I often hear from business executives about their concerns with duplicate systems and multiple data silos. I also hear the desire to create or improve “a grand all-encompassing data warehouse” so executives can better understand customer trends as well as all sorts of business informatics. Mostly, there is a desire for one easy to use consolidated database – the one single database of truth for all customers, contacts, and related information AND accessible across all devices – phone, tablet, laptop.
- Understand why data consolidation is important
- Recognize reasons why data silos occur
- Catalog all the data sets
- Form a strategic plan on how CRM will be leveraged
STEP 1 – Understand Why Data Consolidation is Important
The first step is to understand the value of good customer data. Many executives would already agree that consolidating customer data is critical in business today but there are some that are hesitant to invest in the endeavor or they are unsure where to start. There are many valuable advantages to data consolidation, but in a nut shell, businesses are more effective, more competitive, and have greater insight when they can see one shared customer record that has a deep 360 degree view. This view could include all customer activities, purchases, visits to your website and where they went, accounting information from the ERP, real time data from data aggregators, customer complaints and their resolutions, and yes, the customer’s correct email. That is at the record level. Good data then rolls up for quality analytics. Reporting on your key performance indicators and customer buying trends and even predictive buying just got a whole lot easier now that everything is in one place. Keep in mind, in your current state, you probably have most of this data already, but it is just spread out in too many duplicate databases and Excel files to be usable.
STEP 2 – Recognize the Reasons Why Users Create Data Silos
The next step is to try to stop data silo creation. There is usually a central system in place but then users remove the data they want to an Excel file and continue to update that Excel file outside the central system. Why? Why are users compelled to create Access databases and Excel files? There can be many reasons but usually it is because the central system is hard to use and it is just easier using Excel or their own Outlook. So how do you stop users from creating their own data sets? Improve the user interface is one way and that is where Microsoft Dynamics CRM can help. Although Microsoft CRM uses a powerful Microsoft SQL Server database to handle Big Data, it is the user Interface of Microsoft CRM that will often help reduce data silo creation. Microsoft CRM has the potential to be designed putting the user first – meaning the interface is clean and purpose driven. It also helps that Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be accessed from within the very tools that frequently drive silo creation to begin with – in this case Excel and Outlook. All of CRM can be accessed from Outlook and there is one click in CRM to bring data to Excel.
STEP 3 – Identify and Catalog all the Data Sets
Next, start to identify all your data. Data you have and even the data you don’t have. Catalog all the In-house data like main central systems, the many rogue Access databases and Excel files, as well as website databases and SharePoint Lists and so on. Just focus on the data that is being managed and updated away from a central database. Think also about the data you may not have now but could get from an online subscription to a data aggregator to sync real time business and social data or to validate and clean your data for total data quality.
STEP 4 – Form a Strategic Plan for Data Consolidation and How Best to Leverage CRM
The last and most important step is to form a long term strategic plan. This is where some companies may need assistance. Without going into too much detail, the plan should attempt to include what data will be migrated and what will be integrated.
· Migration: With data migration, this is the data that will be completely moved permanently to live in CRM. These aren’t just the rogue Excel files; this could potentially be retiring some completely separate business applications – meaning move the data along with the functionality and business process to CRM using the innovative xRM approach to duplicate functionality where logical.
· Integration: What data then gets integrated in and out of CRM? Is the integration one way (asynchronous) or two way (synchronous)? What are the outside data sources and services that will be utilized? What data integration tools may be needed?
The strategic plan may also include new reporting needs, how data will be displayed across devices, and what users get to access and not access based on their security. As you can see, having a well thought out plan divided into logical phases will provide the long term blue print and framework for continued data success.
If you understand the value of one consolidated database and you know why users make data silos and you have cataloged all your data sets and then formed and documented a well thought out plan that leverages Microsoft Dynamics CRM, well then, you should be on your way to improved data consolidation.
Need help with your data silos? Please feel free to contact me.