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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Killing Keystrokes

Keystrokes are evil. Every keystroke represents a potential root cause of poor data quality by spelling things wrongly, putting the right thing in the wrong place, putting the wrong thing in the right place and so on. Besides that every keystroke is a cost of work summing up with all the other keystrokes to gigantic amounts of work costs.

In master data management (MDM) you will be able to getting things right, and reduce working costs, by killing keystrokes wherever possible.

Killing keystrokes in Product Information Management (PIM)

I have seen my share of current business processes where product master data are reentered or copied and pasted from different sources extracted from one product master data container and, often via spreadsheets, captured into another product master data container.

This happens inside organizations and it happens in the ecosystem of business partners in supply chains encompassing manufactures, distributors and retailers.

As touched in the post Social PIM there might be light at the end of the tunnel by the rise of tools, services and platforms setting up collaboration possibilities for sharing product master data and thus avoiding those evil keystrokes.

Killing keystrokes in Party Master Data Management

With party master data there are good possibilities of exploiting external data from big reference data sources and thus avoiding the evil keystrokes. The post instant Data Quality at Work tells about how a large utility company have gained better data quality, and reduced working costs, by using the iDQ™ service in that way within customer on-boarding and other business processes related to customer master data maintenance.

The next big thing in this area will be the customer data integration (CDI) part of what I call Social MDM, where you may avoid the evil keystrokes by utilizing the keystrokes already made in social networks by who the master data is about.

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The Big MDM Trend

Back in 2011 Gartner (the analyst firm) released a document where Gartner Highlights Three Trends That Will shape the Master Data Management Market.

The three things were:

  • Multi-Domain MDM
  • MDM in the Cloud
  • MDM and Social Networks

MDM and Social Networks (also called Social MDM) was described as shown below:

Gartner 3 MDM things 2011

In a 2012 article on Computerweekly called Three trends that will shape the master data management market also by John Radcliffe of Gartner the three trends are repeated however with social MDM now described in the context of MDM and big data:

Gartner 3 MDM things 2012

The slightly different use of terms to describe the trends and what it entails used by Gartner follows the big trend of using the term “big data” by everyone else in the industry as discussed in the post Data Quality vs Big Data, where you see that the use of the term “big data” exploded just after the original Gartner piece on the three trends.

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Social PIM

During the last couple of years I have been talking about social MDM (Social Master Data Management) on this blog.

MDM (Master Data Management) mainly consists of two disciplines: CDI (Customer Data Integration) and PIM (Product Information Management).

With social MDM most of the talk have been around CDI as the integration of social network profiles with traditional customer (or party) master data.

But there is also a PIM side of social MDM.

Making product data lively

The other day Kimmo Kontra had a blog post called With Tiger’s clubs, you’ll golf better – and what it means to Product Information Management. Herein Kimmo examines how stories around products help with selling products. Kimmo concludes that within master data management there is going to be a need for storing and managing stories.

I agree. And having stories related to your products and services is a must for social selling. Besides having the right hard facts about products consistent across multiple channels, and having the right images and other rich media consistent as well, you will also need to include the right and consistent stories when the multiple channels embraces social media.

Sharing product data

How do we ensure that we share the same product information, including the same stories, across the ecosystem of product manufacturers, distributors and retailers?

Recently I learned about a cloud service called Actualog aiming at doing exactly that with emphasis on the daunting task of sharing product data in an international environment with different measurement systems, languages, alphabets and script systems.

Actualog very much resembles the cloud service called iDQ™ I’m working with related to customer data integration.

Listening to big data

As discussed in the post Big Data and Multi Domain Master Data Management a prerequisite for getting sense out of analyzing social data (and other big data sources) is, that you not only have a consistent view of the product data related to products that you sell yourself, but also have a consistent view of competing products and how they relate to your products.

So, social PIM requires you to extend the volume of products handled by your product information management solution probably in alternate product hierarchies.

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Beyond Address Validation

The quality of contact master data is the number one data quality issue around.

Lately there has been a lot of momentum among data quality tool providers in offering services for getting at least the postal address in contact data right. The new services are improved by:

  • Being cloud based offering validation services that are implemented at data entry and based on fresh reference data.
  • Being international and thus providing address validation for customer and other party data embracing a globalized world.

Capturing an address that is aligned with the real world may have a significant effect on business outcomes as reported by the tool vendor WorldAddresses in a recent blog post.

However, a valid address based on address reference data only tells you if the address is valid, not if the addressee is (still) on the address, and you are not sure if the name and other master data elements are accurate and complete. Therefore you often need to combine address reference data with other big reference data sources as business directories and consumer/citizen reference sources.

Using business directories is not new at all. Big reference sources as the D&B WorldBase and many other directories have been around for many years and been a core element in many data quality initiatives with customer data in business-to-business (B2B) environments and with supplier master data.

Combining address reference data and business entity reference data makes things even better, also because business directories doesn’t always come with a valid address.

Using public available reference data when registering private consumers, employees and other citizen roles has until now been practiced in some industries and for special reasons. Therefore the big reference data and the services are out there and being used today in some business processes.

Mashing up address reference data, business entity reference data and consumer/citizen reference data is a big opportunity for many organizations in the quest for high quality contact master data, as most organizations actually interact with both companies and private persons if we look at the total mix of business processes.

The next big source is going to be exploiting social network profiles as well. As told in the post Social Master Data Management social media will be an additional source of knowledge about our business partners. Again, you won’t find the full truth here either. You have to mashup all the sources.

