Friday, August 24, 2007

The Importance of Master Data Management

CRM has been a buzzword for years. As direct marketers, we've all heard it and know that it means a whole bunch of things to any given person or company. It seems to be customizable to the client problem. The bottom line is that it's all about managing your customer relationships (hence the name, right?), and doing it in a way that increases profitability while also increasing customer satisfaction.

Now there is a relatively new acronym out there -- MDM. In a recent article from TMCNet, Master Data Management is defined as "a strategic business driver as it enables organizations to unify and consolidate data about their customers, products and organizations; data that is often fragmented across different systems. By creating a centralized master data hub, organizations can deliver the most reliable, complete views of key business data within their existing business processes, and more importantly, leverage these data assets within operational business processes to remain in compliance, adhere to various privacy requirements and simplify reporting." Hmmm . . . sounds a lot like a description of CRM, doesn't it?

The difference with MDM is that it focuses on the data specifically, as opposed to the customer relationship. One could argue that these (CRM and MDM) are one and the same, however, the article's key point is about how the Pharma and Life Sciences industries are using MDM to mainly manage regulatory compliance (as opposed to customer relationships).

Why is this so important? MDM has become imperative "as hundreds of millions of dollars of penalties are faced by market-leading pharmaceutical companies related to kickbacks to physicians." And, these penalties "may signal the start of stricter enforcement of what had once been considered trivial legislation." The article argues that all of this could have been avoided if only these industries had put MDM practices into place earlier.

When it comes right down to it, any industry should practice good MDM. As privacy legislation continues to grow, managing your customer data is more important than ever. Not only that, we've always argued that the only way to effectively market to your customers is to effectively manage your customer relationships. It does increase profitability and customer satisfaction. However, it isn't always that easy to accomplish -- particularly as you bring in the technology vendors and they unveil their complex solutions and technologies to solve your business problem. As a matter of fact, it can be downright overwhelming.

This is a pet peeve of ours because we've lived through some of the presentations and the resulting implementations. Here's our advice: when looking for an effective way to manage your data, take a careful look at exactly what you are trying to accomplish first -- then make (force, cajole) the technology partner that you bring in address only those needs. Too often we see that companies are romanced into spending tons of dollars on technology that just isn't needed. Worse still, we see that technology sit there and gather dust as time goes on because it's so complex that nobody can ever figure out how to use it.

So, embrace MDM, CRM . . . whatever you want to label it. If you're embarking on a search to update your technology, read our white paper on Data Management Solutions first. It'll help you avoid some common pitfalls and make your data management initiative more successful.

Happy Friday!

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