Social enterprise, meet master data management

The social enterprise almost looks easy in Salesforce.com's world. Unfortunately, there's a good bit of grunt work in the form of master data management needed to get there.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff highlighted the Holy Grail in customer profiles as data such as phone numbers, addresses and names are blended together with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter personas.

The dream goes like this: A customer will be able to interact with a company through any medium. A company will know your workplace, your quirky Tweets and other not-so-trivial matters like whether you have 100,000 Twitter followers and are bitching about customer service.

It's hard to argue with the importance of utopia. Companies need to listen. They need to connect and they need to be social. As Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts said:

"Our job is to entertain and engage customers, employers, suppliers and investors."

In Benioff's world, these profile merger efforts are a matter of a few clicks. Radian6 social marketing tools tie into Chatter and then meld into Data.com into CRM and ServiceCloud. Salesforce's stack of stuff is all about social.

It almost looks easy. Unfortunately, there's a good bit of grunt work in the form of master data management needed to get to Salesforce's utopia. Master data management refers to the administration of the non-transactional data in an organization, such as customers, vendors, employees and products.

One telling point of Benioff's keynote at the company's Cloudforce powwow in New York was that Salesforce will do customized conferences for big companies like GE. In a nutshell, Salesforce execs are like social therapists helping enterprises find their inner networks. Every company's definition of social is different, but they often start with Benioff scribbles on a white board.

Five months ago Benioff sketched out Burberry's plan with Ahrendts. The total investment for Burberry's social world took 18 months.

Sigal Zarmi, CIO GE Capital, talked about building social profiles and tying them into Force.com.

The walkthroughs gnawed at me because I can only imagine the data management work needed to sync up social profiles with internal customer information. How much data cleanup is needed to even pondering becoming a social enterprise? And what exactly happens if the Salesforce's social stack isn't used?

This newfangled social enterprise movement largely rests on an old concept: master data management. If companies don't resolve terms, agree on definitions and connect the dots between Joe Smith, Joseph Smith and Joey Smythe it's hard to see enterprise systems of record from SAP and Oracle linking up with social profiles.

Don't get me wrong. Salesforce is on to something with this social enterprise theme. It's just that matching up all this customer data is a lot harder than a few magical cloud clicks.


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