Magazine Article | May 1, 2001

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

You might have the latest and greatest CRM application, but fueling the application with poor quality data could lead to very big problems.

Integrated Solutions, May 2001

All the high-priced applications that businesses implement are really worthless without quality data. After all, data is the fuel that drives every application. It is not dissimilar to owning a Porsche Boxster and never putting gas in the tank. The roadster certainly costs plenty of money and it looks very nice in the garage. Without fuel, however, it is nothing more than a $60,000 paperweight.

Simply put, applications cannot function without data. But, fueling applications with low-quality data only results in poor overall performance for the entire enterprise. Thus, the goal for IT departments is to supply high-octane fuel in the form of clean and pure data. Meeting this goal becomes increasingly important as data from multiple databases are used across different applications. For instance, data about Customer A in the SFA (sales force automation) system database should be identical to data about Customer A in the CRM (customer relationship management) database. Frequently, this is not the case.

High-Quality Data Makes CRM Better
The magazine publishing industry can be used to provide a quick glimpse into the problems caused by poor quality. Over the course of several interactions with a reader, the publishing company has gathered pertinent data about the reader for its database. However, these interactions have also resulted in corrupted data finding its way into the circulation database. For instance, our fictional reader's name is James Smith. Through multiple contacts with James Smith, the publishing company now has two database records. The first is for James Smith. The second is for Jim Smith. Every month, Mr. Smith receives two copies of the same magazine. And, every month, the publishing company incurs the printing and mailing charges for this extra magazine. The publishing company is also unaware of how many Mr. Smiths are in its database and receiving multiple copies of the same magazine. This corrupted data results in a frustrated reader and additional expenses for the publishing company.

"There are software tools that allow businesses to remove inconsistencies from data, consolidate items, and filter out duplicate data," states Tony Fisher, president of DataFlux (Cary, NC). "Once a company has a consistent set of data, it can start to integrate and join that data across different applications. Data from CRM and SFA and campaign management systems all needs to be consistent. If it's not, then a company is not going to realize the full ROI (return on investment) of these systems."

CRM systems, because of their popularity and their shortcomings, are prime candidates for data quality tools. With so many different people entering data into CRM systems and so many different customer interactions, it is easy for information to become outdated or duplicated. Another common problem is entering product information into a database incorrectly. One employee may enter "Rd Pen" and another might enter "Red Pen." These inconsistencies make data mining a very difficult task and result in less accurate analysis.

According to Fisher, paraphrasing the BASF catchphrase might best sum up the goal of companies in the data quality and management space that work with CRM solution. "We don't make CRM, we CRM better," quips Fisher.

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