Information Management Example Customer Data in .NET

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Information Management Example Customer Data
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In order to highlight how data should be managed, this section looks at an example of how a consumer direct retail organization can move from not having an integrated information management strategy to an environment with ef cient information management processes This example starts by describing how customer data is currently being handled, followed by ways
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to improve Figure 8-2 shows the original state of a logical business ow of customer data from consumer marketing through customer payments This is a business pictorial of the data ow, and is not intended to represent a formal process ow diagram It highlights the capture and storage of customer data
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Financial Package Accounts Receivable Accounts Payable General Ledger Business data flow 5
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Figure 8-2 Non-integrated customer data ow
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First, a promotional mailing is sent out to select customers and prospects using the Marketing Prospect and Master Customer Database This generates orders, as shown in step two Customer data is entered into the order entry system The rst step in taking an order is capturing the customer s name If there are not too many customers waiting on hold, an initial search of the customers in the order entry system is done The search screens are cumbersome and slow If a name is not found or too many are found, the customer service representatives often enter this as a new customer It is well known that there are duplicate entries of this data, but that is ignored so the order can be quickly captured, the product delivered, and more calls handled This same customer table is also used by the Shipments application in step 3 Once a shipment is made, the customer is billed for the purchased products, in step 4 Basic customer data is fed to the Customer Billing application, but a separate copy is maintained There is no real business purpose for keeping a separate copy; this is simply how the applications have been developed over
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the years If any changes are made to the data about a customer during the billing process, the data is updated only in the Customer Billing database In step 5, the customer data ows with the billing data into the third-party Financial Package This package provides the accounts receivable, accounts payable, and general ledger functionality All applications within this third-party software package use a common set of customer data Finally, in step 6, a new set of customer data is captured when feedback is received via phone calls, e-mails, and letters The data that is captured in step 6 is independent of the other processes and is not tied to any of the other processes This is not a recommended information management strategy, but it re ects how customer data exists in the current systems The fact that there are multiple copies of customer data is quite common Each application was designed and developed independently over a long period of time Time and budget constraints often limit the ability of application development teams to ensure enterprise integration of customer data Information management takes a broader view by looking at the data across all application systems Information management is concerned with integration and interoperability between the different systems Improvements to how data ows between different parts of the organization can be made with business process changes and some small system enhancements Figure 8-3 highlights where these improvements can be made
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Financial Package Accounts Receivable Accounts Payable General Ledger Business data flow Data communication paths 5
Figure 8-3 Improved customer data processes
Part III
Dealing with the Data
The rst change is to improve the customer search capability and speed up the order entry system Adding a search alternative by customer number or home phone number can increase the number of existing customers who are identi ed The customer service representatives are also trained regarding the importance of identifying existing customers Additional discounts may be offered for these repeat customers once they are identi ed In many cases, it is not feasible to make signi cant changes to the order entry system What can change is how the system is used A little research into how application systems work often yields functionality that is not being used In this case, the capability to automatically ag changes to customer data is enabled if the proper check box is marked on the entry screen The customer service representatives need to be trained to check that box to ag any new or changed customers so that the changes can be automatically fed to other systems While employees may resist having another task to do, the overall value can be emphasized More changes could be made by looking at each of the other application systems Most important is setting up automated ows on a regular (hourly, daily, weekly) basis to enable the most current data to be shared across the organization Taking a more aggressive approach, the customer data ow shown earlier could be revised so that a single customer database is used by all of the applications, as shown in Figure 8-4 This diagram demonstrates how all of these applications, from marketing through the nancials, can tap into a single set of customer data The marketing prospects are still maintained by marketing and ow to and from the centralized customer data Note that the master customer database has been replaced completely with a link to the central customer data Additionally, this overall view addresses the need to collect data for all purposes, not just for a single application system You don t need to know how the customer heard about a discount to capture his or her order, but in order to evaluate a promotion s overall effectiveness, you need to ask customers how they heard about the promotion and enter their response This approach is also part of a master data management process, which is discussed later in this chapter While this last option has great appeal, most organizations get started with a blended approach of business process changes and system changes Over time, progress can be made toward this vision for centralized, shared data The preceding example is a con ned microcosm of a real corporate environment Information management does not just happen It comes about through a conscious, dedicated effort on the part of the entire organization It cannot happen simply by having the IT people build systems to x the problems Successful information management environments demand a strong partnership between business and IT, as discussed in 4 This requires an in-depth