6 trials when building a Single Customer View

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Building a Single Customer View (SCV) is no walk in the park. There is significant expertise needed to manage not only the technical, IT and database aspects of the task, but also the project management and business integration components. Here we explore some of the trials often experienced when undertaking an SCV project.

1. Adequate scoping

The first, and one of the most important elements, is a clear and detailed scope of the project, this should cover what the Single Customer View will be used to do, who will use it and how.

In addition, wider business aims and objectives need to be taken into consideration. These may expose additional functionality that is either required or would add benefits.

Scoping will often take longer than initially expected – leading to delays known as scope creep.

People often come up with new ideas to add to the project and (whether they are incorporated in the initial execution or not) reviewing these ideas to identify those which are beneficial will take time – so it is important to allow for this.

2. Effective project management

Anyone who works regularly with developers (and developers themselves!) will know that they can all too easily become distracted by the elements of a project which interest them the most, or by other projects which people convince them to prioritise instead.

So effective project management is vital to keep everyone focused and on track during an SCV build.

An effective execution will use a formal technique such as Agile and will maintain change control procedures to avoid significant scope creep. In addition, project managers will often be responsible to undertake the unenviable task, if required, of selecting what suggested features will not be implemented or will have to come in later releases.

If scoping is not complete, the project can end up taking significantly longer than it should, meaning it costs more than planned. Effective project management can help prevent this.

3. User friendly tools and data to work within them

A Single Customer View designed and built in SQL or Oracle is not going to be much use to the rest of the business, as only programmers would be able to use and access the information within it.

Instead, you want a solution which allows marketing users to explore and analyse the data.

To achieve this we recommend tools such as Faststats Discoverer which allow marketing and other business users to:

  • explore and report on the data,
  • create marketing selections for effective targeting,
  • gain an understanding of existing customer and prospect data,
  • analyse and report on campaign performance,
  • run basket and transaction analysis.

To use such a tool, the data needs to be structured in an appropriate way.

Before bringing us on board to help create a suitable solution, we have seen many database teams design a data warehouse on a star schema, which will store lots of data, but is unsuitable for marketing and business insight purposes.

4. Sufficient testing

Testing is vitally important and requires a number of stages to be effective. It will ensure all the requirements identified are present and working in the way agreed during scoping and planning.

Stage 1 - During development, ongoing informal testing will take place by the developer.

Stage 2 - Formal testing scripts will be created and executed – these should be conducted end-to-end as well as on each element in isolation, to ensure all tools and processes work both together and stand-alone.

Stage 3 - User Acceptance Testing (UAT). At this stage the project manager will work with the client to test the system and ensure they are happy with the planned release.

5. End-user buy in

An SCV project is often championed by a group or an individual who sees the value it can add to the marketing function and to the wider business. Having such individuals behind the project and getting it off the ground at a business is vital.

However, buy in will also need to be secured from all end-users to ensure the system is used to its full potential, and therefore will be worth the investment made in creating it.

So consulting all potential end-users right from the start is worthwhile, as is involving them at appropriate stages of the scoping and build. This way they understand the need for the system and how it will benefit them in their own roles.

6. Technical considerations - processing power, access and security

Various technical elements need to be taken into consideration with any SCV project.

You will need sufficient processing power to complete the regular data updates. If updates are complex and time consuming, this may lead to overloading your server – especially if it is also used for numerous other tasks. A dedicated server may be required in such cases.

Security implications relate to where the database is hosted, how the data is managed, who can import and extract data, and more. These need to be considered carefully to ensure you are compliant with data protection regulations and also to protect your own data assets.

How is the system accessed? Do you need access from multiple sites or from users’ homes? It may be more appropriate to have online access to the system from any location, depending on your requirements – which should be brought to light during that vital scoping process.

  • Have you experienced scope creep during a similar project?
  • - How do you ensure buy in from your colleagues?
  • Have you had issues with project management of an SCV or similar project?