Choosing a CRM is easier than choosing a TV…..

or maybe it should follow just the same set of thought processes. It certainly should not be overly onerous. This blog suggests why….

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I blame it on “Game Of Thrones”. If it wasn’t for the fervour created in our household by the imminent arrival of the latest instalment of the annoyingly addictive GoT, I may not have found myself in the HiFi store in the first place. I mean, we do have a “spare” TV and it’s not as if we watch a lot of TV. But she who must be obeyed (my wife, not the Mother of Dragons) insisted on us having to replace the TV in time for Jon Snows latest escapades.

So there I was in JB Hifi surrounded by wall upon wall of TV’s showing the same identical Disney movie, hearing the same soundtrack in a barrage of echoes, thinking this “should” be easy. I mean, we just need a TV. I have helped procure and, turning gamekeeper into poacher, sell complex enterprise CRM systems. These systems can cost thousands, if not millions of dollars in terms of software, services and support. It can take months to go through an evaluation and procurement exercise so surely buying a TV cannot be that hard, can it?

However, very soon I was being pummelled by an enthusiastic young “Audio Specialist” asking seemingly stupid questions such as “What do you use your TV for?”. I felt like saying “doing the washing up” but before I had chance, he bombarded me with a plethora of use cases “downloading films, watching YouTube, gaming etc”. Whilst I was scratching my head thinking, he was telling me about features such as HD, UHD, SUHD in fact any other acronym with HD would have seen me thinking he being sarcastic. There is 3D, Curved, Super size (more like a cinema screen), 4Hz and the mesmerising list goes on. The result was that I got to thinking about how people choose a CRM and that perhaps it can get over complicated in a similar way.

First and foremost, there is a budget for everything. I did not want to spend $7000 on a TV so the one that made an IMAX theatre look conservative was never going to be an option.

Secondly, there was my needs. What did I need it for? All CRM’s do the basics but the nuances come in whether you are looking for a Sales, Service or Marketing oriented system. Of course, you will need a decent set of functional and technical (non functional) requirements but to me it is pointless saying that a CRM must be able to add an email address to a Contact. That’s like asking whether a TV has an on/off button.

Then there was the “look” to consider. Believe it or not, the TV’s were not all identical! Similarly, the look and feel of a CRM must be intuitive and user friendly. This “User Experience” has become an increasingly important factor in choosing CRM software due to the lowering of training costs and the need for users to adopt the system, which is far more likely if they find it easy to use.

Once I had gone through this thought process, I had quickly narrowed down my choice to two TV’s. Now to seal the deal, I needed to differentiate based on things like Warranty, Installation and Availability. These will also come into play when selecting a CRM Implementation partner, although availability in IT terms means something different than “is it in stock”. Focus on a partner with proven expertise in the selected technology. You would not take a Mercedes to a Ford garage would you?

So when I got to thinking about it, I wondered whether sometimes people over complicate the buying process. Organisations can “try before they buy” with “Proof Of Concept” and Pilot implementations commonplace. In today’s Agile world, projects often commence on the basis that the end destination is not clearly defined, reserving the right to change direction and innovate as the project evolves.

Choosing a CRM should be pretty simple. Be clear about what your desired outcomes and user expectations are, what your budget is (don’t forget, its all about the TCO- Total Cost of Ownership) whilst considering the broader picture (refer to my previous article suggesting that the choice of CRM is not the single biggest success factor).

Although I have always been technology agnostic, I have recently become very excited by the development of Microsofts Dynamics CRM. It has evolved immeasurably over the last few years and the latest release, Dynamics365 is very good indeed. It will not be for every organisation just as my choice of a TV will not be the brand that you may have chosen. However, I do believe that Dynamics should be on most organisations shortlist not just because of the breadth of capability but simply because it just works with all of the other Microsoft software seamlessly. It is that ease of use that makes it a formidable solution and why, these days, I now work for an organisation that specialises in Dynamics365.

Why I have changed my view on CRM technology

For years, I have been preaching to anyone that will listen that the strategy must come before the software. People + Processes + Technology. I have used examples such as buying a car to explain my argument.

Most people would not go out and buy the car that looks best. They would first of all decide what they need a car for. They might then decide on a few criteria to narrow the search depending upon their own needs. safety, Speed, Economy, Luggage capacity, Auto, Price etc. Once this “strategy” had been reached, the search for a car could begin.

