Data silo integration is difficult. Retailers face both organizational and technical problems. However, difficult does not mean impossible. Retailers are doing it. There are ways to overcome data silo problems.
The organizational and behavioral issues are challenging. On the business side, the problem almost always comes down to the fear of losing control of the application. It requires leadership to change behavior and convince all the parties that they must work together. Country and regional managers often have considerable concern about integrating systems with a “corporate” mandated solution.
The benefits to the business always outweigh the concerns. At one of our clients, there was fear revenue from a key customer would be allocated to another business unit. For example, if a client lived in Germany, but purchased in Paris, which country manager (Germany or France) would get the revenue credit? In many companies, the Paris revenue would be attributed to France because that is where the activity took place. However, that might not be appropriate. The customer relationship may have been developed in Germany.
The corporate business management concern is that data silos prevent knowing how important that customer might be to the overall business. If the German customer purchases in multiple countries, her total purchases in any one market might be small. However, taken together, she might deserve higher recognition. Will this customer get the experience she deserves?
There was also fear that one business unit would spam the customer list with marketing materials so that the other business units would not get through the clutter. The spamming issue was resolved with data governance and business rules.
The technical reasons for not integrating data silos are also significant. Different databases may organize customer data differently. That is natural. Name, address, and phone number formats are different in different locations. A system optimized for one cannot just be merged into another. Character sets may also change. For example, a Greek customer in Athens would likely use the Greek alphabet. However, in the rest of the EU, the Latin (Western European) alphabet is common. There are also detailed technical issues around database schema and storage formats.
How to bring together differently formatted databases.
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