CRM Overloaded With Data? Then Master the Art of MDM


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Go that way, not this way. Photograph by Ian @

Many organizations talk about building a 360-degree view of their customers, but one of the underlying challenges has to do with the “building” portion. Namely, numerous organizations struggle to determine, across all of their systems, which fields should be the master fields, and which systems should just get updated when that master data changes. In a nutshell, this is the art of master data management (MDM).

To learn more about the related challenges, as well as how to handle them, I turned to Innoveer’s chief technology officer, Bernard Drost, who offers the following insights:

Why Pursue Master Data Management?

The main benefit of creating an MDM program is for clarity. For any CRM-related activity — sales, marketing or service — having an accurate view of each customer and product helps prevent expensive mistakes or duplicate efforts.

Here’s how MDM can help with:

  • Marketing: For any given campaign, send just one set of marketing materials to a prospect, ensuring that you don’t “over market” to them.
  • Sales: Invoice customers for the right item at the right price. Invoice the correct person in the customer organization. Ship the right item, avoiding costly returns. Or, if a customer has old, unpaid invoices, put a hold on shipping them any new products.
  • Service: Don’t try to up-sell a customer when they have a trouble ticket still open.

In other words, with a good MDM program, your organization can reduce its spending on non-value-producing activities. Instead, it can focus on more high-value pursuits, such as gaining additional customer wallet share, and using the most effective marketing, sales and service strategies for each customer.

Network Engines Tackles MDM

When it comes to MDM, there’s no single system or approach to pursue, quite literally, since there are no standards across SAP, Oracle or for how you store a customer record.

Instead, creating an MDM program requires organizations to start with business requirements, and work backwards. For example, Innoveer high-technology manufacturing client Network Engines needed a better system for handling returns of its servers. In short, it needed a better way to share information between its ERP and CRM systems, to see, on a per-customer basis, exactly which servers and configurations they owned.

For Network Engines, that meant finding a better way to integrate EDI data with both systems. That’s because the company’s business partners, which often sell Network Engines’ devices under their own brand names, provided customer details — such as contact information, records of devices delivered and their locations — back to Network Engines via EDI feeds. Network Engines had also created a website for partners to enter devices’ serial numbers, so it would know, on a per-customer and per-location basis, exactly which servers a customer owned.

The Plan: CRM Traffic Cop

To better support those processes, Innoveer helped Network Engines add a Microsoft BizTalk hub to sit between its on-premise Siebel CRM system (handling sales and customer service processes), Great Plains ERP software (handling financials), and EDI feeds (containing crucial information from business partners). BizTalk functions like a traffic cop, directing traffic, and running queries against both systems, backed by an extensive set of rules, which determine how any piece of information — customer data changes, warranty expiration dates, return merchandise authorizations — should be routed, swapped or loaded between systems.

The Sell: Advanced Server Replacements

As a result of its MDM program — and knowing exactly where every server is located, as well as how it’s configured — Network Engines can offer an advanced return merchandise authorization (RMA) capability. Sign up for this premium service, and Network Engines will maintain an exact copy of every one of a customer’s servers in the field and continuously monitor its health.

If one of those servers even thinks about crashing, rather than a customer having to log a trouble ticket, Network Engines will instead deliver a new, correctly configured server — via overnight courier — to the right location, ready to plug in and already containing everything from the old server. In other words, it’s a true value-added service, leading to more satisfied customers as well as smoother returns, and which requires no expensive calls to the customer service line.

That’s the benefit of an effective MDM program: lowering your organization’s operating costs while enabling marketing, sales and service personnel to focus on more strategic activities that generate additional customer satisfaction and revenue. In other words, it pays to manage your CRM master data.

Learn More

What’s the best way to model customer data? See our Solution Discovery (PDF): A Plan for Master Data Management.

Meanwhile, finding, combining and consolidating the right data often requires a data integration plan. For more information on data integration essentials, see our white paper (PDF), Finding the True Customer Record. Or for a more cloud-centric perspective, read our blog post on the top 10 reasons to integrate with SaaS.

As a side note, if technology costs are putting the brakes on your organization’s MDM program, investigate Microsoft BizTalk, which starts at $1,800 — a bargain in the world of enterprise MDM technology. True, with BizTalk, you need to build some of the integration rules yourself (Innoveer can help), but from a functional standpoint, BizTalk has all of the adapters you’ll likely require, and they work well. In other words, when it comes to creating an effective MDM program, cost isn’t what’s holding you back.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


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