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Some CRM programs have their own data-cleansing tools, but that may not be enough.

A number of cleansing-software vendors have appeared within the last five years, and their offerings are largely similar. Some focus specifically on CRM applications, while others also offer tools for the supply chain and inventory management. Regardless of which you pick, analysts say data-cleansing software should include several important tools: data profiling, which helps analyze data and find inconsistencies; parsing, which identifies different types of data and puts them in specific fields; standardization, which ensures consistency throughout the data; verification, comparing customer data against a universal master such as the U.S. Postal Service; matching, which links files that are related; and consolidation, which eliminates duplicate entries.

Meanwhile, realizing that the failure of so many CRM rollouts can be attributed to bad data, many CRM vendors are getting into the data-cleansing game themselves. Their offerings are limited to customer data, however, and are tightly woven into the software—which won't help if you're looking to clean financial files and product records.

In fact, you may find yourself partnering with more than one vendor, depending on the tools they provide. Gregory, of Hogan & Hartson, says his company uses a combination of cleansing tools from DataFlux Corp. and CRM provider Interface Software Inc. "I think they can and should co-exist," he says, "although ultimately there needs to be a central data-management function that is aware of and coordinates use of these types of products."

Patrik Riese, director of CRM at Saab Cars USA Inc., says his data-cleansing initiative uses software from both Firstlogic Inc. and Siebel Systems Inc., depending on which data needs to be cleaned, and how. Firstlogic provides the automaker with census data that helps the company match potential customers with the appropriate dealer in their area. "We used to do this by zip code, but we had all sorts of problems with that method because sometimes zip codes overlap. We have now moved to a much more finite method."

In short, if you're looking to create master data files that can be repurposed for several packaged applications (such as CRM, sales force automation, billing, marketing, etc.), make sure the software addresses that area of the business. Find out which CRM and inventory-management companies potential cleansing vendors have relationships with. Most cleansing companies have now been bought by larger companies (DataFlux was acquired by SAS in 2000, for example, and Trillium Software was recently purchased by Harte-Hanks Inc.), but as always, check the financial status of a vendor before you buy their software.

Ask Your CTO:
  • Which vendors are we partnering with now, and do they offer data cleansing?

    Ask Potential Vendors:
  • Do you have partnerships with any enterprise software vendors?

    Tell Your CFO:
  • We should benchmark how improved data quality boosts revenue.

  • This article was originally published on 08-01-2004
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