Data Integration Strategy Could Be Key to Successful ERP, CRM, CDI


You spend a lot of money on your ERP and CRM systems. If there was one little overlooked, neglected detail that could make or break the success of these systems, you'd want to address it, right?


As it turns out, that little detail is data, and a recent report from DataMonitor suggests it's the Achilles heel for these systems and all the related little modules. DataMonitor surveyed 25 senior IT executives in the United States, Canada, Western Europe and Asia-Pacific-a wide, targeted survey, even if the numbers aren't huge. The report found:

To be precise, the IT decision makers surveyed identify inadequate data quality as the most prominent obstacle in the path of data supporting business processes. The second most prominent obstacle also pertains to data quality, namely the poor understanding of the data lifecycle and associated metadata.

Data integration, data quality and other data issues are neglected in all phases of enterprise application lifecycle, from the rollout, which is the ideal time for a data-integration strategy, through operational phases and any consolidation projects resulting from mergers and acquisitions.


You can read the full 14-page report for free, courtesy of Informatica, if you fill out the registration form. But if you're tight on time, Joe McKendrick also offers a very thorough synopsis of it on his Informatica Perspectives blog.


I like that he included a complete rundown of the report's most important part, the recommendations. Several of the recommendations focus on a revamped data-integration strategy, but I want to talk about the first tip: Adopt a comprehensive data strategy. Writes McKendrick:

While data management gets plenty of attention on application rollout stages, it tends to get moved to a backburner in subsequent phases of the application lifecycle, Trifkovic (author of the report) says. 'Enterprises need to formulate comprehensive data management and integration strategies that can deal with the issue of data in the enterprise application roll-out phase, operation phase, consolidation phase, and even in decommissioning phase.'

That caught my eye because a fall report on customer data integration from the TDWI included a similar finding. TDWI's extensive survey of 365 industry professionals discovered more companies are investing in enterprise data asset programs.


I talked with TDWI analyst Philip Russom about this finding in a recent interview. Russom explained that enterprise data asset programs basically shift the ownership of data so that multiple departments across the company can access the data. It's a way of address the data silos that applications tend to create, he explained.


The data becomes owned by the enterprise, and is usually overseen by IT, an enterprise-wide data governance committee or a competency center. The goal is to obtain a more accurate, complete view of the customer:

On the business side, I think one of the greatest rewards - if you can pull this off - is that different departments within the organization simply have more information to act on. ... You're trying to give more business managers more visibility into what is going on in other business units besides their own, because quite often, different business units are touching the same entity, like the customer, product, financials, suppliers and even stuff like employees and so on and so forth.

Another finding that might shed more light on enterprise data problems is that many companies have multiple customer data integration ( CDI) solutions, Russom explained in part I of our interview. "So, when an organization has lots of CDI solutions, then it's like the CDI solutions are sort of competing with each other. More to the point, they quite often contradict each other," he said.


The TDWI report, "Customer Data Integration: Managing Customer Information as an Organizational Asset," is more than 28 pages long and speaks more directly to customer data integration, with a long list of recommendations at the end. One recommendation: Don't scrimp on data integration, because it's the backbone for CDI.


Judging from the DataMonitor report, data integration is also crucial to ERP and CRM. Therefore, I concur with Joe McKendricks' recommendation: Now is a great time to move data integration off the back burner. It could just be the key to proving all that money you spent on CDI, CRM and ERP was actually worthwhile. And in this climate, that could save your job.