If you listen to salesforce.com (SFDC) then you’d have to believe the answer is an emphatic “Yes.”
Shortly before Christmas, Kevin Akeroyd, the general manager of salesforce.com’s Jigsaw Data Cloud, tried to convince a group of U.K. analysts that now that Jigsaw is part of SFDC, we can all rush out and put our company and customer data in the cloud and share it effectively with everyone else. And looking at Jigsaw’s stats, it seems a lot of people are happy to do this—four million companies and 24 million contacts are already on the database. Perhaps we analysts are all a little more sceptical than others, but it didn’t seem to be such a good idea to quite a few of the folks on the call.
In principle the idea is simple: Jigsaw hosts an enormous database in the cloud and companies or individuals can simply add, amend or delete their corporate and contact data as they wish. Everyone who signs up gets to access the data and can use it to enrich his or her own in-house sources and drive business activities, such as creating a target list for a marketing campaign. The whole process is built around the concept of “crowdsourcing,” which in the end relies on people accepting that “if you scratch my back, I will scratch yours”– or, in other words, “I’ll share my data if you share yours.”
All that is well and good but many of us on the call raised a number of concerns, including:
• Should companies really be sharing this vital asset?
• Does this sharing violate data protection laws, especially here in Europe?
• Does it violate privacy laws and/or a customer’s expectations of privacy?
• Will it be possible to prevent misuse?
• Can an individual control who sees what data about them and how others can use it?
• Will data be secure once it’s shared on the cloud?
We got some answers but many were left uncertain as to whether Jigsaw had completely thought these issues through.
One thing I have to agree with is that companies need to do more to sort out their customer data. The only real conclusion I could reach from my research into customer information management is that a majority of companies find that customer data management is a giant mess—it is spread around on too many systems, it is incomplete, and it is not consistent across systems. Much of it is also out-of-date. Combine these issues with the difficulties of accessing newer forms of customer data, such as call recordings, text messages, IM scripts, surveys and social media entries, then you can see that creating the fabled 360-degree of the customer remains an illusion. This is so despite the fact that today having such a view is more vital than ever. I see from my research that companies are now more focused on customer experience management as the way to retain existing customers and to derive maximum business benefit from them. Having a single source of high quality customer data is essential to those efforts but it remains to be seen whether the “data cloud” is going to be the answer.
What challenges do you have managing your customer data? Are you tempted to share it with others?
Richard Snow – VP & Research Director