(I’m going to use a little ink this week and next to highlight a few presentations coming up at our MDM Summit at the San Francisco Hyatt Regency this month. My plug ends with the hope you’ll have a look at www.mdm-summit.com and consider the learning and networking opportunity of this event that I always look forward to. -ed)

A large number of organizations have built business cases for analytical MDM practices that extract and aggregate information and support reporting for sales and marketing campaigns for cross/upselling or provide a foundation for a customer service portal. What supports sales effectiveness most quickly usually gets the highest priority.

While analytic MDM strategies provide a quicker “push,” they do not tend to support the customer at the point of transaction. A more invasive approach, transactional (or operational) MDM aims at exchanging and synchronizing data across transactional systems that better relates to a consistent customer experience.

A transactional MDM strategy is harder to pull off since it manages rather than measures the systems involved, but given the potential value, it’s not surprising that an advanced information technology outfit like Cisco Systems would be tackling it.

At our MDM Summit, Shenoy Karkala, Enterprise Solution Architect, and Ravi Krishnappa, IT Architect, will be describing Cisco’s approach, in this case primarily addressing customer data in order to improve operational efficiency and better manage the master data lifecycle.

“When we build entities at Cisco, they are platform based across a sales, commerce and a services platform,” says Karkala. “When customers are moving across these platforms we need to give them a consistent experience that should reuse operational efficiencies from customers as well as Cisco.”

Cisco B2B commerce transactions arise from individuals associated to an organization that each have a context and history. In part, Cisco is seeking to identify those users and organizations in order to establish controls for access or entitlement that extend to specific pre-negotiated contracts or discount structures.

“Analytical MDM is really just a byproduct,” Karkala says. “ In analytical MDM, a transaction happens in a separate world in a batch integration to bring those customers and build a hierarchy and you build the transactions into a data warehouse and you run the intelligence on top of it.  In [the transactional model], you get analytics and reporting with more accuracy but at the same time you identify the right customer or the right partner at the time of transaction, which helps improve accuracy around your business intelligence.”

A prime goal is to establish integration that embeds MDM within operational processes related to Cisco’s own performance gaps to provide a better customer experience. “If we just say MDM improves something like data quality, a lot of people will say, ‘who cares?’” according to Karkala. His point is that business process owners need to derive business value not provided by data quality alone. 

Cisco took a service-oriented integration approach that depends on partners to embed platform services, according to Krishnappa. “We thought we could help them, whether in order capturing, defining a sales account or defining a partner hierarchy. Our services appear as though we’d designed them for a specific area though they are really very generic in nature.”

Karkala and Krishnappa agree that transactional MDM is an invasive approach that calls for a ground-up approach for process change and IT systems integrations, but the worth will be measured in customer experience. “You could call it a day in the life of a partner or what the partner experience should be starting from how Cisco acquired the partner and how the relationship works,” Karkala says. “Then it’s about how we enable them to do e-commerce.”

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