Increasing Customer Value with Unstructured Data and MDM

Analytics Arms Race

According to a 2017 report from Dimension Data, Customer analytics is the second-highest rated factor in driving positive customer experience and is projected to be the leading factor in coming years. The findings in this report remain valid today. In this same report, only 48% of respondents say their organizations currently have analytics systems, and only 36% possess big data analytic solutions that are delivering real value. What we have found is that market leaders, regardless of vertical, are almost always in that 36%, and the existence of systems and tools are only a starting point for maximizing the value that this data paradigm offers.


Fortunately, most companies already capture much of their customers’ transactional data (i.e. product purchases, website usage, campaign returns, focus group surveys, etc.). Having this structured data shared across the organization as a “single source of truth” is essential to your success.


Advanced use of structured data is now table stakes, however, and is not sufficient to compete in today’s market. Leaders of every industry are unlocking valuable insights through the infusion of unstructured data via internal and external sources.


The unfiltered feelings, thoughts, emotions, and underlying decision-making processes of your customers are best captured in the moment that they occur – that is, in their tweets, call center notes, online reviews, phone calls, emails, and posts. A mature MDM strategy and initiative serves to link these disparate data sources and types and then consolidate them into a set of single “golden” records, so that organizations can fully understand their customers’ behaviors and motivations, and tailor individualized customer engagement accordingly. With MDM tied to transactional, historical, and unstructured data, imagine the impact you can have with a current or potential customer within moments of them telling you what they are thinking! In our experience, most organizations lack a clear strategy or capability for doing this and end up hemorrhaging insights that are critical to their business objectives.


Let us review a typical customer journey and life cycle, shown below.

Figure 1 - Typical Customer Lifecycle Journey, where data is being generated at each activity

Figure 1: Typical Customer Lifecycle / Journey, where data is being generated at each activity


Customers can follow many paths in their journey. Throughout their experience, there are large volumes of data being generated. These include product recommendations, tweets, posts, thumbs up/down, raves, complaint emails, voice calls, and others, which instantly capture authentic feedback from customers and offer valuable insights.


The goal of modern MDM initiatives and tools is to synthesize all this structured and unstructured customer information into a unique, tailored profile, as a “single source of truth”. Then, you can incrementally grow your knowledge and understanding of your customers in order to provide a better experience. This holistic view will impact your abilities to increase retention or drive new acquisition strategies. MDM, coupled with a well-planned data governance process, enables this by serving to link a company’s internal customer knowledge with what the customer is saying in other domains. This allows companies to extract deeper insights, create more effective analytics, and build richer artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) models that can understand, predict, and influence this behavior.


In order to benefit from the accumulated value, the “trusted” data must be consumable by people and processes as quickly and easily as possible. This is best accomplished using a cloud-based, scalable solution such as SAP Data Warehouse Cloud (DWC), which provides an out-of-the-box enterprise-ready data warehouse (SaaS) that is, elastic, cost effective, easily consumable and has ideal integration with S/4HANA and other non-SAP systems.


Recommended Approach

At a high level, we make the following recommendations when you undertake a customer-focused MDM initiative.


Use the Customer’s Initiatives as a North Star: Develop and execute an MDM strategy that aligns with customer business initiatives and contains multiple coordinated workstreams. This will ensure that meaningful value is created as workstreams are delivered.


Align Tools & Techniques: Deploy a leading MDM and data governance tool, such as SAP Master Data Governance (MDG) on SAP S/4HANA, which provides comprehensive capabilities to master all customer-related data. The tool must:

  • Consolidate and create golden customer records by incorporating unstructured data
  • Allow the creation of data quality and validation rules
  • Offer enrichment of name, address and identification-information from external 3rd party data providers like D&B, Melissa, etc., along with SAP’s S/4HANA Cloud for Data Enrichment tool
  • Feature a role-based governance workflow engine
  • Provide mass-processing, and match/merge functionality
  • Harmonize and replicate data back to corporate applications
  • Contain standard Search/Create/Read/Update/Delete/Block processes
  • Lead with incorporation and mastering of unstructured customer data using the MDM tool along with modern (preferably cloud-based) data architectures to speed deployment
  • Focus each workstream on a measurable business use case. Examples include increasing customer loyalty based on repeat purchases, or increasing retention based on churn metrics


Each of these recommendations obviously contain much more detail, and we will continue to elaborate on these in future articles. The concept is simplified below in Figure 2.

Figure 2 - High level concept of Unstructured Data and MDM to generate business value

Figure 2: High level concept of Unstructured Data and MDM to generate business value


We have been fortunate to partner with many clients who have transformed their customer engagement by prioritizing their Master Data Management strategy and combining it with a complete end-to-end SaaS solution like SAP DWC, to deliver impressive business impact. Three of these case studies are summarized below.

  • A leading mid-sized specialty hydrocarbon products company needed to improve operational excellence. This required consistent and clean data with good governance early in their S/4HANA migration journey towards digital transformation. With the implementation of S4 HANA MDG tool, we were able to help them. This resulted in increased sales effectiveness with consolidated customer view and helped improve the supply chain efficiency and procurement decisions.
  • A large event management client launched a customer-focused initiative, needing timely access to customer data to drive revenue growth opportunities. The goal of this initiative was to provide insights to the sales team across customer preferences, demographics, usage, and behavior. Using the MDM tool, we were able to dramatically reduce the number of customer duplicate versions from over 1 million records to 400 thousand unique customers and decrease the possibility of creating new duplicates to virtually zero. The client also used MDM tool to:
    • Identify high value customers
    • Identify customer behavior and purchase patterns
    • Incorporate customer feedback into their marketing and sales processes.


This resulted in an increase in profitable customers, greater revenues from the sale of related products, and increased customer loyalty.


* Note that with the recent availability of DWC, this could be re-implemented as a Customer Data Mart.


Company Description

Inspired Intellect is an end-to-end service provider of data management, analytics and application development. We engage through a portfolio of offerings ranging from strategic advisory and design, to development and deployment, through to sustained operations and managed services.

Inspired Intellect is part of the ADI Group. The ADI Group is a collection of companies that, collectively, advises on and implements enhanced technological capabilities for enterprises along their digital transformation journey. Members of the ADI Group include:

  • Worldlink
  • Inspired Intellect
  • ADI Family Office
  • The ADI Foundation

Inspired Intellect’s membership in the ADI Group allows its clients access to a broader portfolio of digital transformation solutions and multiple touch points with innovation