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Hierarchy Management in Social MDM

Hierarchy management is a core feature in master data management (MDM). When it comes to integrating social data and social network profiles into MDM, hierarchy management will be very important too.

Aggregated Level of Social MDM in B2C

The primarily privacy related challenges of social MDM not at least within business-to-consumer (B2C) have been a topic of a lot of blogging lately.  Examples are:

One way of overcoming the privacy considerations is linking to social data and social network profiles at an aggregate level.

Using aggregate level linking is already well known in direct marketing with the use of demographic stereotypes. These stereotypes are based on groups of consumers often defined by their address and/or their age. Combining this knowledge with product master data was examined in the post Customer Product Matrix Management.

Social MDM will add new dimensions to this way of using hierarchies in master data and linking the data across multiple channels without the need to uniquely identify a real world person in every aspect.

Contact Level Social MDM in B2B

As discussed in the post Business Contact Reference Data social network profiles has lot to offer within mastering business-to-business (B2B) contact data.

While access to external reference data at the account level has been around for many years by having available public and commercial (and even open) business directories, the problem of identifying and maintain correct and timely data about the contacts at these accounts has been huge.

Integrating with social networks can help here and social networks are actually also integrating more and more with the traditional business directories. LinkedIn has business directory links for larger companies today and lately I noticed a new professional social network called CompanyBook that is based on linking your profile to a (complete) business directory. By the way: The business directory data available in CompanyBook is surprisingly deep, for example revenue data is free for you to grab.

When it comes to contact data they are basically maintained out there by you. A service like LinkedIn is often described as a recruitment service. In my eyes it is a lot more than that. It is along with similar services a goldmine (within a minefield) for getting MDM within B2B done much better.

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Big Data and Multi-Domain Master Data Management

The possible connection between the hot buzz within IT today being “big data” and the good old topic of master data management has been discussed a lot lately. An example from CIO UK today is this article called Big data without master data management is a problem.

As said in the article there is a connection through big master data (and big reference data) to big transaction data. Big transaction data is what we usually would call big data, because these are the really big ones.

The two most mentioned kind of big transaction data are:

  • Social data and
  • Sensor data

I also have seen a lot of connections between these big data and master data in multiple domains.

Social Data

Connecting social data to Master Data Management (MDM) is an ongoing discussion I have been involved in for the last three years lately through the new LinkedIn group called Social MDM.

The customer master data domain is in focus here, as the immediate connection here is how to relate traditional systems of record holding customer master data and the systems of engagement where the big social data are waiting to be analyzed and eventually be a part of day-to-day customer centric business processes.

However being able to analyze, monitor and take action on what is being said about specific products in social data is another option and eventually that has to be linked to product master data. In product master data management the focus has traditionally been on your own (resell) products. Effectively listening to social data will mean that you also have to manage data about competing products.

Attaching location to social data has been around for long. Connecting social data to your master data will also require that your location master data are well aligned with the real world.

Sensor Data   

During the past many years I have been involved in data management within public transportation where we have big data coming in from sensors of different kind.

The big problem has for sure being able to connect these transactions correctly to master data. The challenges here are described in the post Multi-Entity Master Data Quality.

The biggest problem is that all the different equipment generating the sensor data in practice can’t be at the same stage at the same time and this will eventually create data that if related without care will show very wrong information about who was the passenger(s), what kind of trip it were, where the journey happened and under which timetable.

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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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Do You Want Social MDM?

This weekend I noticed a tweet from the MDM tool vendor Orchestra Networks:

There is clearly something completely wrong with this tweet. Why on earth should a French company use an American date format?

Apart from that there is a very good point. Why should tool vendors work on solving imaginable future master data management issues as integrating social network profiles with traditional customer master data while there are plenty of issues that need a better solution today?

Personally I think social MDM is going to be huge. I had some of my first musings on the subject some years ago in the post Social Master Data Management. Probably we will start with some Lean Social MDM, and that is honestly also as far as I have explored this field until now.

What about you. Do you want social MDM?

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Social MDM, Privacy and Data Quality

The term “Social MDM” has been promoted quite well this week not at least as part of the social media information stream from the ongoing user conference of the tool vendor Informatica.

In a blog post called Informatica 9.5 for Big Data Challenge #2: Social Jody Ko of Informatica introduces the opportunities and challenges.

In the closing remarks Judy says: “There’s still a long way to go to bring social data into the mainstream enterprise, in part due to concerns over privacy and the potential “creepiness” factor of mining social data.”

As I understand it the spearhead Social MDM part of the tool release is a Facebook App that provides connectivity between Facebook and the MDM solution.

Industry analyst R “Ray” Wang examines this in the blog post News Analysis: Informatica Launches MDM 9.5. The analysis states that it now is time to “drive data out of Facebook and not into Facebook”.

The opportunities and challenges of driving data out of Facebook was discussed in a post called exactly Out of Facebook here on the blog some years ago.

Balancing privacy with data hoarding is still for sure a subject that in no way is settled and probably never will be.

Connecting systems of record in traditional MDM solutions with social network profiles is in no way a walk over too. The classic data quality challenges with uniqueness of records and completeness of data only gets more difficult, but also, there are great opportunities for getting a better picture of your customers and other business partners.

If you are interested in Social MDM and the related challenges and opportunities there is a LinkedIn group for Social MDM.

The group is new, less than a month old at the present time, but there is already a lot of content to dip into, including:

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