I have always believed that CRM software should underpin the business strategy and facilitate providing benefits to the organisation and its clients. However, maybe I was wrong?

Technology is now at a stage where it is providing features and capabilities that can INFORM a Strategy. In other words, a business strategy could be built around a CRM tool. Having seen some of the latest tools and capabilities from the likes of Salesforce, Sugar, Oracle, Kana etc, I am increasingly convinced that for many organisations thinking about CRM, the software could give them market leading strategies and game changing capability. There are capabilities that many companies would not have thought of which might create huge value. In the past, industry processes led the design for software. Now it seems that software design is opening new doors for business processes. Just look at how Social Media has “forced” organisations to change its internal and external processes. Does your organisation have a Social Media strategy? If so, I bet it has only been developed in the last two years.

I can imagine young or smaller enterprises could benefit from this wave of new capability. App Exchanges and Open Source platforms are driving a wealth of rich, new CRM capability that is beyond the imagination of most companies.

With immature processes and potentially tight budgets, a software led strategy can help enforce new processes (that could be leading practice for that industry) and can help cement in customer centric processes.

However, I still believe that larger organisations will need to develop strategies first and then find software that can support and extend those strategies. It will be interesting to see how the SaaS model affects uniformity and adherence to standardised processes and whether we do start to see software led customer centric transformations.

I would be very keen to hear any thoughts or experiences on this topic.

The Bermuda Triangle of CRM

Many Projects and Programs disappear into the Bermuda Triangle, never to be seen or heard of again. By understanding the relationship between Time, Cost and Quality, you can set a course through the triangle and avoid making fatal compromises.

Are you brave enough to enter The Bermuda Triangle?

The journey towards Customer Centricity can be like a Roller Coaster ride. Sure there are ups and downs but consider the dilemma most of us go through before getting on the ride:

It is scary, I’m afraid.

Look at that queue. I just haven’t got the time to wait.

It is expensive and surely not worth it.

It is unsafe. I have heard of accidents.

However, all of the while there is this niggling urge to do it despite these concerns and fears. You just know that your esteem will rise for having overcome your fears….and excuses!

Facing up to any transformation, whether it is a Customer Experience Transformation or a change to your working life, it can be just as daunting and the same fears can rise to the surface. However, these fears are very real and to increase your chances of success, I believe it is necessary to plot a course through these concerns, which I refer to as the Bermuda Triangle, where many Projects and Programs disappear never to be seen again.

The Bermuda Triangle is located between three waypoints that each have a major bearing on any type of project. The interesting thing is that you can only be in one place at any one time and you will therefore compromise on the other two. Therefore determining which waypoint is of primary consideration on your initiative will help plot a course and set expectations appropriately.

Lets consider each in turn.

Time

You are in a hurry and need the transformation to be completed within this Financial Year. To achieve that outcome, Cost and Quality are likely to suffer. You will probably need more people in order to complete tasks earlier and to take shortcuts that probably compromise quality. Conversely, if time is in plentiful supply then you could compromise on cost (spend more) to give you high quality or compromise on quality to help lower costs and obtain quicker results.

A great example is the building of the Segrada Familia.

Clearly Cost and Quality were impacted hugely because it was determined to take as long as it takes. It is a very costly and high quality building. Hopefully your project will not take as long!

Cost

How much is your budget and are you willing to compromise either time or quality to get the outcome you are seeking within your budget? If cost is the biggest consideration, you may have to consider lower quality (ever heard the “pay peanuts, get monkeys” expression?) and/or take longer. The GFC has left us with many examples of unfinished projects that simply ran out of cash. Perhaps it is better to compromise on cost by setting an affordable budget which will deliver something, albeit at a lesser quality than one might have hoped.

Quality

If you want High Quality, it will typically come at a price (cost) and take longer (time) but as at the Segrada Familia, that may not be an issue. I am amazed at how often I have met business leaders who say Quality is THE most important aspect yet they are unprepared to find extra money or time to enable quality outcomes. By compromising on Quality, you might be able to get a quicker or less expensive outcome.

That is why this conundrum is the Bermuda Triangle of Projects. Without a clear understanding and agreed direction amongst Business Owners and Project Sponsors within the Cost, Time and Quality dilemma, the project will struggle from the first point at which a decision needs to be made regarding a variation of any nature.

