‘CRM is a Destination for Mission-Critical Customer Data, but it’s also a Source’ - an Exclusive Interview with Jill Dyche
Editor’s note: In our technological age, the amount of data is increasingly growing, and CRM industry is designing the new approaches and strategies for its successful management. So, today we offer you an interview with Jill Dyche, a strategist, industry critic, and client’s advisor, who gives the unique and expert view on CRM and data administration in general. She is a partner and co-founder at Baseline Consulting, book author and speaker that uncovers the strategy of data integration and aligning of CRM technology in business performance.
Jill shares with us her first-hand experience with CRM and revealed the most common challenges of data management and gives pieces of advice for effective implementations of strategies. So, let’s read this interview and look on CRM software from another angle.
1. Jill, you are an extraordinary person with various interests and significant experience across data, analytics, and business domains. Would you mind telling us about the tipping points of your career route?
There have been three milestones in my career. The first one was joining Teradata. At the time they were a small startup. I was employee 112. I got stock options, but more importantly I got a series of lessons on how large companies were using data strategically, long before the big data trend.
The second milestone was deciding to live and work in Europe. I spoke French, and had an opportunity to go and work for SNCF, the French national railroad. We built a passenger data warehouse there that was at the time Europe’s largest data warehouse. I also worked in London and Sydney. If every American lived abroad for a year, the world would be a different place.
The third milestone was selling my company, Baseline Consulting, to SAS. We’d been doing management consulting in the areas of analytics strategy and data integration, two disciplines that SAS was also embracing at the time. The two companies have leveraged each other’s strengths. It was a good decision on both sides.
2. CRM became a breakthrough in the building relationships with customers, and its capabilities are still evolving. In your opinion, how do CRM environments accomplish data integration?
I wrote about this in my book, The CRM Handbook (Addison Wesley, 2000), and it’s still true all these years later: CRM solutions can definitely be integration platforms, since they tend to be systems of record for customer data. But customer data often needs to be integrated with other data, like product data, pricing data, order history, etc. There are solutions out there that are designed to bring that heterogeneous data together that often work better and are more cost-effective that CRM software. CRM is a destination for mission-critical customer data, but it’s also a source.
3. You have been working with data strategy for many years. So, tell us, Jill, about your clients? What are the most common issues they face? Are there any universal methods of customer data management?
The biggest issue by far is knowing where to start. Finding, accessing, integrating, and deploying information—not to mention putting policies in place—is hard work. And it’s a set of processes that requires discrete skill sets. Executives often underestimate the need for specialized tools and skills.
The other issue we’re seeing is the urgency of the new digital era. Every company wants to “go digital” but few executives can articulate their digital roadmaps. This is the conversation I’m having most frequently with C-level executives both in the business units and in IT, namely: “What does digital look like for us?”
4. Jill, you’ve taught seminars and workshops both commercially and in academia, so maybe you have a short-list of books or other sources that give the necessary knowledge about working with big data. Could you share it with our blog readers?
Well, my new book, The New IT: How Technology Leaders are Enabling Business Strategy in the Digital Age (McGraw-Hill, 2015) puts data squarely in the middle of strategy, which is where it should be. Leaders need to recognize big data’s role in business strategy, and why many strategic initiatives will fail if data is ignored. It’s also a differentiator for IT leaders who might be looking for new ways to add value.
Leaders need to articulate what they want from so-called “social listening.” Do they want to increase response rates for marketing campaigns? Improve customer service and predict service “hot spots” through text analytics? Or do they simply want to broaden their brand awareness? By establishing specific goals for social media, companies can exploit it for their benefit.
6. CRM platforms have already entered the world of data management and analytics. Jill, what further improvements will CRM technology need to make to facilitate the new world of digital?
It’s tempting to want a single, centralized platform to do everything. But that’s also unrealistic. My advice to CRM vendors is to make sure their platforms are open and that their data is accessible. The value of customer data is not only in how it’s used but in the extent to which it’s shared as an asset across organizational silos. The companies that are poised for success in the digital realm are those that are already treating data as a strategic asset.
We want to thank Jill for her time and detailed answers. We are sure that her unparalleled view on data management and CRM industry will help our readers to enlarge their knowledge and understanding of the importance IT alignment with the business.
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