This month I continue addressing the challenge of obtaining a single view of the customer in a CRM-ready data warehouse while acknowledging the reality and the advantages of shared customer ownership within the organization. The focus for this month is establishing the business roles, specifically the customer data steward as a liaison to the rest of the business in the process of building the shared customer dimension. This is a very favorable approach to customer ownership.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of best practices programs, as reported in the December issue, is the involvement of the business in the program. Technical-side data warehouse leaders must prepare, enable and otherwise actively engage business participation. This process begins with the leaders understanding how to organize the business roles. This article organizes those roles into a program led by data stewardship to sustain active business involvement by very tangibly including business representation during the build and support of the customer dimension.

Customer data stewardship is an often misunderstood and overlooked role in building the CRM-ready data warehouse. A key business contact should be appointed to the customer data stewardship role to facilitate various decisions within his or her business peer group. This helps prevent IT from building the IT data warehouse by making decisions that really belong in the business areas, and it helps prevent single business area dominance of the customer dimension.

The customer data steward's responsibilities include contributing business meta data, contributing the transformation rules, performing quality checks on the data, approving new users of customer data and training and supporting the business in using the warehouse.

It is the business that will use the data. Therefore, the business is in the best position to articulate how usage will be most effective. The business meta data is often overlooked due to the manual nature of most of its generation, but this is a perilous oversight. Business meta data is the finishing touch that makes the data truly usable, and many ETL tools have built-in interfaces that allow business meta data entry into the repository. The customer data steward is the person to enter or ensure the entry of this data.

The customer data steward is responsible for how the customer dimension is represented in the CRM-ready data warehouse. This means the customer data steward has responsibility for the data transformation and cleansing rules. The shared customer dimension could easily need to pull together data from several operational systems to support its subject orientation, cleansing and de- duplication. The granularity, the attributes and the hierarchies will ideally support many business applications, both current and future. Organizing all of these needs into the formation of the customer dimension is a tricky task, and it falls under the domain of the customer data steward.

Once the data is transferred, the meta data and data loaded, especially in complex environments, a final sanity check performed solely by the business customer data steward (as part of the extended build team) helps ensure the data is ready for all of the business uses.

An IT data warehouse would have the DBA creating IDs based solely on phone calls from the user community (for internal data warehouse use). As with the transformation rules, a person with technical aptitude must ultimately carry out the function, but it is the customer data steward who should obtain the user approval.

Once new users receive initial education on the use of customer data, customer data support becomes an ongoing task. IT will obviously continue to provide support for the technical components. Similarly there is an opportunity for maximum value from the customer data gained when various business representatives agree to be on support as well. This ensures that the business usage is supported in a peer-to-peer fashion.

Finally, to achieve the shared customer ownership within an organization, a venue is needed for prioritizing the allocation of limited resources to the continual development of the customer dimension. The corporate governance or data warehouse steering committee needs this kind of input from the customer data steward who should bring an enterprise view of customer data needs to the table.

It is multiple business areas, personified by the business customer data steward, who own the customer for purposes of building the CRM-ready data warehouse. Realizing many of these roles are presently performed by IT, this is also an effective program to prevent building the IT data warehouse. Having the business contribute the transformation rules and provide support along with IT may clearly disrupt current practices within your data warehouse program. However, a customer data steward can ensure ongoing business commitment and should be considered a prerequisite for building a successful CRM-ready data warehouse.

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