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Why You Should Care About a Data Platform

close up of fingers tapping a touch screen displaying data

Second in a two-part series

By Philip Howard, Bloor Research International Ltd.

It is all very well saying that the industry is moving towards data platforms and, in some cases, is well on the way there. This was the topic of the first blog in this series. But why might that be important to you? Why might you want to combine relational and non-relational data in operational processes? And why might you want to analyze some of this data within the operational environment?

We could make some theoretical arguments around these points, but a better method will be to highlight some examples of where this might be important. The following highlight some relevant use cases and we will start with what is perhaps the most widely applicable of applications, which is that of the extended 360o view. Along with the Internet of Things, this is an example where use cases represent cross-industry solutions.

The extended 360o view

The concept of a 360o view of the customer (or client or patient) or supplier, has been around for a long time. The idea is that it is beneficial to have a complete, consistent and accurate view of whatever entity you are dealing with. But traditional technologies have been limited to the structured, relational data that we have about that person or thing. The extended 360o view, on the other hand, takes a much broader perspective by allowing you to include such things as emails, call center notes, information from wearable medical devices, location-based data, analysis of comments, previous history and experience, information from social media sites, and so on and so forth, all as data that augments the original 360o view.

If we consider the traditional 360o view of the customer for a moment, this is useful, but it is a blunt instrument. You can ensure that you have information that is as accurate as possible about your customers, and it can span different divisions within your organization, so that the information you hold is holistic. However, that information is not detailed enough to give you a complete picture.

For marketing purposes, you cannot accurately target individual customers: you can generate relevant segmentation, but this does not get close to one-to-one marketing. The ability to use unstructured data, whether internally collected data from call records or external data such as social media changes all of this. Thanks to the additional information, not to mention opinions, which individuals make available about themselves through conversations with your call center or via social media, it is possible to get to a much more granular level of marketing.

While information gathered in call centers may contribute to marketing efforts and organizations may make use of the information for such things as next best offer, there is an important case to be made for an extended 360o view supporting contact center operations directly. In particular, the emphasis in these environments is on first-time call resolution (because it is more cost-effective for your organization and also because it pleases the customer).

Unfortunately, call center operatives often do not have access to all the facts when they are engaging with customers. They are typically limited to the confines of the customer relationship management or CRM system, and/or master data management (MDM) system in place, and they do not have a complete and holistic view of the customer, which results in less than an optimal response. An extended 360o view should provide all the relevant information about that customer that is known by the company.

While an extended 360o view is often about improved retention, reduced churn, and improved marketing and call center operations, it is not limited to these environments. For example, you might want to combine text analytics of insurance claims along with the extended 360o view in order to improve identification of fraudulent claims while automating the processing of claims where fraud is not suspected. More generally, Bloor Research knows of clients implementing an extended 360o view in banking, insurance, telecommunications, retail and the leisure industry, among others.

From a technical perspective, a multi-model data platform is well placed to support an extended 360o view because it can store, manage and analyze all of the sorts of data that are likely to be required within a single database instance. Traditional database providers are likely to need a more fragmented architecture with, for example, relational storage products alongside content management, and with bridging technology that allows you to combine the two. While this is feasible it is more cumbersome, more difficult to manage and will probably cost more.

About the Blogger

Philip Howard, Research Director at Bloor Research International Ltd.

Philip Howard is Research Director at Bloor Research International Ltd., a London-based independent IT research, analysis and consultancy firm founded in 1989. More information about Bloor Research may be found at