Data inconsistencies lead to frustrations
Any data inconsistencies invariably result in considerable frustration by everyone involved. Employees are constantly updating client data, adding and changing contact information and contract data, all while marketing teams are uploading foreign data for new campaigns and other client communications. "Each of these manipulations can produce small data errors or inconsistencies," observes Decoster. "Since the data is being manipulated by a multitude of persons and departments, problems can easily arise such as duplicate entries, client records with incomplete contract information, and missing contact information such as first name, gender, post and e-mail address, or phone number. This is frustrating, especially for marketing teams running a campaign: many e-mails simply bounce, some mail is sent twice to the same person, and others are based on wrong or missing information. This sometimes severely damaged our reputation."
Although a centralized SAP CRM database had been in place since 2004, the problems have been growing worse in recent years. Decoster noted that complaints about data quality were coming in from both staff and clients. "Obviously we had to do something about it and do it effectively and convincingly."
SAS® Data Management clean up successfully launched
The data quality issue was put high on the agenda when Securex launched its comprehensive Client+ project. This change project included the migration of the highly customized SAP CRM database into the cloud-based, standardized, scalable Salesforce.com solution. Securex decided to deploy SAS® Data Management to facilitate that migration. Decoster explains that their reasoning proved to be spot on. "SAS® Data Management enabled us to meticulously clean the data before uploading it into our new database. The data were normalized, duplicate entries were merged, and missing information was automatically added whenever. SAS® Data Management has built-in tools such as data dictionary definition, fuzzy matching, full name parsing, reliable gender determination, phone number standardization, and e-mail address analysis that comprehensively covered all of our concerns. We have already completed the migration of our enterprise accounts in record time and the marketing department tells us they have virtually zero complaints about data quality. It is a huge improvement that would have been unthinkable without SAS® Data Management. We are now finalizing our self-employed and individual accounts."
A permanent watchdog for data quality
Decoster insists however, that improving data quality is not a one shot affair; it must be a continuous concern within the organization. It is one reason why Securex opted for a comprehensive approach. Their Client+ project includes the redefinition and streamlining of marketing and sales processes. Part of this effort is sensitizing staff about the impact of their data manipulations and insisting that they be both careful and precise. At the same time, SAS® Data Management is being set up as a permanent watchdog for data quality. Decoster explains why: "One can never be 100% sure that every single bit of data will be entered correctly, even when people are fully trained and sensitized. That is why we have SAS® Data Management make consistency checks and updates on a regular basis, in fact every week. Our next step will be to implement a near real time check. Whenever someone in the organization enters or modifies data, the changed record is automatically processed and corrected by SAS® Data Management. This is a process that takes just a couple of seconds."
Robust architecture and great flexibility
Decoster and the Securex staff have nothing but praise for the robust architecture and great flexibility of the SAS® Data Management platform. The system can be integrated into any software environment. For example, SAS® Data Management provides direct certified connectors to a variety of systems, including Salesforce.com. This avoids the development of customized interfaces. Furthermore, all functionality is offered in stored procedures, ensuring that every transaction is safe and reliable. SAS® Data Management is also easy to deploy. "It has a powerful data profiler, which enables us to examine any available data and assess their reliability along with the risk involved in integrating them into new applications. We use this profiler in particular to analyze all data we purchase." The software also provides a powerful tool to define batch jobs to clean and normalize the data, based on the profiling statistics and information. Decoster then added a final plus. "The learning curve for SAS® Data Management is very short: after a two day training we were able to define all of the jobs we needed."