Talk about each of these considerations and agree where your project sits within the triangle. This then determines the SCOPE of your initiative which delivers against these three considerations. Be wary of “scope creep” where additional requirements get added in to the scope. Once more, this variation will cause on impact on Time and Cost if the additional scope is agreed to, Quality if the additional scope is rejected.

This dilemma is not specific to CRM but I thought I’d share it as it is pure “common sense” and as my Dad always told me “common sense ain’t too common”. I hope this helps in some small way.

Buying a CRM system? Top 10 tips

Buying a CRM system? These tpis from an Independant CRM Specialist can give you food for thought before you start the procurement process. As a Vendor and Purchaser of CRM, Nick provides some tips based on years of experience to help mitigate risk, reduce cost and make a quality decision.

Over the years, I have been both a Vendor and Purchaser of CRM systems. I have always maintained that choosing the right CRM system is not one of the critical success factors for an Organisation wishing to gain benefits from a CRM initiative. It is , however, the subject of many long hours and a lot of the program costs.
It is also highly emotive as many stakeholders will wish to have a say and influence the eventual procurement decision.
However, a lot of time and money can be saved by establishing some ground rules and a strategy up front. Without wishing to patronise Procurement Specialists, I argue that by considering a few simple tips, a decision can be reached more quickly, cost effectively and lead to better outcomes.
Therefore, this blog highlights a few suggestions aimed at helping Organisations wishing to buy or upgrade their existing systems. These tips are based on experience, not theory and is certainly not an exhaustive list. Neither is the list in any particular order of priority!

Tip #1. Do not buy “generic” requirements

Many Organisations put together a RFP (Request For Proposal) by compiling or acquiring an exhaustive list of generic features or functionality and then score vendor responses against “weighted” values such as Highly Desirable, Desirable and Very Highly Desirable, even Mandatory. The challenge of this approach is that business users are often lulled into stating system attributes or features that may bear little or no difference to their future “To Be” process. It becomes more of a “wish list”, rather like a child compiling a list for Santa having visited the Toy Shop. A better approach is to take the requirements to a higher level and then determine which group of functions is likely to be important for the future. Lists of generic “functionality” or requirements can be bought on the Internet. These lists are very thorough and detailed, often drilling down to a level where the relevance of each function may not be understood. Keep it simple and just use the groupings or categories to give vendors a good idea of what you are looking for. Another reason for doing this is to be fair to the vendors who could have overly high opportunity costs to fully respond to 2648 questions (as I saw recently) where the RFP had gone to 15 vendors. In that example, I decided that the effort to respond was not worth the small chance and we chose not to respond. The sad thing is that we might have had the best solution.

Tip #2. Apply weightings carefully
Getting the weightings right to score the responses and presentations is critical.
Start at the highest level: What weightings should be applied to different aspects of the Procurement? Price, Functional Fit, Non Functional Requirements etc? Often the Business users will wish for a higher percentage on Functionality, I.T will push for Non Functional with Finance and Procurement keen on Price or Value For Money. I cannot say how you should do it but I will stress that the overall weightings will greatly affect the decision you eventually reach. The weightings are then cascaded down through to the requirements and open questions. My suggestion is to keep in mind that what the system does is not the main success factor. Compromises may have to be made in order to get, for example, broader integration versus deeper functionality. The irony is that the impact of the weighting decisions (often made before issuing the RFP) is not really understood until you start the short listing process. That is the time when earlier weighting decisions may be regretted. Spend a little longer to get this right and the quality of the final decision may be much better.

Tip #3. It’s not the software, it’s the process
We have all heard of examples where the “software was poor” yet subsequently changed (at great expense) for something just as bad. The irony is that the same “poor”software is being used elsewhere and delivering value. Every software vendor has customer reference sites and customer horror stories. The difference is therefore not the software. It is the people and the processes. I cannot stress enough but to become truly customer centric, you must regard CRM as a transformational journey and ensure that people are willing and able to change to adapt to the new world enabled by the software change. Similarly, the software must enable great processes that deliver internal and external benefits. We have all experienced ringing a Call Centre to be routed around the organisation before finally reaching the right person. It may be great technology employed but you cannot hide a bad process. Implementing cRM with poor processes is like putting lipstick on a pig.

Therefore when buying CRM software, make sure the business representatives are change agents who are not bound by what they have always done. Similarly, stretch the vendors by testing their industry understanding to propose new processes and practices, rather than just reimplement what you do today.

Tip #4. The Integrator and the Integration
So you are buying new software. Who will implement it?

