Flexible Customer Data Integration Solution Adapts to Your Business Needs




Customer data integration (CDI) has become one of the buzzwords within the master data management (MDM) industry. Although the concept of creating a single organizational view of the customer is noble and desirable, its value should also be justified by organizations. To implement a customer data hub that only creates a centralized view of an organization's customer-related data does not affect a company's bottom line, unless business units have bought into the initiative and tie it to the organization's strategy. Customer turnover, collections, call centers, and marketing initiatives can be monitored, consolidated, and improved through CDI. However, to ensure successful CDI implementations, solutions should be driven and managed by the business units to ensure buy-in, and to increase the value associated with customer-related data.

In addition to the collaboration and buy-in needed to ensure a successful project, the type of CDI initiative and the architectural style chosen to implement it play important roles in the use and view of customer data. CDI hubs are used differently depending on the way they deliver information to users. It becomes important to choose a style compatible with the organization's current business needs, with the knowledge that these needs will change over time, and that as a result, the CDI architecture may change as well.

An Overview of Siperian's Product Offerings

Siperian is a leading San Mateo, California (US)-based CDI vendor for the health and life sciences industry. The vendor's solutions allow customers to create, consolidate, and present a single view of customer-related data based on their organizations' needs and maturity within their CDI or MDM environments. Siperian's product offerings reflect the business needs of organizations, and provide businesses with the ability to reduce operational costs and improve compliance when implemented in alignment with the organizations' business processes. This occurs through the management of customer-related data by creating a singular view of the customer across the organization, and by providing the appropriate views of that data to business units across the organization, based on their needs.

CDI hubs enable organizations to develop centralized customer data management structures, and to contribute to the ongoing data quality activities required to ensure successful CDI initiatives. Different hub styles, coupled with vendor product offerings, provide organizations with the ability to build and structure their customer information to enhance the customer experience, and to supply employees with the right information when they need it.

Siperian offers three products with differing architectural styles, namely Master Identity, Master Data Management, and Operational Views, to meet the varied requirements of an organization's customers based on the maturity of its CDI environment. These styles provide organizations with different benefits based on the way these organizations choose to apply CDI. Organizations may want a total approach to CDI immediately; that is, to manage their organization-wide CDI and MDM initiatives from the start. However, the implementation of a CDI initiative in stages provides organizations with stronger frameworks to develop and maintain their CDI environments and data quality initiatives over time.

Siperian's Master Identity offers organizations a master reference to link customer-related data across the organization. The Customer-Centric Master Data Management style creates a cross-reference to provide one version of customer data within the organization. This includes the cleansing of data to provide one version of the customer addresses, as well as other information that requires reconciliation across various systems. Customer-Centric Operational Views creates a virtual view of consolidated customer records based on customer transactions.

All three styles provide reliable master data to operational systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM). Siperian also supports a "consolidation style," which relies on the centralized repository of reliable master data. This centralized repository supports downstream analytical environments, including reporting, analytics, and business intelligence (BI) systems.

Master Identity, through its Master Reference Manager (MRM), identifies entities including customer, product, supplier, etc. Master Identity uses a "registry-style" approach to match and link records from different systems across the organization to create a "golden record." This record creates references based on attributes such as customer number, a combination of phone number and name, and other unique identifiers to link the various records across the organization, creating a central reference area to pool data.

The registry stores data that can be cross-referenced back to the source systems. This hub style may be accessed in real time, and provides read-only access to data as needed. This means that operational data stores are not affected, and that data can be accessed instantaneously across multiple business units, helping users within customer service and marketing departments access the required information. This type of architecture does not allow organizations to add or change data, as the data acts only as a reference point. Therefore, it is not advantageous for point-of-contact users, who are required to update operational systems.

Master Data Management (MDM), through Hierarchy Manager (HM), manages and visualizes the relationships between these master data entities within the centralized customer repository. Based on this, a single, consolidated view of customer-related data can be presented, centralized, and managed from across multiple applications and lines of business. Corporate acquisitions provide a good example of how this architecture style can be applied to organizations. Hierarchy Manager identifies and consolidates the data from across multiple corporate entities to create a singular view. This architectural style allows individual or single organizations to manage their data quality activities across the organization, harmonizing the customer view across operational systems, and maintaining greater consistency across the organization. This provides the foundational building blocks to create a single view of the customer.

