CRM systems and Customer MDM

Last week I had some fun making a blog post called The True Leader in Product MDM. This post was about how product Master Data Management still in most places is executed by having heaps of MS Excel spreadsheets flowing around within the enterprise and between business partners, as I have seen it.

business partnersWhen it comes to customer Master Data Management MS Excel may not be so dominant. Instead we have MS CRM and the competing offerings as and a lot of other similar Customer Relationship Management solutions.

CRM systems are said to deliver a Single Customer View. Usually they don’t. One of the reasons is explained in the post Leads, Accounts, Contacts and Data Quality. The way CRM systems are built, used and integrated is a certain track to create duplicates.

Some remedies out there includes periodic duplicate checks within CRM databases or creating a federated Customer Master Data Hub with entities coming from CRM systems and other databases with customer master data. This is good, but not good enough as told in the post The Good, Better and Best Way of Avoiding Duplicates.

During the last couple of years I have been working with the instant Data Quality service. This MDM service sits within or besides CRM systems and/or Master Data Hubs in order to achieve the only sustainable way of having a Single Customer View, which is an instant Single Customer View.

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5 thoughts on “CRM systems and Customer MDM

  1. John Owens 9th September 2014 / 22:06

    Hi Henrik

    You would hope that CRM systems would have long ago sorted this. But then, when we remember that the ‘C’ in the title stands for ‘Customer’, we are made aware of how flawed and stilted their structures are.

    MDM101 tells us that there is no such Master Entity as ‘Customer’. The true Master Entity is Party and ‘Customer’ merely a Role played by Party. As long as CRMs (or any other systems) continue to talk about and chase a ‘Single Customer View’ they will continue to be flawed and fail to deliver.

    When I was speaking at the MDM & DG Summit in Sydney in July, Ram Kumar of IAG, Australia showcased his solution for a major insurance company in India, dealing with millions of customers, where Party lies at the core of all operational systems. All these systems, including CRM, are merely slave systems and all look to the Party Hub for the Party identity.

    When any one part of the enterprise is dealing with a Party in any Role, they are also aware of all of the other roles that the Party has with the enterprise. This really raises the level of service that is offered to the Party to heights that other enterprises can only dream about.

    This piece of work by Ram is a masterpiece and powerfully demonstrates what true MDM is and what it can bring to an enterprise.

    Kind regards

  2. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 9th September 2014 / 22:20

    John, I agree. CRM systems usually has an entity called account. And that is what it is. That means that a real world party may have multiple accounts in a CRM database reflecting different roles and even a range of customer roles. One example I have seen is in the utility sector where the CRM system is fed by the billing system and a new account is created when a real world party being a customer relocates or reenters as a win-back.

  3. dbmoore 10th September 2014 / 06:53

    Henrik – As always, I enjoyed your post. I had one thought about your post, and one about John’s insightful comment.

    1. MDM is not only about the “golden record” or “best version of the truth,” but also about the “360 degree view,” which connects master data often across domains. CRM systems typically have very poor relationship management even for customer data, but have no support for other domains.

    2. While our traditional concepts of mastering tolerate really only three domains (party, item/product, and location – or however an expert may name these concepts), customers often speak in terms of the subtypes of these entities (mixing in a little object orientation). MDM systems often have some very useful functionality, like cross-domain relationship management, versioning, point-in-time versioning, data syndication/synchronization/replication (which purists might say belongs in a data integration hub, but packaging suggests putting this in with MDM), and embedded data quality and data-as-a-service capabilities. Many of these elements were traditionally packaged separately, and maybe it’s no longer MDM when they are put together, but customers are demanding the integrated package more these days. Perhaps I’ll blog soon on the way customers seem to be looking at master data these days, but it is often as a more expansive view than our past – with the subtype entities modeled (perhaps from the three primary master data domains), attributes used to identify/search, attributes shared across multiple systems, attributes where versioning is desirable, other persistent attributes, and virtual or transitive attributes which are calculated or accessed on demand (e.g., current location, stock price, inventory stock level, return rates, customer rating). None of this precludes a party/product/location model, but it is increasingly a departure from the ways we did mastering some years back. In fact, customers are demanding predefined application capabilities (like customer lifecycle, supplier lifecycle, product lifecycle, and other capabilities) and even reference data out-of-the-box (or in the box, as it were). I suspect we will see many changes in the master data management market in the coming years – very exciting times for us practitioners!

    All the best to you and John, and hope to see you at Informatica World London, where we will also have our most important Informatica MDM Day yet (


    – Dennis Moore

  4. Henrik Liliendahl Sørensen 10th September 2014 / 08:31

    Dennis, thanks a lot for the kind words, adding in and putting this aspect of MDM into a broader perspective. And oh yes, I have registered for the 30th September Informatica London event. See you there.

  5. FX Nicolas 11th September 2014 / 08:56

    Interesting post, and even more interesting comments.
    I concur with both John and Denis, and would like to add to the discussion:

    1. For sure, standard MDM requirements now include data quality, data services, versioning, generated applications, management workflows, etc. In short all a whole set of features that should not be available a a “toolset” (DI, DQ, BPM, ILM, etc…) but in a single tool/platform.
    2. 360° customer view requires to tap (or federate) data sources (social, big) we would not have thought of five years ago, and we will see more of these data sources appear in the next years.
    3. Beyond the customer view, a “holistic customer or party view” requires multi-domain capabilities to include relationships with any entity defined within or outside the enterprise. (let’s go beyond the “MDM for CRM discussion”).

    Because of this, I would say that the one of keys to customer (sorry John, “Party” 🙂 ) MDM will be the capability to embrace and include changes to “existing stuff” as well as “new stuff” in an extremely agile way.

    Thanks again for the nice post!
    – FX

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