Beyond True Positives in Deduplication

The most frequent data quality improvement process done around is deduplication of party master data.

A core functionality of many data quality tools is the capability to find duplicates in large datasets with names, addresses and other party identification data.

When evaluating the result of such a process we usually divide the result of found duplicates into:

  • False positives being automated match results that actually do not reflect  real world duplicates
  • True positives being  automated match results reflecting the same real world entity

The difficulties in reaching the above result aside, you should think the rest is easy. Take the true positives, merge into a golden record and purge the unneeded duplicate records in your database.

Well, I have seen so many well executed deduplication jobs ending just there, because there are a lot of reasons for not making the golden records.

Sure, at lot of duplicates “are bad” and should be eliminated.

But many duplicates “are good” and have actually been put into the databases for a good reason supporting different kind of business processes where one view is needed in one case and another view is needed in another case.

Many, many operational applications, including very popular ERP and CRM systems, do have inferior data models that are not able to reflect the complexity of the real world.

Only a handful of MDM (Master Data Management) solutions are able to do so, but even then the solutions aren’t easy as most enterprises have an IT landscape with all kinds of applications with other business relevant functionality that isn’t replaced by a MDM solution.

What I like to do when working with getting business value from true positives is to build a so called Hierarchical Single Source of Truth.

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Social MDM and Complex Sales

Social Master Data Management (Social MDM) is about linking the increasing trend of doing business via social media, using what we may call “systems of engagement”, with the traditional way of supporting business using what we call “systems of record”.

Doing social MDM is a natural consequence of adapting social CRM (Social Customer Relation Management). Many CRM solutions are supporting Business-to Business (B2B) activities helping with keeping track of what’s going on with a lot of contacts related to a business account within so called complex sales processes.

Traditional MDM in B2B environments has been much about a single view of the business account and the legal entity behind. As social CRM is much about the relations to the business contacts, the people side of business, we need a solid master data foundation behind the people being those contacts.

The same individual may in fact be an important influencer related to a range of business accounts being the legal entity with who you are aiming for a sales contract. You need a single view of that. So many sales contracts are based on a relation to a buyer moving from one business account to another. You need to be the winner in that game and the answer to that may very well be your ability to do better social MDM.

Social MDM adds a new external source of reference data to MDM solutions for B2B customer master data management. This new source is professional social network profiles where LinkedIn is the most known and used service around.

It is early days for social MDM solutions so it is quite exciting for me to work with designing the first kind of such solutions around the MDM edition of the instant Data Quality service.

Stay tuned for more news in this field on this blog in the times to come.

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Customer Management, Data Quality and MDM

Today I am visiting the Call Centre and Customer Management Expo 2012 in London and have a chance to learn about what’s going on in this area – and what happens to data quality and master data management.

Postcodes Anywhere

At the PostcodeAnywhere stand the talk is about data quality. PostcodeAnywhere has become a well known vendor of services for validating addresses in the United Kingdom based on the unique structure of the UK postal code and addressing system. I had a chat with Marketing Executive Ed Nash about the challenges of delivering similar services for all the other countries on the planet with their particular ways of addressing.

Phone Number Testing

Peter Muswell of ”ThePhone Number Testing Company” describes his company as the best kept secret in customer management. Indeed, I haven’t heard of this service before. The trick is a service for testing if a phone number is alive or not – notably without making any ghost calls. The service works in the UK. It works in some other countries and it doesn’t work in some other other countries. Just like most other data quality services.

Social Customer Service

The Salesforce.com stand is all about Social Customer Service. There is plenty of functionality offered for getting social with CRM (Customer Relationship Management). The tricky part, as confirmed by the Salesforce.com representative, is to manage customer master data embracing all the traditional data as addresses and phone numbers and the new keys to social data being social network profile identifiers. Sure, there will be a huge demand for Social Master Data Management (Social MDM).

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Staying in Doggerland

Currently I’m travelling a lot between my present home in London, United Kingdom and Copenhagen, Denmark where I have most of my family and where the iDQ headquarter is.

When flying between London and Copenhagen you pass the southern North Sea. In the old days (8,000 years ago) this area was a land occupied by human beings. This ancient land is known today as Doggerland.

Sometimes I feel like a citizen of Doggerland not really belonging in the United Kingdom or Denmark.

I still have some phone subscriptions in Denmark I use there and my family are using there.  The phone company seems to have a hard time getting a 360 degree customer view as I have two different spellings of my name and two different addresses as seen on the screen when I look up myself in the iDQ service:

Besides having a Customer Relationship Mess (CRM) the phone company has recently shifted their outsourcing partner (from CSC to TCS). This has caused a lot of additional mess, apparently also closing one of my subscriptions due to that they have failed to register my payments. They did however send a chaser they say, but to the oldest of the addresses where I don’t pick up mail anymore.

