May 19th, 2009 by Jill Dyché, partner and cofounder, Baseline Consulting

[Jill Dyché, partner and cofounder at Baseline Consulting, filed the following dispatch from the road:]

I’ve just wrapped up my speaking tour with the MDM Forum, an eight-city seminar series sponsored by Informatica and Initiate Systems. At this past Thursday’s final event, in Dallas, I told the story of meeting Tom Siebel for the first time.

In 2001 I was in the throes of writing my second book, The CRM Handbook, and I decided to invite Siebel—who founded Siebel Systems, of course—to pen the book’s foreword. Tom and I were both regular speakers at several of the larger CRM conferences (though the rooms in which Tom spoke were considerably larger than mine). I thought I’d approach Tom at one of these events and ask him, in person, to write the book’s foreword.

Even though his entourage circled nervously as I approached, Tom was gracious and made sure I knew where to send my manuscript.

Six weeks later, I’d heard nothing.

[More after the break…]

I called Tom’s office — no call back. I persisted, and a few weeks later I got a call from a guy in the PR department at Siebel Systems.

“I have good news and bad news,” said the PR guy.

“What’s the good news?” I asked hopefully.

“The good news is that Tom really liked your manuscript. He thinks it’s going to be a really successful book.”

“The bad news?” I asked, as if I didn’t already know.

“The bad news is Tom can’t write the foreword. The reason is because your book assumes that a company will have many different systems processing customer data. And here at Siebel, we believe that data should be stored, owned, and processed by a single, centralized system.”

“But…” I stammered. “No company is going to just shut down all of the existing systems that process customer data! Even with Siebel! My gosh, you’ve got order-entry systems and billing systems and marketing databases and spreadsheets and…”

“Siebel Systems can assume all of that processing,” the PR guy said flatly.

“Seriously, no single system is going to do everything. Shoot, if I believed that, I’d have to rewrite the entire book!” I gave a little giggle to underscore the absurdity of that idea.

“Yes!” the PR guy replied brightly.

Needless to say, Tom didn’t write the foreword to my book. But from time to time I’d peek on and console myself that The CRM Handbook consistently out-ranked Taking Care of e-Business. I’m sure Tom wistfully recalls that missed opportunity from the wrap-around porch of his Montana ranch, watching sun set behind the low hills, ice tinkling in his highball glass.

The point here is: I was right. Companies that adopted CRM technologies kept right on using their order-entry systems, rewrote their proprietary billing systems, maintained their heterogeneous data marts, and flooded their Excel spreadsheets with even more data.

The result? Our customer data is now more siloed than it ever was, it doesn’t match, and the owners of the respective systems that process it don’t talk to each other much. The single version of the truth has eluded us. We’re still trying to sell customers products they already have. We’re waiving fees on unprofitable customers. We’re miscalculating customer lifetime value. We’re contacting people at the wrong addresses. And we can’t provide Wall Street with accurate customer counts.

Enter master data management (MDM) technologies. MDM hubs seek to let our heterogeneous systems keep working while serving as their authoritative reference system. The battle cry of “Single Version of the Truth!” is now being heard by business managers who recognize the revenue opportunities of sharing data across systems and business processes, enterprisewide, in a nondisruptive and consistent way.

Attendees of the MDM Forum seminars heard this message loud and clear, saw MDM and data governance solutions in action, and are returning to work armed with some new approaches to the vexing and costly problem of disparate, mismatched, and inaccurate customer data.

My third book takes that battle cry as part of its title — Customer Data Integration: Reaching a Single Version of the Truth. Just as the book addresses the implementation of customer master data and how it can help resuscitate moribund CRM programs (among other strategic initiatives), my MDM Forum presentation featured examples of some of the companies that have already succeeded in deploying it.

Hey, Tom — if you’re reading this, have your people…

Oh, never mind.

Jill Dyché is partner and cofounder of Baseline Consulting, responsible for key client work and industry analysis. Jill has written three books on the business value of information, including The CRM Handbook. She writes regularly at her blog Inside the Biz, one of the Baseline Blogs that reside on Baseline Consulting’s Web site, and she twitters under the handle @jilldyche.

[UPDATED, 5/20, 3.23pETEditors’ Note: We thought this 2002 CRM magazine interview with Tom Siebel might serve as a thematic complement to this blogpost.]

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Comment by Joya — — August 29, 2009 @ 5:41 am

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