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Customer Data: A Catch 22

Bored? Try tackling some of your company’s data problems.

Tackling your company’s data problems may not be fun, but it will definitely make life more interesting.

In Joseph Heller’s classic American novel Catch-22, a character named Dunbar spends his days lying on a cot musing on his own state of boredom. Dunbar’s theory goes that the more bored a person is, the slower time passes, effectively making life seem longer. The obvious irony here is: who wants to lead a long-but-boring life?

(Coincidentally, this is a question I usually ask aloud right before ordering the cheesecake.)

We could ask ourselves a version of that question when it comes to using customer data. Who wants to settle for summary data, missing information, or inaccurate values when we could be enriching our data and, by extension, driving additional revenues? It’s pretty clear by now that the better our data, the more meaningful our customer interactions, but many of us are still sitting around in a state of complacency.

As with Dunbar, our inertia has consequences. Maybe we’re afraid to make the pitch for better data to management with has other things on their minds. Fussy shareholders? Crabby customers? Perturbed partners? Bet you can fix some of those issues with better data deployed faster for improved business action.

I know. It sounds like so much motherhood. We recently saw a specialty retailer implement coupon-on-demand capabilities based on who the customer was and what was purchased. Their data quality had been abysmal, but they understood they needed to deal with it before launching this new capability. We helped an international materials conglomerate waive delivery fees to the customers in the top decile. Again, they needed to clean and reconcile their data first. A major bank is now recognizing customers at the time of interaction with MDM. Again, poor data quality was initially a barrier, but not anymore.

None of these successes was immediate. They all involved data cleansing and reconciliation, and that’s still a work in progress, but they’ve all driven bottom-line improvements.

If you’re bored, try tackling some of your company’s data problems. It may or may not be fun, but it will definitely make life more interesting.

About the Author

Jill Dyché is an acknowledged speaker, author, and blogger on the topic of aligning IT with business solutions. As the vice president of SAS Best Practices, she speaks, writes, and blogs about the business value of analytics and information.

Prior to being acquired by SAS in 2011, Jill was a partner and cofounder of Baseline Consulting, where she combined the roles of best practices expert, industry gadfly, key client adviser, and all-around thought leader. At both firms, she has led client strategies and market analysis in the areas of data governance, business intelligence, master data management (MDM), CRM, and big data.

Jill’s first book, e-Data (Addison Wesley), has been published in eight languages. Her book The CRM Handbook (Addison Wesley) is the bestseller on the topic. With Evan Levy, Customer Data Integration (John Wiley and Sons) was the first book on the topic of MDM and discussed managing data as a strategic asset. Jill has contributed to a range of other books and her work has been featured in leading publications including Computerworld, CIO Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Harvard Business Review blog, Forbes.com, and Newsweek.com. Her latest book, The New IT: How Technology Leaders Enable Business Strategy in the Digital Age, profiles executives from companies including Comerica, Brooks Brothers, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Canadian Tire, Union Bank, Mandalay Resort Group, Men’s Wearhouse, and Toyota Financial Services, highlighting the roles they played in transforming IT and driving strategy.


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