I called to settle the matter and asked if they could correct the address not in use anymore. They couldn’t. The operator did some kind of query into the citizen hub similar to what I can do on iDQ:

However the customer service guy’s screen just showed that I have no address in Denmark in the citizen hub (called CPR), so he couldn’t change the address.

Apparently the phone company have correctly picked up an accurate address in the citizen hub when I got the subscription but failed to update it (along with the other subscriptions) when I moved to another domestic address and now don’t have an adequate business rule when I’m registered at a foreign address.

So now I’m staying in Doggerland.

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Business Contact Reference Data

When working with selling data quality software tools and services I have often used external sources for business contact data and not at least when working with data matching and party master data management implementations in business-to-business (B2B) environments I have seen uploads of these data in CRM sources.

A typical external source for B2B contact data will look like this:

Some of the issues with such data are:

  • Some of the contact data names may be the same real world individual as told in the post Echoes in the Database
  • People change jobs all the time. The external lists will typically have entries verified some time ago and when you upload to your own databases, data will quickly become useless do to data decay.
  • When working with large companies in customer and other business partner roles you often won’t interact with the top level people, but people in lower levels not reflected in such external sources.

The rise of social networks has presented new opportunities for overcoming these challenges as examined in a post (written some years ago) called Who is working where doing what?

However, I haven’t seen so many attempts yet to automate and include working with social network profiles in business processes. Surely there are technical issues and not at least privacy considerations in doing so as discussed in the post Sharing Social Master Data.

Right now we have a discussion going on in the LinkedIn Social MDM group about examples of connecting social network profiles and master data management. Please add your experiences in the group here – and join if you aren’t already a member.

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Sharing Social Master Data

If a company runs a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system all employees are supposed to enter their interactions with customers and prospects including adding new accounts and contacts if it’s the first engagement.

With the rise of social networks first engagements are increasingly done in those networks. Furthermore new employees often bring old contacts from former employments with them thus utilizing an established relationship that probably is manifested in one or more already existing social network connections.

As explained in the post Social Master Data Management the term ”Social CRM” has been around for a while. We now see CRM solutions where the account and contact master data primarily is build on extracting those data from social networks.

I have just tried out such a solution called Nimble.

If you are more than a one-man-band company it’s interesting in what degree you are willing (or forced) to share your connections as master data entities for the CRM solution.

In Nimble you have the choice of differentiate for each network. I would probably freely choose a setup with Twitter and LinkedIn as shared with the team, but Facebook as private:

But that is just how I think based on my way of using social networks.

There is a fundamental data quality versus privacy issue around utilizing employee’s social network connections as master data for CRM and eventually enterprise wide Master Data Management (MDM).

All things equal data quality will be best if everyone contributes within reason. Not at least in sales, but also more or less in other functions, you are hired also because of your relations.

What do you think?

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Single Customer Hierarchy View

One of the things I do over and over again as part of my work is data matching.

There is a clear tendency that the goal of the data matching efforts increasingly is a master data consolidation taking place before the launch of a master data management (MDM) solution. Such a goal makes the data matching requirements considerably more complex than if the goal is a one-shot deduplication before a direct marketing campaign.

Hierarchy Management

In the post Fuzzy Hierarchy Management I described how requirements for multiple purposes of use of customer master data makes the terms false positive and false negative fuzzy.

As I like to think of a customer as a party role there are essentially two kinds of hierarchies to be aware of:

  • The hierarchies the involved party is belonging to in the real world. This is for example an individual person seen as belonging to a household or a company belonging at a place in a company family tree.
  • The hierarchies of customer roles as seen in different business functions and by different departments. For example two billing entities may belong to the same account in a CRM system in one example, but in another example two CRM accounts have the same billing entity. 

The first type of hierarchy shouldn’t be seen differently between enterprises. You should reach the very same result in data matching regardless of what your organization is doing. It may however be true that your business rules and the regularity requirements applying to your industry and geography may narrow down the need for exploration.

In the latter case we must of course examine the purpose of use for the customer master data within the organization.

Single Customer View

It is in my experience much easier to solve the second case when the first case is solved. This approach was evaluated in the post Lean MDM.

The same approach also applies to continuous data quality prevention as part of a MDM solution. Aligning with the real world and it’s hierarchies as part of the data capture makes solving the customer roles as seen in different business functions and by different departments much easier.  The benefits of doing this is explained in the post instant Data Quality.

It is often said that a “single customer view” is an illusion. I guess it is. First of all the term “single customer view” is a vision, but a vision worth striving at. Secondly customers come in hierarchies. Managing and reflecting these hierarchies is a very important aspect of master data management. Therefore a “single customer view” often ends up as having a “single customer hierarchy view”.    

