help with automating business rules, discover duplicates and more.  

I strongly believe that good leadership from the start can prevent the need of complicated and expensive technology. To emphasize that even more: a technology driven solution will never work unless you have your leadership in place. Therefore, we design and implement organizations that ensure a solid data foundation. A few examples of themes that should be addressed are: 

  • Roles and responsibilities 
    This is where it starts. Who is responsible, who is setting direction? What are the agreements between data producers and users on the quality that is needed? 
  • Business rules and policies 
    What are the agreements, what is allowed, who is allowed to view what, what are the regulations (privacy, norm certifications)? 
  • Business Glossary and Data Dictionary 
    Know your data and define it unambiguously and understand its context. 
  • Data Quality Dimensions 
    How is good data quality defined? And how will this be measured?  

These themes might feel overwhelming, so the challenge is to understand the bigger picture, but to start making steps at the same time. Often, we start with a taskforce that helps creating a compelling story, gets the story on the right agenda’s, prioritizes potential solutions and creates momentum with celebrating quick wins with sustainability in mind. 

In this blog we focused on customer data, but you will also need a single true view on other themes. Just think of: products, suppliers, employees and assets. So, the main take away: you can’t handle the single truth, not on your own. But you can organize it.  

Do you recognize these data challenges? I’m interested in your experiences! Feel free to get in touch to talk about data and more.

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Anton Bubberman
Guild lead Data | Management Consultant 6 230 492 38