This is the first part of a three-part series on meta data return on investment (ROI). In order to fully understand the value that meta data provides, it is critical to be clear on the forces triggering the evolutionary development of corporations competing in today's business marketplace. Part two of this series will examine the technical challenges that arise as a result of this evolutionary process. The concluding portion will look at the remedies that meta data provides to these technical challenges.

Business Challenges

It is said, "The only constant in life is change." Never has this old saying been more applicable than in the corporations that are competing in today's marketplace. Business is evolving in ways that were unforeseen 20 years ago. Running and managing a global company is more difficult than at any other point in time. At one time companies just had to worry about producing a quality product in an efficient manner, appropriately priced and properly distributing it to their customer base. However, in today's marketplace this is not enough.

Emergence of One-to-One Marketing

Growing consumer dissatisfaction, consumer expectations and global competition are quickly driving corporations to move from the mass production concept to a one-to-one marketing strategy. The mass production concept was one of "build it and they will come." The one-to-one marketing strategy simply states, "Create products/services that satisfy your customer's individual needs." For example, a friend of mine recently moved into a new area of the country. She went to her local grocer to purchase various food items. This grocer, like most in the country, provides coupons to aid in enticing the customer to come back to the store. Different coupons are provided depending on what the individual purchased. As my friend typically does, she purchased her favorite brand of waffles (Brand A) that she has been eating exclusively for years. Upon checkout, she received a coupon for waffles. Unfortunately the coupon was for Brand B as opposed to the brand that she has been buying for the last 20 years. If the store had insight into her buying habits, they would have understood that Brand A is the only kind of waffles she will buy. The goal of one-to-one marketing is to understand individual buying trends and then market appropriately to them. Making the transformation to this new one-to-one marketing approach is forcing CTOs (chief technology officers) and IT (information technology) directors to radically change their IT strategy to support this approach.

Evolving Distribution Channels

At one time it was common to have a person come to your door asking if you would like to purchase an encyclopedia set. These encyclopedia sets typically contained 20 to 30 very thick and heavy hard-copy books. In addition to the initial purchase, each year the consumer would have to buy an additional book that contained updated information. In today's marketplace, the door-to-door salesman has been replaced by the Internet where you can electronically purchase your encyclopedia set on a few CD-ROMs which contain animated illustrations of many of the topics covered in the CDs. In addition, there is no longer a need to purchase updates to the encyclopedia set. Instead, there is an accompanying Web site that keeps the information fresh and more timely than ever before.

Global Marketplace

Previously a company could be assured of having a solid and stable market base just because of their geographic location. With major technological advances occurring on an almost monthly basis, our world is becoming more and more accessible. Advances such as cellular phones, global pagers, video conferencing, the Internet, e-mail and highly advanced package delivery (next-day air, etc.) have enabled companies to market their products quickly and cost-effectively to just about any place in the world.

Next month's column will examine the technical challenges facing CTOs and IT directors as they respond to these business challenges.

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