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Paddles up!

2nd May 2007
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photo of white water rafting

Attending the International Direct Marketing Fair at Earls Court earlier this week, my attention was grabbed by a seminar on data and enterprise management from Teradata’s global marketing manager John Timmerman. During the course of his talk he presented a photograph from a recent white water rafting expedition over dangerous rapids – a class 5 rapid no less, which, if you know your rafting, is basically one class beneath Niagra Falls.

Timmerman proceeded to outline a skew on data based around this theme, highlighting how the team member at the back of the raft, who was the resident expert, wasn’t paddling whilst all the other members – at the front – were doing all the work. These guys, Timmerman suggested, were in effect the call centre, the e-mail, the direct mail and the physical point of sale of an organisation. They were doing the work and were focusing on a target.

But at the same time, no matter how much work they did, if they hit the wrong spot in the river they would get chewed up and spat out. Therefore, the guide at the back had to make sure the raft was on the right path by delivering information about where they needed to go as and when they needed it.

Timmerman’s take on data struck a chord with me for a couple of reasons. On a personal level it piqued my interest because I myself had only just returned from a weekend of white water rafting and, sure enough, despite a raft full of novices, our expert guide successfully navigated us around the rapids without any danger. But the seminar also grabbed me as it provided an excellent perspective on the nature of data.

The issue of data dominated IDMF. From QAS group chief operating officer Jonathan Hulford-Funnell’s seminar on how to fight data decay, to D&B’s Roger Hodson discussing the latest new business data, and Dak Liyanearachchi, director of LBM, emphasising that data is the “bedrock” of customer-focused operations.

Business intelligence is very much on the agenda these days. But are firms working for their data or getting their data to work for them. Timmerman provided a good example of the importance of delivering information at the point of interaction when it is best needed.

But what about the quality of data itself? As in the white water rafting scenario, high quality data is a product of a system incorporating quality people, processes and information. If you undermine one of more of these factors - if the message to turn left is miscommunicated or misunderstood or if the team cannot paddle hard enough - you could still find yourself hurtling headlong into an unforgiving part of the river.

There seems to be a growing recognition that firms are finding themselves in choppy waters when it comes to customer data. And that is why you can look forward to a dedicated key focus on the issue of data later in the year on

Neil Davey, editor

Find out more about Neil Davey

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