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Data: Removing the barriers to get the bigger picture

data-silos-tallDoing something over and over again and expecting a different result is EITHER practice or insanity.  The difference is simply in how long you’re willing to wait until things start to change. Similarly, treating all customers the same and simply doing the same things over in the new channels, is equally as unproductive. To successfully meet the experience expectations of today’s customer demands agility in how companies leverage their customers’ data in order to deliver individualized experiences in their preferred channels.This kind of agility requires connectivity and fluidity within an organization.

This kind of agility requires connectivity and fluidity within an organization.

Customer Experience takes a village

It takes a collection of divisions and departments within an organization to deliver its goods and services, and the desired brand experience, to its customers. Similarly, customers interact with organizations via multiple touchpoints spread across multiple departments. So why would any company think a single source of data from any one department or division could provide the multi-faceted, let alone complete, picture of the customer it needs?

To develop and implement a truly omnichannel and customer-centric customer experience strategy, companies need to gather insights from multiple data points to be able to connect those experiences together. But even that is not enough. That data, all that data, also needs to be accessible by the myriad of teams that contribute to delivering the customer experience for their own analysis and interpretation.

Limited by data fiefdoms

We’ve all heard the rhetoric of “breaking down the silos”. Many gasp and shudder at the thought of having to share the proverbial access code to the vault that contains THEIR data. Over the span of their careers employees develop areas of knowledge expertise, and maybe even fiefdoms, around particular systems and its associated data. They develop a sense of ownership. This angst of now having to share their domain is brought on by many fears; What if they (the other departments) mess up my data? What if their findings contradict my own? What if …?  What if …? What if …?

This individual apprehension is compounded by the larger picture of company priorities and culture. Companies invest large amounts of money into their existing systems, and with those systems adoption comes established, good or bad, procedures and policies. Once these become intrinsic to the way a company does business they are difficult to adjust. Nobody likes change, and it isn’t realistic to expect these things to change, or as some cases may deem, disappear, overnight. But who says they have to?

Permeable data silos

Rather than trying to break down and remove the invisible walls that keep core customer data siloed and isolated in different parts and layers of the organization, let each group keep the keys to their (data) kingdoms, and benevolently grant access to the data to other groups and department. By making the data silo walls permeable, allowing the data to flow freely to, and from, the different repositories, the company can make the most out of its investment in the technology being used to garner that information, and keep the kingdom’s (data) monarchs happy at the same time.

By building these data bridges the flow of information from one system to the other is enabled, and subsequently encouraged. And instead of collecting the same data over and over again – a better experience for the customer already – companies can collect it once and share between systems, in a way that respects system ownership and allows each repository to use the data in the best possible way needed to fulfill its own line of business needs and tasks.

Internal systems shouldn’t drive the customer experience; it should be the other way around.

Some might think to solve this problem companies have to first look at the systems in place collecting and storing the data. At some point yes, there are likely redundant repositories that can be sunsetted once the data landscape is better understood. For a bigger, transformational impact, companies should turn to its teams and their data-related activities. By understanding by whom and how the data is used, and agreeing to what it means, across the organization, as well as for the different teams and departments is how the value of the data is extracted.

By creating a customer-centric perspective internally around customer-related data, organizations enable the different parts of their business to consume and analyze the data in a way that makes the most sense for them, thus allowing them to have more insight into the customer, and therefore are better able to contribute to delivering a more customer-centric experience.

Data-driven companies that take a holistic view of their data, and develop “data journeys” that transcend internal company borders and boundaries, and that mirror their customers’ journeys, are winning the customer experience race.

This blog post was co-authored with Alan Porter, from OpenText.


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