The Vendor? A Systems Integrator? A Shared Service provider? Maybe your own I.T department?

The answer to this question should drive part of the assessment. What skills are required to administer the system? How will Knowledge Transfer be managed and assured? What training is available, where and how often? Again, there is not a prescribed answer to this but the overall strategy is hugely influenced by the direction your Organisation chooses to take. The implementation is (in my opinion) more important than the software being deployed. Make sure the implementation is considered aspart of the decision with at least the same importance as the choice of software.

Tip #5. The role of I.T and alignment to architectural direction
Your IT department should be the facilitators to the process by providing an Organisational strategy and Architectural direction to which the solution should comply and conform. Decisions such as Cloud, Integration, Database and other Enterprise considerations should be informed by I.T and help the procurement. This direction should be reflected in both the weightings and evaluation team composition. However, be wary of the situation where IT chooses a solution on behalf of business users. In CRM, the importance of adoption and acceptance by the end users is probably more acute than in many other types of software selection. The trade off between IT and the Business is often as necessary as it is emotive but without trade off, time and costs escalate and the “losing party” often starts to undermine the chances of future success.

Tip#6. Composition of Evaluation team
The size of the Evaluation team will vary by Organisation but I tend to find that the larger the Organisation, the more likely it is to have an unnecessarily large evaluation team. It goes without saying that the larger the team, the higher the cost and the slower the process. Does it lead to better decision making? I don’t think so because the internal politics are then brought into the Evaluation team. Surely it is more important to create a lean and empowered team who can represent the interests of multiple departments without feeling the need to follow a particular political directive? This may sound like a Utopian state but it should be the objective of the overall Owner to create the optimal team to represent the best interests of the Organisation (not department). One other consideration is to empower a panel representative of differing levels of seniority. It is often a mistake for Managers to buy a system for their staff to use and vice versa. Ensure staff from the most junior to the most senior are represented on the assessment panel and decision making.

Tip#7. The value of the business scenario
If you want to really test (and differentiate) your shortlisted vendors, develop some typical business scenario’s that require a product demonstration requiring flexibility and creativity. Do not ask for what you do today. Imagine a future state and a desirable outcome. For example, imagine you are a traditional retailer. Create a scenario asking the vendor to demonstrate how their solution could utilize new channels and media to identify and acquire new customers whilst measuring the impact and effectiveness of each channel? That scenario is not prescriptive or specific. It allows the vendor to demonstrate potential value of their solution whilst offering you a glimpse into their understanding of your business and industry. A good vendor will have researched your needs, your weaknesses and gained a good idea into the potential opportunities their software might provide you. Give them a scenario whereby this can be demonstrated. In saying that the scenarios should not be too prescriptive, it must obviously cover your requirements as highlighted by the categories described in Tip#1.

Tip#8. Mandatory or not
If you make a requirement “Mandatory”, it has the potential to eliminate solutions that may have been a strong fit otherwise. Therefore think very carefully about what should be mandatory and use it as an initial screening process. For example, imagine you are an international business and believe that your solution must be multilingual. If you make “Multilingual” a  Mandatory requirement, you will eliminate a large number of solutions that may currently only have one or two languages. Is that requirement truly a “Showstopper” or is it just simply very highly desirable? By making it a “Very Highly Desirable” requirement, you can assess these solutions without them being rejected as non compliant. Usually, the first pass of assessments eliminates vendors who are non compliant. Therefore only make requirements that you simply cannot operate without the only ones that are mandatory. This tip may not sit well with many but, in my experience, it is easier to seek compromises than it is to live with the implications of the wrong choice.

Tip#9. The after sale strategy
One of the often hidden and unforeseen aspects of procurement surrounds the strategy once the solution has been deployed.

Who will provide Support? Is it required 24/7? What is the Upgrade strategy and frequency? What is the future product roadmap and vision?
Often Evaluation Teams can be caught up in what the solution can do today rather than thinking about the future state. One can never predict the future but mitigation should be considered for different scenarios and be managed within the procurement process. As a former General Manager responsible for the CRM Product of a Software vendor, I was often asked to make commitments to future development but was rarely asked to commit to this new functionality contractually. Why not? I would have been happy to had I been asked but without the contractual need, the client has no assurance of that future capability which increases their future risk and exposure. Even if software companies cannot commit to future development, this could be used as a bargaining chip in negotiating price. There is a big difference between intention and committment, especially to Software providers!

