Many organizations that focus on customer intelligence are finding themselves stuck in the middle. Deploying new analytical applications internally can sometimes be organizationally time-consuming if new hardware needs to be purchased, integration with the data warehouse is necessary, architectural and security standards need sign-off or other necessary but difficult processes need to be traversed. On the other hand, organizations new to customer intelligence or those trying to expand into new analytical categories may not know exactly what they need or how to articulate new requirements.

The end result is often a lot of effort for an application that only meets partial requirements; but it is very typical that users don't completely know their requirements until after the first implementation. Insight-on-demand applications and services are starting to fill these gaps and mitigate the risk of expensive implementations.

What are They Offering?

Insight-on-demand applications are starting to become a viable alternative, almost like Salesforce.com became a viable alternative for sales force automation implementations. Similarly, insight-on-demand's allure stems from the perception of quick implementation, subscription-based fees and enhanced service levels. Conversely from today's on-demand applications, insight-on-demand applications offer flexibility and vertical-specific applications.

These types of applications are offering the following services and features:

  • The ability to assimilate transactional and customer information into a hosted customer intelligence data mart.
  • The ability to standardize dedupe, household and enterprise (business-oriented householding) customer information.
  • Prepackaged horizontal and vertical dashboards to gauge sales, service and marketing performance. These metrics help organizations start adopting industry-wide best practices.
  • Ad hoc query capability against the data mart.
  • The ability to leverage organization-specific hierarchies (geographic, product, etc.).
  • The ability to send alerts to the appropriate user in the case of specific events.
  • The ability to be operational in a number of weeks.
  • Some vendors are also coupling statistical analysis with reporting and dashboard solutions.

What's in it for Sales?

Sales organizations have become early adopters of insight-on-demand solutions. With so many products becoming commoditized so quickly, sales forces are becoming a hybrid of sales, service and marketing functions in order to drive relationships and loyalty. To execute the paradigm changes, sales management and, subsequently, the sales representatives themselves are becoming more analytical and require more information.

Insight-on-demand vendors are showing sales forces that there is a fast and easy way to gain the metrics they need. From standard operational sales reporting (close ratios, sales velocity, pipeline and forecast) to customer analysis (customer value, spending trends and marketing responses), sales forces are leveraging the on-demand paradigm to hunt and farm smarter. Some vendors are adding alerts that identify customers whose spending is trending down or up or where other metrics (charges/order, profit per order) are trending down or up.

Between the proactive alert information and performance rankings, sales forces are able to drive new sales strategies while managing reps and regions more closely than they have been able to in the past. The result is a nimble sales force that is in tune with their customers' actions and their own internal activities.

What's in it for Marketing?

Marketing organizations continue to face a dizzying array of technologies in order to drive any type of a database marketing program. The application integration, data integration, tool selection, report writing and campaign development (not to mention the staggering price) is becoming an absolutely overwhelming task to build and maintain long term.

Organizations that are beginning database marketing, or taking a giant leap forward, are looking at insight-on-demand vendors for an easier, faster way down the path of best practices. While organizations are challenged to keep their data warehouse alive and kicking, sometimes a database marketing infrastructure is too much to handle. Insight-on-demand acts as a data mart to the data warehouse supplying marketing-oriented analytics, reporting and campaign management.

Organizations know their own data the best, which is why data warehouses are rarely outsourced. However, driving the exact requirements and design for long-standing data marts can be extremely challenging and sometimes frustrating (and costly) if the application does not hit the mark on the first try. Insight-on-demand vendors are leveraging their vertical and functional knowledge to provide customer intelligence applications quickly. Users are leveraging these applications to adopt best practices at an accelerated pace.

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