A common mistake made in an organization that is implementing a business intelligence (BI) system is to include only data from that enterprise. This may suffice if the BI system is aimed at internal issues like reducing costs through a study of operational data or tracking sales bookings against quotas per geographic region. However, this is a myopic practice if the BI system is to look at business entities influenced by the external world such as product movement information and customer profiles. For instance, studying the customer data from within your enterprise can be revealing, but it cannot place your customers in the context of the broader market; you may miss out on opportunities that cannot be seen in your internal customer data.

THE HURWITZ TAKE: For decades, companies like Information Resources, Inc., Nielson and Dun and Bradstreet have made a good business of collecting, cleansing and normalizing information to add value and reselling it to brick- and-mortar companies as so-called "syndicated data." Some companies pay millions of dollars per year for syndicated data because it gives them a broad picture of the entire market they're in, not just their little piece of it as represented by internal data. For example, companies that produce consumer packaged goods (CPGs) have long augmented their product movement data with demographic data purchased from Nielson or Information Resources to get a more complete and far-sighted view of consumers and how they relate to the movement of CPGs through a distribution chain. Likewise, Dun and Bradstreet has been a staple source of syndicated data about businesses.

Companies operating as e-businesses also need syndicated data and other external information sources, but these must be adapted to the Web-based environment of e-business. A new generation of syndicated data providers is addressing this need. For instance, Acxiom Corporation and Engage Technologies each support a network to which e-businesses can subscribe to exchange customer profiling information over the Internet. Dun and Bradstreet has adapted to the Web and is now joined by other online sources of business profiles such as OneSource and powerize.com. The new generation of syndicated data content is characterized by very fresh information (constantly updated online), packaged for Internet delivery and representing how consumers and companies behave on the Internet (which differs from brick-and-mortar environments).

Companies operating in brick-and-mortar, e-business or both need to avail themselves of the many sources of syndicated data, so they can eschew myopia and place their business intelligence efforts with corporate and customer data in the context of a broader marketplace.

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