It is always fascinating when reality catches up with rhetoric whether in science fiction, politics or information technology. For the first time ever, we see evidence that information technology is catching up with customer relationship management (CRM) marketing rhetoric. In short, the critical path to the much hyped but rarely realized 360 degree view of the customer lies through:

Without all of these, the result is often yet another CRM system that misses the customer. Especially in the case of the multidivisional firm with multiple customer contact and delivery channels, data warehousing architecture provides a consistent design and representation of customers, products, services and channels ­ a critical path to success. This is because it is the nature of business requirements to be in flux. In contrast, the essential nature of architecture is to be something that stands fast. The challenge is to balance the conflicting requirements of data architecture flexibility and deliver business value. Just as a business intelligence (BI) application without the supporting framework of a data warehouse architecture would be meaningless, data warehouse architecture without a unifying decision support application is empty. Both are needed to succeed with high-impact BI initiatives. In addition, as the "profit sanctuary" for firms that still manufacture physical goods migrates from production to servicing big ticket items, the customer information collected in warranty data and service data becomes a critical component of a customer data warehouse.

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