Monday’s Musings: Why Every Social CRM Initiative Needs An MDM Backbone

Published on August 31, 2009 by R "Ray" Wang

Proliferation and access to new social tools creates significant challenges for organizations

Organizations engaged in Social CRM initiatives often start out by monitoring the chatter and conversation across a few platforms and channels such as Facebook and Twitter.  As these organizations increase their savviness, they quickly realize the enormity of the challenge.  The exponential number of touch points and algorithmic channel complexity puts to shame yesterday’s eCommerce strategy and the dated tools designed to address multi-channel.  In order to cut through the high noise to signal ratio, organizations must determine how best to manage the complexity and scale of data being generated, amidst a transforming landscape where:

  • CIO’s no longer determine technology adoption – business leaders and individuals initiate a groundswell.
  • Consumer technologies provide more innovation, usability, and reliability than what’s available to the enterprise.
  • Disparate systems results in fragmentation of key information despite new deployment options.

Basic business questions must be addressed in every Social CRM initiative

Despite the massive scale of collected, fragmented data, Social CRM initiatives complement other relationship management initiatives in asking and answering key questions such as:

  • Do we know the identity of the individual?
  • Can we tell if there are any apparent and potential relationships?
  • Are they advocates or detractors? (added 8/31 07:25 am PT)
  • How do we know whether or not we have a false positive?
  • What products and services have been purchased in the past?
  • Have we assessed how much credit risk we can be exposed to
  • What pricing and entitlements are customers eligible for?

Organizations seek automation technologies to resolve master data issues.

Master data management (MDM) provides a set of technologies that address the acquisition, cleansing, enrichment, and distribution of data.  With so many channels and so many sources, Social CRM initiatives require MDM technologies that (See Figure 1):

  • Resolve matching of a broad range of data types. Organizations will want to associate individuals to products, services, orders, contracts, incidents, location, etc.
  • Deliver consistent and accurate enrichment of data.  Organizations will want to append trusted data sources, hierarchies, and relationship information to cleansed information.
  • Provide timely synchronization in federated environments. Organizations can expect their data to be federated as social media tools and SaaS deployments push data beyond centralized repositories.

Figure 1. Consistent Information In Social CRM Requires A MDM Backbone

Figure 1. Consistent Information In Social CRM Requires A MDM Backbone Copyright © 2009 R Wang. All rights reserved.

Recommendations – apply continuous customer management (CCM) processes before implementing MDM technologies

Form follows function. MDM technologies should not be implemented without a clear understanding of how customer management and data governance processes will be adopted.  Five hallmarks of CCM include (see Figure 2):

  • Proactive sourcing of data. How can data be kept up to date at every touch point.
  • Right time delivery of information. What should be delivered when, where, why, and to whom?
  • Links to action. What can be done to create actionable insight?
  • Assessment of results. What metrics help paint the overall picture?
  • Refinement of process.  What lessons learned can be applied to future initiatives?

Figure 2.   Continuous Customer Management (CCM) delivers 5 unique stages


Your POV

Have you begun your Social CRM strategy without MDM?  What MDM issues do you face?  If you have put MDM to use in Social CRM, let us know any lessons learned.  Post your comment here or reach me direct at r at altimetergroup dot com or r at softwareinsider dot org.

Copyright © 2009 R Wang. All rights reserved.

  • Nishith – these are important points. it comes down to the customer model and the master data mappings. add all the user generated and unstructured data and this will be a fun project for years! – Ray

  • Hi Ray,

    Excellent article. Interestingly, today only we had a discussion around the same at workplace. I think it boils down to the fact that maintaining of customer identity is a much more daunting task when social piece is involved. It has lot of multiple facets to it:

    a. N different number of identities can exist for a same person. Thought all the SMM tools are trying to fit in with asking user to keep a unified identity. But still using a SMM for user management within the CRM context is bound to create lot of dependencies on how many users are using the tool.

    b. Centralization of all these different avatars mapped to the master data will be a big challenge in terms of scalability.

    My PoV, have the profile maintained using own community. Let users add their details to your community. (Enterprise first need to ensure they have already made the provision of how to store the profile info and then have a compelling engagement done using the communities).

    Another aspect is if analytics tool can enhance their integration functionality so that they are able to pull user level details, this will also help in fine tuning of customer data model.



  • For the sake of arguement, let us treat social interactions as one of the extended channels for an enterprise. The only difference, of course is that enterptise would not be owning and regulating the interactions (until it is a regulated interaction community as in Pharma space etc).

    Now, for an MDM iniative to be successful, we would need to get source and correctness of data so that linkages can be made and patterns be established. This is easy when one has a regulated or discliplined channel,which is not the case with social networking communities.

    Most important, Social CRM is in its presnt form more analytical than opertaional. We can get actionable intellegence for trends but that can not be tied back to specific customer records in the database.
    In my opinion, there is a lot that DW/BI can do in this space and once it attains a certain level of maturity in identyfying trends to specific data, MDM sets in.

