Shari would like to thank Stephen Gallagher for his contribution to this month's column.For years, the writers of columns like this one have been tantalizing data management (DM) and marketing professionals alike with visions of a future in which personalized, relevant, context-sensitive marketing messages are delivered electronically to specific individuals. The result of this nirvana would be a transformation in the relationship between providers and consumers - and in the commercial potential of those players who get it right.

Well, that future is beginning to happen. Its starting point lies in the wealth of customer transition data that consumer-facing businesses of all types now collect. To personalize the content and delivery of the messages, something else is needed: analytics. The enabler that is turning the data-rich present into future reality is the application of sophisticated real-time analytics to business intelligence drawn from accurate, timely and accessible transaction data.

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