IDC study shows poor data quality in business analytics

Vancouver — Data quality remains the top challenge to Canadian organizations making better use of business analytics through data warehousing, according to an IDC Canada study.

David Senf, the research firm’s manager of e-business operations, global solutions, told a breakfast meeting on data

quality and CRM last month there is also a disconnect between company leadership and their IT staff, with the corporate end more confident in the data then their IT people are.

According to IDC, 50 per cent of large Canadian organizations say business analytics is something they’re looking at and are considering a priority.

Of those organizations that have invested in business analytics projects, 65 per cent reported the experience as being positive. However, Senf warned that figure isn’t as impressive as it appears.

“”Take that with a grain of salt — the positive side was pretty broadly defined and the results were weighted more toward the middle,”” said Senf, who is based in Toronto.

Senf said even those companies reporting a positive experience say there is still a need for improvement.

Top challenges reported when dealing with business analytics projects included data quality, budgetary constraints, and managing expectations.

With 66 per cent saying their warehoused data will be doubling over the next two years, data quality will become an increasingly important challenge, Senf said, adding the increasing amount of data is being driven by the move to business-to-business e-commerce and customer relationship management programs.

Good data can lead to better decision making, better alignment with stated business objectives, improved business intelligence and improved visibility. However, Senf said data quality doesn’t need to be perfect.

“”There doesn’t need to be 100 per cent data quality, that’s not achievable and not necessary,”” he said.

“”It may be 99 per cent or 95.9 per cent, it will vary with the organization,”” Senf added.

Intrawest, a Vancouver-based resort company operating ski and golf course resorts across North America, first started using CRM three years ago and is reaping significant dividends.

Kevin Konnar, director of data services for CRM at Intrawest, said the company looked to CRM to increase its rate of return and grow revenues. The timing was right, with the company looking to leverage its existing customer base as it moves into new business areas.

“”We’re seeing opportunity in the youth and the baby boomer markets, and we needed data to validate that perception,”” said Konnar.

Intrawest, which is also expanding into areas like adventure travel, pulls customer data into its data warehouse from a variety of areas, from when someone buys a lift pass at a resort to when they e-mail a request for information through its Web site.

Konnar said the company is using that data to identify its top customers and give them a different level of service when they’re contacted via e-mail, direct mail, or from the call centre.

The company is also able to tailor any contact with a customer or a lead based on the customer’s interests, matching them with the services the company offers.

“”It gives us a better idea of how to target the person with an offer that fits what they’re looking for and are likely to be interested in,”” said Konnar.

Since Intrawest brought in a CRM system and began moving away from direct mail marketing campaigns in favour of e-mail marketing, Konnar said campaign preparation time has dropped by 25 per cent and campaign analysis time has dropped by 40 per cent.

He added that the time savings has allowed for more accurate response measuring as well.

As an example, should Intrawest see a large block of empty rooms coming up in the next month, it can mine the database to target people in the local region with last minute offers to try and fill that space, he said.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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