Driving efficiencies in the data ecosystem

Vince Padua, vice president of platform innovation and design, Axway, explains the importance of taking a tactical route to creating the complete data ecosystem.

Every business is creating new insights into their customers, prospects and employees at an unprecedented rate. From traditional sales, customer and finance sources to e-commerce and social media information, the way in which organisations, suppliers, customers and partners now interact and share information has the power to transform every aspect of business operations.

Yet how many organisations are truly able to realise the vision of an effective customer experience network (CXN)? How many instead are still constrained by the information and business silos and an inability to share information across teams? While the strategic vision is innovative and compelling, it can never be achieved until organisations can support a cultural change in collaboration and ‘incentivisation’ that must be underpinned by effective data collaboration between departments.

But this is not just about creating a massive, cross business data swamp. Quite the opposite. Vince Padua, vice president of platform innovation and design, Axway, explains the importance of taking a tactical route to creating the complete data ecosystem.

Strategic challenge

Has the gulf between corporate strategy and business reality ever been greater? From digital transformation projects to the development of CXN, the senior management vision is totally customer centric. Take the bank that is focused on building a strong CXN to not only transform the experience of existing customers but also address the fast-emerging market disruptors by embracing innovative new commercial partnerships that deliver customer value.

The concept is compelling – yet the reality on the ground remains very different. Rather than feel cherished, a valued long-term customer with a savings account and car insurance is still likely to receive exactly the same experience when he applies for a mortgage as a non-customer would. Even worse from a commercial perspective, just consider what happens when that long-term customer goes elsewhere for his loan because the terms offered by the bank were not favourable. That loan gets bundled up by the new lender and sold on to the original bank – the result is that the bank has regained that customer by default but at a far worse rate and the experience has massively undermined that customer’s perception of the business.

What happened to the strategic CXN vision?

Data fault

The issues are both cultural and technological. Why would the loan manager even consider a customer’s other interactions with the bank when his incentives are product specific? Why would he care that a customer already has a car loan and a savings account when he has no up- or cross-sell incentive? More tellingly; how would he know? Despite the growing commitment to the CXN model, the reality for most organisations remains data silos and an inability to achieve any meaningful cross-business collaboration.

With a siloed business model, the concept of strategically focusing on one individual as a consumer of that bank regardless of line of business is not – indeed cannot be – a priority. Not only is the external CXN broken but the internal CXN is also failing. Without a complete data ecosystem that delivers end to end customer visibility, these strategic visions cannot possibly be achieved.

So how can organisations break down silos, analyse data across teams and provide a wider network of available data? How can different individuals work smarter to share knowledge and leverage data from other areas of the business to deliver that customer centric business model?

Effective data model

The first step is to forget the data lake. With the quality of Application Programming Interfaces (API) now available, it is so much easier to pull data sources together into a single location. But how much of that data is usable? To gain access to the specific business information – as opposed to the vast quantities of application data that also comes across via the API – organisations need to undertake robust cleansing and formatting. Without good planning, preparation and cleansing, dumping vast swathes of finance, customer or HR data into single location will create a data swamp not the desired data lake. There will be minimal chance of deriving any business insight to break down departmental silos.

This is not the right approach. It is too big; too clumsy. Instead, organisations should step away from the big strategic imperative and go tactical. Consider, for example, how best to pull together three different CRMs, to get the accurate customer information required to support a new product launch. With a complete, accurate history of all customer activity, from name to last purchase and total contract value, the sales and marketing teams can quickly understand the best customer cohort to target with cross-selling messaging. It is a tactical approach that both resolves an immediate business need and begins to build a sales data ecosystem.

By adopting an effective tactical model that not only leverages APIs to pull these data sources together but also embraces the critical information cleansing and preparation processes, organisations achieve the clean, usable information required to support business change.

Ecosystem challenge

Furthermore, this tactical model also begins to evolve a clear process to achieve the vision of an end to end data ecosystem that breaks down departmental barriers and creates the internal CXN that must be in place to realise the external CXN. Building on tactical implementations within different lines of business, a company can start to build those essential cross-departmental links. The finance team assessing the value of a strategic move from a licensed based business model to a subscription based approach, for example, can attain the input required from multiple business areas, including sales and support, with the confidence that all data is cleansed, prepared and immediately usable.

This is the game changer. Of course, every CIO or CEO would like to have access to deep, cross business information to support digital transformation projects and enable the strategic CXN vision. But wading straight into data lake is never going to work. APIs can enable rapid and effective data extraction but without robust data preparation processes the results will be disappointing. It is by taking a tactical approach and creating departmental data ecosystems that deliver immediate value that organisations can both prove the model and create a robust foundation for the creation of the cross-organisation data ecosystem that will transform collaboration and create the internal CXN that must be in place to realise the external CXN strategy.

Vince Padua is vice president of platform innovation and design of Axway

Further reading on data

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the Smallbusiness.co.uk and Growthbusiness.co.uk titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the Express.co.uk.

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