Tip#10. Benefit realisation
How will you measure whether you made the right choice? It will be whether your business case was justified. Therefore a win/win scenario whereby your vendor helps develop and is incentivized to help you realise genuine benefits (and thereby justify your business case) is compelling. These benefits must be quantifiable and the inter dependencies (people, process etc) understood and managed. However, wouldn’t it be nice to select a vendor that is motivated to help you realise benefits rather than simply deploying software for a set price?

This may again sound utopian but it is the way things are moving in our customer centric universe and is worthy of consideration.

 

Of course, these tips are only suggestions and you may get great outcomes even if you ignore them. However, I do believe that these can only add value to you and hope that they do help in some small way. Good luck!

Single View versus the 360′ view

This is a short post as I’m often asked what the difference is between the two views.
A single view is about an aggregation of data designed to ensure that many internal systems are kept in alignment. The benefit to the customer being that they only need maintain their customer details with the organization once. Years ago, I had arranged to visit a CRM vendor to discuss CRM partnerships. I rang the Alliance Manager and made an appointment with her. The day before the meeting, I thought I should research their offering so I went onto their website. I had to register for an online demo. About 5 minutes into the demo, my phone rang.

” Hello, it’s Jason here from XYZ software Inc (for those about to Google this company, that is a made up name!)…I notice you have just logged on to our demo. Do you have any questions?”

I was not that impressed. I mean, it was just a Telesales guy trying to sell to me wasn’t it? He had my details from the registration form. I told him that I was just researching their latest release.

“Oh, I guess that’s in preparation for your meeting with Sandra tomorrow?”

I was blown away. That was my first experience of a Single View and it had me at Single.
A 360 degree view is an aggregation of data to provide an all round view of that customers interactions and transactions with your organization. It is supported by a Single View but the difference is that it enables great potential for upwelling, cross selling and providing superior customer service. A good example is that of a citizen contacting their local council. They may wish to check up on their rates bill, report a pothole and see what has happened to their planning application. This information may reside in three different systems but the citizen doesn’t care. He sees it as “dealing with my Council” and expects the answer to his enquiries at your fingertips. Technically, there are several ways to achieve this view but there must be an identifier common to all systems to ensure that the information being accessed really does relate to that particular citizen.
There is no doubt that both of these concepts are closely related and are not always easy to achieve. Poor data quality has scuppered many well intended attempts to create these views. Nevertheless, the value can be enormous and well worth doing properly.

What is CRM? My point of view…..

My view on the Million Dollar question. I argue that it is not one thing in particular. It is the whole of all of those things.

I am often asked and have often read about this question. I felt it about time to come up with my perspective.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is a term coined by the Software Industry in the mid-late 1990’s. Since then, there have been attempts to modify the term, usually to introduce a new variety of software. There has been eCRM, CIM, Citizen Relationship Management and CRM 2.0 (of course!) to name but a few. However, CRM has stuck and many of those now becoming aware of this previously unexplored part of the universe are guilty of equating CRM to a tool. I find that view very limiting and narrow. Usually it comes from one’s own perspective. For example, if you are a Salesperson and use CRM software to manage your sales opportunities, customers, leads and forecasts then CRM is a Sales tool in that context.

Let me first of all explain how I view organisational decision making. This applies to any organisation from the largest multinational to the “one man band”. Everyone has a slightly different take on this and there are other steps I have omitted e.g Values that are also important but have less impact upon CRM than some of the other steps.

GOAL – VISION – OBJECTIVE – STRATEGY – ACTIVITY – TASK

Everything starts with a motive. What is your reason for existing and doing what you do? For many private organisations, the goal could be to maximise shareholder wealth. For the one man band, it could be to not have to work for another person. Irrespective, it all starts with an overarching goal.

Therefore the next step is the vision. Where do you want to be to realise that goal? A corporate vision is a hugely important statement and is often confused with Mission Statements. To me, a Vision is inspirational, stretching, future. A Mission Statement should define what the organisation will be (note: not ‘do’) to deliver that vision.

From the Vision, we need corporate objectives. These objectives should be S.M.A.R.T.

Next, we need a Strategy. A strategy tells us what we need to do to reach these objectives.

The Strategy will then break down into a series of actions and sub-tasks that should enable realisation of the strategy.

So where does CRM fit in? To many people, CRM is a class of software that can help organisations better manage their customer relationships. This is correct. However, to me it is like saying that Space Exploration is all about Rockets. Sure, you need a rocket but what about Astronauts, Scientists, Engineers? What about the leveraging of knowledge? What about the planning? Is that not equally important?