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Five Moments of Truth

Within Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and related Master Data Management (MDM) the party behind the business-to-business (B2B) customer is an important entity.

It is often said that the data capture is the most important moment where it is essential to get data quality right. However with a complex entity as a B2B customer, there are of course several moments of truth within the life circle for such an entity.     

These are probably the five most important ones:

  • A lead is born
  • Engaging a prospect
  • One more customer
  • Churn happens
  • Win-Back happiness

A lead is born

Leads are born in many different ways: A business card obtained from a little chit-chat on a conference, buying a list of leads or even an engagement in social media as the new way of doing things.

One of the most important things to do when capturing the data at this point is ensuring if you already have the party somewhere in the customer life circle or maybe even in other party roles as examined in the post 360° Business Partner View.

Engaging a prospect

When a lead is qualified as a new prospect and you typically engage in a one-to-one dialogue this process includes capturing more data.

Such new data may include adding a visit address to the first captured mail address or vice versa and expanding the firmographic collection of data.  

As explained in the post What are they doing? there are a lot of data quality issues in capturing such data as:

  • Unstructured versus structured data
  • Internal versus external reference data
  • One versus several values

One more customer

After a successful sales process a new customer can be added to the customer list often with more data being captured as adding a billing address and stating credit risk as credit limit and terms of payment.

This is the point where many party entities are split into data silos. Maybe the current customer master data lives on in the CRM system while new customer data are reentered and enriched in an ERP system and even other business applications.

Keeping these data silos aligned is the classic customer master data challenge as discussed in the post Boiling Data Silos.

Churn happens

There are actually two kind of churns (loss of customers):

  • A customer stops a subscription, a service contract or tell you that further buying will be at your competitors or that there is no further need for the products and services in question
  • A customer dissolves

Sometimes you don’t even discover the latter one. So your data isn’t very useful or valuable if you don’t practice Ongoing Data Maintenance.

Win-Back happiness

In the first kind of churn you may work hard (or be lucky) and win back the customer.

Be sure to build on the data from the first engagement and not start from scratch again capturing master data and history. Avoiding this covers up for some of the 55 reasons to improve data quality related to party master data uniqueness.

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Good-Bye to the old CRM data model

Today I stumbled upon a blog post called Good-Bye to the “Job” by David Houle, a futurist, strategist and speaker.

In the post it is said: “In the Industrial Age, machines replaced manual or blue-collar labor. In the Information Age, computers replaced office or white-collar workers”.

The post is about that today we can’t expect to occupy one life-long job at a single employer.  We must increasingly create our own job.

My cyberspace friend Phil Simon also wrote about his advanced journey into this space recently in the post Diversifying Yourself Into a Platform Business.

The subject is close to me as I currently have approximately five different occupations as seen in my LinkedIn profile.

A professional angle to this subject is also how that development will turn some traditional data models upside down.

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for business-to-business (B2B) environments has a basic data model with accounts having a number of contacts attached where the account is the parent and the contacts are the children in data modeling language.

Most systems and business processes have trouble when following a contact from account (company) to account (company) when the contact gets a new job or when the same real world individual is a contact at two or more accounts (companies) at the same time.

I have seen this problem many times and also failed to recognize it myself from time to time as told in the post A New Year Resolution.

My guess is that CRM systems in the B2B realm will turn to a more contact oriented view over time and this will probably be along with that CRM systems will rely more on Master Data Management (MDM) hubs in order to effectively reflect a fast, but not equally, changing world, as the development in the way we have jobs doesn’t happen at the same time at all places.  

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More Social Master Data Management

Yesterday my American cyberspace friend Jim Harris was so kind to send an invitation for Google+ – the new social network service you must hook into. Thanks Jim, now I had to fill in yet a profile, upload the same picture as always and start networking from scratch once again :-)

As many people I have several profiles in different social network services as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. As I’m doing business also with German speaking countries I also use XING as alternative to LinkedIn as told in the post LinkedIn and the other Thing.

In a comment to that post my Austria based French connection Olivier Mathurin noted: “Disconnected duplicated siloed professional profiles, mmm…”

In a post on this blog called Social Master Data Management made one year ago it is discussed how social CRM will add new sources from social networks to the external reference data sources we already know from old time CRM.

With all the different faces everyone are wearing in the social media realm this isn’t going to be easy and one may consider if social master data management is a wrong path giving the individual nature and built-in privacy in social networking services.    

Well, Gartner (the analyst firm) says that increasing links between MDM and social networks is one of the Three Trends That Will Shape the Master Data Management Market.

So, acknowledging that Gartner predictions are self-fulfilling, you better get moving into LinkedIn, Xing, Viadeo, Twitter, Facebook, (forget MySpace), Google+  and what’s next.

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