    Thanks for a great article, it sets the mind thinking!


  • reza, great point. process and culture changes have a greater impact than the technologies. At the end, MDM is just a tool but the buy-in, cultural awareness, and process changes need to be natural and pervasive.

  • Hi Ray,

    MDM has a lot of value but I would argue when it comes to social CRM initiatives it would not be on top my list. What I realized is that many companies are jumping into social CRM initiative without realizing the extent of changes in process and culture that is required to make them successful (see

    I think what most companies are missing today is a strategy and roadmap. I would argue that the heavy lifting is on the processes and change management side and technology would be the easy part.

    BTW – best of luck with your new adventure,


  • I’m not aware of any open source initiatives but if anyone knows, please add a comment here. I”d be open to a briefing on this topic.

  • It will make sense to see where the community platforms and MDM intersect. Look forward to hearing from you guys soon!

  • I’m hoping the social CRM vendors and the community platforms will work more closely with the MDM vendors to identify potential opps. See the comment by Siperian below. Cheers!

  • Jonathan, if there’s anything we can do to assist you in that design, please let us know. If you have any additional thoughts, please keep them coming!

  • I recognise this problem and we are wrestling with articulating it to our IT people and getting it high enough up the priority stack, the 360 degree view across web and telephony is still not resolved and getting airtime to get that resolved is difficult enough. Getting all these new channels onto the agenda is proving a challenge, but certainly something in my view which needs to be architecturally correct if our CRM solutions are to provide competitive advantage in a 18 – 36 month timescale.

  • Ray,

    There is no question that CRM data is dirty – more so as you extend to social networking. I can’t help but think that the MDM approach will always be one step behind new sources of dirty data. Here’s some devil’s advocate thinking:

    An alternative view is that social networking is somewhat self organizing through tags and other methods. This organization is more Darwinian. There is no master. There is no table of authorities like in the document management world. The tags most often used rise to the top regardless of whether these are the best descriptors. This doesn’t solve the issue of two different spellings and some of the typical CRM data quality issues. Web 3.0 and semantic technologies might provide the missing links for organizational and personal identity.

    Another view is that solution of MDM may interfere in the 360 degree social networking world. An organization wants very clean and up-to-date data to support e-marketing and provide leads to salespeople. In the 360 degree world, one is participating not broadcasting. Customers are interacting and supporting each other. Product and service ideas from partners, customers and the general public percolate. In a sense, with the exception of fraud, it really doesn’t matter whether a person or company is listed three different times in the database if you are interacting rather than broadcasting. Your sales and marketing process is not usually of interest to customers and prospects. Also, in social networking, you might not know who is talking. That might be less important in most cases that identifying what people are talking about.

  • It’s a mess! I’ve got LinkedIn contacts with the same name but a different email address from what we have in our database. I don’t want to email my LinkedIn contacts enmasse because many of them are already in our database.

    Email is more intrusive than Twitter. So I can tweet about something that might have already been in an email we’ve sent out to our database, and not feel like I’m intruding.

    This is a huge opportunity for a company to figure out how to coalesce all the social networking contacts into a database and track all interactions.


  • Ray,

    No doubt about, master data management is/will be key to extracting some of the enterprise value out of social. The additional inputs can be incredibly powerful for feedback on products, services, or general brand perception, but without effective ways to categorize and group the sources and topics, the data will remain simply noise.

    I’m actually interested in how the hash tag approach will evolve. Many of the tags contain relevant ancillary master data or master data attributes that can help classify and segment the inputs. Their non-standard nature presents a problem in the enterprise however. Fully automated insights and analytics supplemented by social inputs will be challenging until this problem is addressed.

    Nice article.


  • That’s an interesting intersection – Social CRM and MDM. I am very much aware of companies that have leveraged MDM to get a handle on customer contacts and their interactions using internal sources. Here’s one such story posted on Siperian website ( Some others have explored using MDM for customer contact management by integrating with non-traditional sources such as Outlook, and analyze the email traffic to determine relationship strength – based on the number of emails and recency of emails. Integrating with business/social media such as LinkedIn or Twitter doesn’t seem far fetched, except that those sources are external. If companies can use SAAS systems such as as a source to MDM, why not LinkedIn or Twitter? Seems like a natural evolution. By tying the chatter in social media to the internal sources, companies can identify key advocates and build relationships with them. I’m still interested in learning if companies see a value in such as use case!

  • Ray,

    Great article! Are you aware of any open source initiatives in this space? It is a critical issue for most corporations as the bulk of the information is now updated outside of the internal CRM systems. OpenID has been a great tool but does have its limitations.

    I’ve been working on an integrated CMS, CRM, Blogging, Twitter, Digg, LinkedIn and Facebook application to make these systems work together in a way that a small to mid-sized business owner, without technical knowledge can understand. It’s very challenging to say the least.

    Thanks so much for the article.

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