A Market Intelligent Enterprise must make effective use of data warehousing to support traditional customer analysis and customer relationship management programs. However, the enterprise must also position its data warehousing programs as the central integration backbone for an enterprise architecture that includes sales force automation (SFA), customer care/call center, marketing automation, data mining, ERP, e-business, knowledge management and external applications. In last month's column, our discussion focused on extending the value of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) applications by integrating these applications with data warehousing. We also introduced the concept of Knowledge-Based Solutions (also referred to as "analytical applications") as an extension of ERP. These solutions are tightly integrated with ERP applications and contain the data models and advanced business process logic to address industry-specific business issues.

However, if the only source of data is the ERP application, then something critical is missing from these solutions: customer information. To date, these "back-office" systems have focused primarily on financial reporting, product-line analysis and human resource management. Yet, at the same time, companies in literally every industry have shifted their emphasis from being "product centric" to being "customer centric."

The Market Intelligent Enterprise looks dramatically different than companies built on the earlier product- centric "push" model of business. In the old model, products and communications moved mostly in the same direction ­ from production to customers through limited channels of distribution. Business dictated what, when and how to sell.

In today's marketplace consumers receive more information faster and through more channels than ever before. Consequently, the consumer now has the ability to "pull" the specific product/service, and the customer can dramatically impact the channel(s) of product delivery.

The Market Intelligent Enterprise embraces a more evolved vision of its customer relationship. The current military metaphor of the marketing lexicon ­ "targeting" and "capturing" markets, for instance ­ suggests a win/lose relationship. Rather, the Market Intelligent Enterprise uses information and knowledge of individual customers to anticipate the needs of its strategic markets ­ and refines its response so efficiently that it becomes difficult to discern whether it is truly a "push" or a "pull" model. It's a win/win relationship: greater profitability for the company, improved satisfaction for the customer.

There are six defining characteristics of this approach.

Strategic use of customer and prospect information. The integration and analysis of customer information must answer two basic questions ­ "What does my customer value?" and "What is the value of my customer?" Management uses the answers to these questions to define products and services designed for the most profitable or potentially profitable customer sub-segments and develops strategies for acquiring new customers, retaining and cross-selling to current customers and building customer loyalty.

Transactional focus. Every transaction ­ in fact, every contact ­ with a customer or prospect is an opportunity to gather data, invest in the customer relationship and increase shareholder value. In addition, real- time communication enables the Market Intelligent Enterprise to influence each transaction while it occurs.

Operational use of information. It is much better to optimize each customer transaction by knowing all the desirable inherent characteristics of the customer that will impact their buying decision. Common examples include: new customer or a long-term customer; conservative or quick to try new things; very satisfied or disgruntled; just starting out or putting the kids through college.

Enterprise-wide approach. The support infrastructure (people, process and technology) for the customer-aligned organization must extend throughout the enterprise and beyond to customers, manufacturers, outsourced services, distributors and retailers. This single enterprise view of the customer allows coordinated communications. Customers are neither confused by conflicting information nor are they overwhelmed by multiple communications from disconnected departments.

Strategic channel management. The ability to integrate and leverage the right customer information has a direct impact on the company's channel delivery strategy. For example, providing quality customer service may allow the customer to use their own preferred channel to communicate and interact with the company ­whether by phone, Internet, mail, store, branch or other product delivery channel. An enterprise-wide data repository ensures each channel has the same information about a customer and delivers a consistent message, avoiding potential channel conflict.

Technology-enabled new business opportunities. Technology supports the new business model and capacitates the development of a strategic, information-efficient infrastructure. A contemporary example is e-business, where the traditional, capital-intensive, bricks-and-mortar approach to market presence may become increasingly less important to the company's overall strategy for attracting new customers and selling new products.

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