maandag 27 juni 2016

Why Master Data Management is Not Just a Nice-to-have…

Sometimes the ideas for a blog just land on your desk without any effort. This time, all the effort was made by one of the world’s largest fast moving consumer goods companies with 355.000 employees worldwide.

But this is not a guarantee for smart process and data management as the next experience from yours truly will illustrate.

The Anamnesis

One rainy day, the tenth of May, I receive a mail piece with a nice promotional offer: buy a coffee machine for one euro while you order your exquisite cups online. On rainy days you take more time to read junk mail and sometimes you even respond to them. So I surfed to their website and filled out the order form. After introducing the invoice data (VAT number,invoice address,…) an interesting question popped up:

Is your delivery address different from your invoice address?

As a matter of fact it was, it was the holiday season and the office was closed for a week but I was at a customer’s site and thought it would be a good idea to have it delivered there.
So I ticked the box and filled in the delivery address.  That’s when the horror started.
Because, when I hit the order button, there was no feedback after saving, no chance to check the order and wham, there came the order confirmation by e-mail.
Oops: the delivery address and the invoice address were switched. Was this my fault or a glitch in the web form? Who cares, best practice in e-commerce is to leave the option for changing the order on details and even cancelling the order, right? Wrong. There was no way of changing the order, all I could do was call the free customer service number to hopefully make the switch undone.

10th May, Call to Consumer Service Desk #1 

IVR: “Choose 2 if this is your first order”

Me: “2”
Client service agent: “What is your member number?
Me: “I don’t have member number since this is my first order. It’s about order nr NAW19092… “
Client service agent: “hmmm we can’t use the order number to find your data. What is your postcode and house number?”
Me: “This is tricky since I want to switch delivery address with the invoice address. You know what, I’ll give you both”.
Client service agent: Can’t find your order”
So, I am completely out of the picture: not via the company, the address, the order number, let alone a unique identifier like the VAT number
Client service agent: “Please send a mail to our service e-mail address “”.
Me: “Send e-mail” Result: no receipt confirmation, no answer from this e-mail address. Great customer experience guys!

10th May Call to Consumer Service Desk #2

Client service agent: “Oh Sir, you are calling the consumer line, you should dial YYY/YYYYYY for the business customers”
Me:" But that’s the only phone number on your website and the order confirmation???!!!"

10th May 2 PM Call to Business customer service #3

Client service agent: “Let me check if I can find your order”… (2’ wait time) “Yes, it’s here how can I help you?”
Me: “I want to switch the invoice with the delivery address”
Client service agent“OK Sir, done”

11th May: The delivery service provider sends a message the delivery is due on the original address from the order.

No switch had been made…

Call to DPD? Too late.. these guys were too efficient...

The Diagnosis, What Else?

Marketing didn’t have a clue about the order flow and launched a promotion without an end-to-end view on the process which resulted in a half-baked online order process: no reviewing of the order possible, no feedback and the wrong customer service number on the order confirmation.

Data elements describing CUSTOMER, ORDER and PRODUCT may or may not be conformed (from the outside hard to validate) but they are certainly locked in functional silos: consumers and companies.
Customer service has no direct connection to the delivery process
The shipping company (DPD) provided the best possible service under the circumstances.
And this is only a major global player!  Can you imagine how lesser Gods screw up their online experience?

Yes, it can get worse!

One of my clients called me in on a project that was under way and was seriously going south.

What happened?  The organisation had developed a back office application to support  a public agenda of events. As a customer of this organisation you could contact the front desk who would then log some data in the back office application and wrap up the rest of the process via e-mail. Each co-worker would use his own “data standards” in Outlook so every event had to be handled by the initial co-worker if the organisation wanted to avoid mistakes. No wonder some event logging processes sometimes took quite a while when the initiator was on a holiday or on sick leave…
A few months later -keep that in mind- the organisation decided to push the front desk work to the web and guess what? Half the process flow and half the data couldn’t be supported by the back office application because the business logic applied by the front desk worker wasn’t analysed when developing the back office app.
Siloed application development can lead you to funny (but unworkable) products

So, please all you folks out there, invest some money in an end-to-end analysis of the process and the master data. It’s a fraction of the building cost and it will save you tons of money and bad will with customers, coworkers and suppliers.