My definition of CRM uses the space analogy to suggest that CRM is the entire universe containing many galaxies. I will start my explanation with a look at the decision making hierarchy many organisations use:

“CRM” should start at the vision stage. What importance does an organisation put upon the type, nature and interaction with its customers? To some organisations, it isn’t important. They focus on price competitiveness or other competitive differentiators that allow them to be successful even with mediocre customer satisfaction. Just look at your mobile phone provider for evidence of that. How many of those providers are truly customer focussed or offer outstanding customer service?

Assuming the Customer is central to an organisational vision e.g “Our Customers loyalty to our products and services will be the envy of all of our competitors”, then we now need to come up with a way of realising that. The objective will help define timeframes, measurements etc but will not tell us HOW. For that, a CRM Strategy is required. What do we need to do to achieve the objective to help realise our vision? It usually starts with a blunt appraisal of where you are today: (“How do you know where you are heading if you don’t know where you are?”)

The Strategy should define a series of initiatives that impact upon the entire organisation. It might affect the Corporate Culture, Organisational Design, R&D, Sales Strategies etc. Nevertheless, the CRM Strategy will be the focal point for all subsequent tasks and activities that are required to help realise the vision. It is likely the CRM Strategy will cut across functions which leads to another key question: Who is accountable for CRM. I will address that in a subsequent post.

The activities required to reach the objective can take many forms.

  • One of these activities might be to analyse and redesign the Customer experience.
  • Another may be to develop systems and tools to better capture, understand and monitor inbound and outbound customer facing initiatives. In other words, CRM Technology.
  • Another might be to train the workforce on customer communications and customer service.
  • Another might be to change the hiring strategy to evaluate potential recruits against a templated “customer focus” criteria.

There are many, many more things that could be done but nearly all activities will impact upon and/or involve People, Process and Technology.

Therefore CRM to me is the entire universe of customer orientation. This universe contains many galaxies of activities which contains many solar systems of tasks.

Customer Centricity is a journey through the universe without a real destination. Why? Because the goal (destination) keeps changing. Customers have different expectations and needs today than even a year ago. Even as recently as five years ago, how many organisations had a Digital Marketing or Social Media Strategy?

As the world evolves, so must our vision and enabling strategies to ensure that if customers are important to our overall vision, then we never lose sight of the need to evolve in alignment to the changing world.

Single View Of The Customer- Top 10 Implementation Considerations

The purpose of this article is to share some insights for organisations embarking (or considering embarking) upon the creation of a “Single View” of the Customer within their organisation. Of course, there is a lot of detail surrounding the more technical aspects that could be explored but I would rather focus upon some of the more “business focussed” aspects that the organisation can consider. These considerations will drive the overall implementation and provide specialist Analysts and Modellers with a direction upon which the model should be based.

The overarching Data Management Strategy will determine a number of Project considerations. These will include the following Strategies and Requirements:

Data Stewardship, Governance, Standards, Bible, “Sources Of Truth”, Cleansing, Deduplication, Conversion, Migration and the Data Model. These are all subjects in themselves that any Project will need to consider.

The following list of Top 10 implementation considerations is more for Business People to consider as input to the aforementioned Project Strategies. The discussions will aid Organisational maturity in this area and can provide informed perspectives in tackling, say, the Data Stewardship model.

1. What is a Customer?

What is your organisations definition of a Customer? It could be an Organisation and/or an individual Person or Team. A “Party” is a way of representing an Entity that could be an Organisation or Person. It could be classified as a Customer amongst other types. Do you sell directly and/or indirectly? What about Suppliers, Partners, Resellers, Influencers? Would you want to consider these as types of customers or a type of Party? Perhaps a Customer could also be a Supplier and/or Partner. It is worth spending time mapping these different entities to work out who is a genuine customer and how they can be represented in your data model. This can be a significant piece of work in terms of time and also relevance.

2. Which Channels do you and will you interact across?

This is of primary concern to ensure that the same customer is appropriately represented within each channel. For example, if Customer Y was to email your organisation about a product bought from the Contact Centre, would you be easily able to identify that customer? With new interaction opportunities arising through Social Media, the ways in which your organisation interacts now and in the future should be discussed and agreed. Remember: It is better to offer consistency across all channels rather than great service in one and poor service in others.