The third style, Operational Views, through Activity Manager (AM), accesses the reliable master data in the centralized repository, and then aggregates and identifies the associated transactions and interactions that take place with the customer. A federated view of the data combines with the master data to reference and deliver a full view of the customer within the business context required, and writes back data to the operational systems to maintain a single view of data across the organization. Data is integrated and systems are built to leverage the data views without worrying about integration with existing systems. Large organizations with high transaction volumes use this style to manage customer-related transactions. Many organizations adopt this style as a natural outgrowth of the MDM approach, as they see the benefits of expanding their usage of CDI to include daily operations.

Product Strengths

Siperian's strengths are in its ability to match its offerings to an organization's business needs. In addition to offering three distinct hub styles, Siperian centers its offerings on the integration of an organization's CDI initiative with its overall data management strategy. This means that although Siperian focuses on providing solutions for a specific set of data, the vendor places importance on an organization's overall business processes and how its CDI requirements will grow.

Siperian's service-oriented architecture (SOA)-based platform solutions enable organizations to implement the vendor's product offerings more easily than those of vendors that have not adopted SOA standards. Siperian's SOA-framework solutions provide organizations with the ability to integrate multiple applications onto a common platform. Siperian's hubs use additional adapters to leverage SOA and to integrate out of the box with information systems and platforms such as SAP, Oracle, and Siebel. Because many organizations build their information structures based on these three platforms, the natural integration of Siperian's offerings with these products ensures seamless integration.

Siperian delivers out-of-the-box, industry-specific models within the following industries: health and life sciences, financial services, high-tech, manufacturing, and communications and media. Companies in these industries can take advantage of these models, as these models meet many of their requirements out of the box, eliminating the need for excess customization. Siperian's expertise within these industries translates into additional value for the customer, including enhanced features and functionality, additional services, and superior support.

Challenges

Although Siperian provides enhanced CDI offerings to its customers, in 2005, the vendor expanded into vertical markets outside of the health and life sciences industry, such as the financial services and manufacturing sectors. This means that organizations in these vertical markets that are considering implementing a Siperian CDI hub should evaluate and compare the vendor's offerings to other vendors that are more mature within these markets. In addition to market penetration presenting a challenge to Siperian, data hubs built based on industry-specific needs may not be as advanced as those of Siperian's competitors, and therefore might require more customization within user organizations.

The focus on an organization's CDI solutions within an MDM framework poses a potential risk, as MDM connotes the organization's overall commitment to managing data and its relationships. Realistically, in many organizations this is not the case, as organizations cannot even agree on the definition of a customer. Although integration of an organization's processes with technology increases the likelihood of a project's success, actual stewardship of that process may have to be defined on a smaller level. This creates the inability in many organizations to implement an organization-wide CDI initiative, which lessens the likelihood of increased adoption of CDI hubs within the organization. Hence, organizations implementing CDI for the first time will need to obtain management buy-in from the business units involved. Without this buy-in, the actual software solutions may be useless if they can't be managed properly.

Conclusion

By having a single view of the customer, organizations can improve customer turnover, collections, call center activities, and marketing initiatives, thereby enhancing the bottom line. However, a single view of the customer within the organization requires discipline, buy-in from management and users, and alignment of the organization's technical architecture with its business strategy.

Before selecting from the CDI hubs available, an organization should evaluate the maturity of its CDI within the organization, and its current and future customer data requirements and architectural requirements. Organizations with immature CDI strategies, or those lacking CDI experience, should consider Siperian because of the vendor's expertise in and commitment to helping organizations align their CDI initiatives with organizational processes. Additionally, organizations facing rapidly evolving customer, business, or architectural environments and requirements should consider Siperian because of the compatibility and flexibility of the vendor's three CDI hub architectures. Lastly, organizations in the health and life sciences industry should consider Siperian because of the vendor's vertical expertise in this area.

About the Author

Lyndsay Wise is a research analyst for business intelligence (BI) and performance management. She has over seven years of IT experience in business systems analysis, software selection, and implementation of enterprise applications, globally. Wise has been featured in numerous publications covering topics such as BI, data integration, enterprise performance management (EPM), and customer data integration. In addition, she has written a number of articles covering major vendors in the BI industry. Wise can be reached here.

 
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