Mastering Fractured Data

Data complexity in companies can be a big obstacle to achieve efficient operations and excellent customer service.

Companies are broken down into various departments. They have hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of employees performing various tasks. Adding to the complexity, customer information is stored in so many different applications that wide gaps exist among data sources. Bridging those gaps so every employee in the organization has a consistent view of data is possible and necessary.


Various applications collect customer information in different ways. For example, CRM solutions focus on process management and not on data management.

Consequently, customer data is entered into numerous autonomous systems that were not designed to talk to one another. Client data is housed one way in a sales application, another way in an inventory system, and yet another way in contact center systems.

Other organizational factors further splinter the data, which can vary depending on the products in which a customer is interested, where the product resides, and who (the company or a partner) delivers it.

In addition, information is entered in various ways, including manually, either by the customer or an employee, or via voice recognition. And applications store the information in unique ways. One system might limit the field for customers’ last names to 16 characters while another could allow for 64 characters.

The challenge is further exacerbated by software design and vendors’ focus. CRM vendors concentrate on adding application features and do not spend as much time on data quality.

Customers can input their personal information 10 different ways. Most applications do not check for duplication when new customer information is entered.

Human error creates additional problems. Employees are often quite busy, move frequently and quickly from one task to the next, and, consequently, sometimes do not follow best practices fully.

Data becomes very fractured and there appear different versions of truth. The data features a tremendous amount of duplication, inconsistencies, and inefficiencies.

The inconsistencies exist because fixing such problems is a monumental task, one that requires companies to tackle both technical and organizational issues. Master data management (MDM) solutions, which have been sold for decades, are designed to address the technical issues. They are built to clean up the various inconsistencies, a process dubbed data cleansing.

The work sounds straightforward, but it is time-consuming and excruciatingly complex. The company has to audit all of its applications and determine what is stored where and how it is formatted. In many cases, companies work with terabytes and petabytes of information. Usually, they find many more sources than initially anticipated because cloud and other recent changes enable departments to set up their own data lakes.

Cleansing Process

Cleansing starts with mundane tasks, like identifying and fixing typos. The MDM solution might also identify where necessary information is missing.

To start the process, companies need to normalize fields and field values and develop standard naming conventions. The data clean-up process can be streamlined in a few ways. If a company chooses only one vendor to supply all of its applications, the chances of data having a more consistent format increase. Typically, vendors use the same formats for all of their solutions. In some cases, they include add-on modules to help customers harmonize their data.

But that is not typically the case. Most companies purchase software from different suppliers, and data cleaning has largely been done in an ad hoc fashion, with companies harmonizing information application by application. Recognizing the need for better integration, suppliers sometimes include MDM links to popular systems, like Salesforce Sales Cloud, Microsoft Dynamics, and Marketo.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are emerging to help companies grapple with such issues, but the work is still in the very early stages of development.

Still other challenges stem from internal company policies—or a lack thereof—and corporate politics. Businesses need to step back from their traditional departmental views of data and create an enterprise-wide architecture. They must understand data hierarchies and dependencies; develop a data governance policy; ensure that all departments understand and follow that policy; and assign data stewards to promote it.

The relationship between company departments and IT has sometimes been strained. The latter’s objectives to keep infrastructure costs low and to put central policies in place to create data consistency often conflict with the company departments' drivers. And while departments have taken more control over the data, they often lack the technical skills to manage it on their own.

It is a good idea to start with small area and then expand to other areas.

Having clean and organized data would make company's operations much more effective and would enable to optimize customer service. They can take steps to improve their data quality.

Please contact us for more information or for a free consultation.

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