3. What is the Customer’s perspective?

Put yourself in your Customers shoes, or even better, ask them directly. If a Customer interacts with your organisation, what do they expect you to know about them? If they interacted with you via their own Customer Portal, what would they expect to be able to see, do and modify? This will give you a greater understanding of the breadth of visibility required to be developed. By breadth, I am referring to the 360 degree view, e.g Sales Orders, Invoices, Interactions, Service Requests etc. The internal perspective (that of various employees interacting with customers) will be different from the external perspective (customers interacting with your organisation), but different “views” of the same Customer, using the same customer data, can be developed to address both sets of needs. 

4. What rules and legislation affect customer data in your geography?

Each country has its own unique sets of rules and policies regarding Customer data. Before developing a “View Of The Customer”, learn about the one’s that might impact upon design including Privacy Acts, Freedom Of Information and data retention. Some may be regulatory and enforceable. Others may be best practice. Others may be guidance. Whatever you do, make sure you are fully aware of the Information Management requirements for treatment of Customer Data.

5. Who, What, Why and When?

Who in your Organisation can view/edit what information at what times and for what purpose? In answering this question, it is possible to start building up user profiles to determine rules surrounding accessibility. For example, financial data (e.g Billing information) is normally “owned” by Finance yet Sales may need to see that data whilst Marketing might not need see it at all.

6. What relationships should be tracked?

Many organisations can obtain deeper insight and subsequent value from building a “network” of relationships between customers. These relationships are reciprocal. For Example, A is a Supplier to B. B is a Customer of A. John is the Father of Mary. Mary is the Daughter of John. By determining which relationships to track and identifying the appropriate relationship types e.g “Supplier To”, higher value sales, increased marketing effectiveness and more intimate relationships can be developed. However, please ensure these relationships are developed with the 4th point (above) in mind.

7. How do you validate and authenticate?

How do you know a Customer is who they say they are and do you care? Certain interactions may require no validation at all whilst others may require validation and authentication. Whatever you do, it is always good practice to make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with you. It can be very frustrating for customers to have to create an account, have the account validated and then authenticated prior to buying a $2 item from your webstore, especially if competitors are able to offer the same products and services without the need to validate. There is value to an organisation in encouraging customers to be validated but there should be a reciprocal benefit to the customer. Make it worh their while! Offer free P&P, access to specific information or loyalty points. Just make it worth their while.

8. Who can make updates and what rules apply?

A “Single View” of the customer often utilises “Master Data Management (MDM)” principles to determine the way the view is composed. Often, the Customer Data will be “mastered” in a CRM or within a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) environment. It will be “fed” with data from other systems and this information will be consolidated and shared between the relevant systems. Rules need to be created to determine what data can be shared, who can view that data, who can modify that data and who is accountable for the integrity of that data. As an example, a Finance System might maintain a Customer Record containing Name, Phone Number, Billing Address, Bank account details and Payment Terms. The Finance department might “own” the Billing details Bank details and Payment terms. They might be happy to share the Billing address and Payment terms with Marketing and Procurement. The Sales team “owns” the  Name and Phone number and share this with all departments. They are the only people able to update those fields. This is very brief but is provided to give a context to the decisions needing to be made.

9. What are the customer roles going to be?

It is worth mapping the various ways in which a Customer interacts with your organisation. Each role defines a type of service that they are associated with. These services can be associated with addresses. For example, a customer exists in a Marketing database because they responded to an email campaign expressing interest in Solar Hot Water. The role could be “Solar User” and the address porovided could be of type “Home Address” and also “Solar” to indicate that this address might be associated with the provision of Solar Services. This can be a complex area but, initially, is worth business users determining what types of activities, related to your organisation, do customers perform?

10. The RASCI model applied to Customer Data

Who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Supporting and Informed about Customer Data? When building the single view, this model will be critical in planning, building and supporting the overall model. Different aspects of the Single View can be attributed to different people as discussed in Point 8 but there needs to be someone accountable and responsible for every single component. Without this, data quality is likely to be poor and will eventually negate the benefit that could be derived from a Single View. It is also important to determine rules for who should be informed when data changes, who can be consulted to ensure accuracy and how is data going to be supported to ensure consistency?

Of course, your organisation may not need to do all of these 10 things. They are provided to give “food for thought” and to ensure that the right questions and discussions are taking place before embarking on the journey. If anyone has any feedback or additional insights, I would welcome the discussion.