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Customer data integration (CDI) or, more broadly, customer-centric master data management (MDM) solutions are gaining significant momentum, largely because of their ability to help organizations achieve critical cross-functional business imperatives to bolster customer profitability, reduce operational costs, and adhere to regulatory compliance. Companies have come to realize they can’t achieve these cross-functional business imperatives without adopting customer-centricity throughout their business processes.

However, many IT departments are finding it difficult to persuade business to take the MDM plunge. Often they don’t know how to get started to build a compelling business case – or their choice of architecture limits the return on investment making it difficult to deliver on the business case.

Chasing the Pot of Gold

Some companies choose to build a business case for a grandiose end state: an operational customer hub with a single, comprehensive MDM platform capable of supporting both analytical and operational processes in real-time. There is nothing wrong with this vision or its business potential. The problem is IT often selects a “big” architecture for this big vision: a persistent transaction hub with a fixed data model requiring significant custom programming and up to four years to implement (an investment akin to a large ERP implementation). Therefore, this big-bang integration makes it difficult to prove the value of business investment to users along the way.

For this approach to be feasible, the associated business case is only justified if you are thinking of replacing your company’s entire IT infrastructure in the near term. As a result, this approach can be afforded only by a select few companies and is offered usually by mega vendors like IBM who promise a comprehensive MDM platform. In reality, this architecture is delivered on a patchwork of platforms and tools and lacks integration.

Quick Hit and Then What?

The other approach is to generate a business case for a single business function, say, marketing, through fast-to-deploy “registry” style architecture. Unlike the big bang implementation, this is a valid business approach and is easier to sell to senior management. However, the problem is this architecture may not be adequate to support the long-term economic case for a customer-centric MDM platform across the enterprise – and may result in yet another customer data silo.


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