Thought Leader Interview

Jill Dyche: Customer Data Integration for Decision Support

Consultant and Partner
Baseline Consulting


Dan Power, Editor of, conducted an email interview with Jill Dyche in late October 2005.

Q1: How did you get interested in decision support and especially customer relationship management?

Dyche's Response: We were delivering decision support to Baseline's clients, and a lot of those capabilities involved customer reporting. So when our clients turned their heads in the direction of CRM, we already knew their data. We knew how to source it, how to cleanse it, and how to manage it in a sustainable way. CRM was a natural extension of our services.

Q2: How do you define the term decision support system? What is the overlap between CRM and DSS, if any?

Dyche's Response: Decision support systems formalize the previously-manual processes of taking business actions based on facts. There's a natural link between DSS and CRM. For the first several years, CRM was more operational. Companies were focused on automating their call centers and giving salespeople remote access to customer contact information. I say that so-called analytical CRM is the same thing as business intelligence--companies now realize that they need to take customer-facing business actions based on facts. Analytical CRM it's no longer a luxury for CRM programs--it's the value tipping point.

Q3: In general, what should managers and sales staff know about their customers? How can and should that information be used in decision making?

Dyche's Response: A lot of that depends on the industry the company's in. For instance, a health care company might want to ensure patient compliance with care plans--for instance, seeing whether patients are actually filling their prescriptions and when. (This is a huge issue for some our our health care clients right now, as this one aspect can significantly drive up costs.) But you can apply the need for a health care organization to monitor its patients across the continuum of care to almost any cmopany in any industry. Everyone who is customer-facing would like to monitor the customer's preferences and behaviors across his relationship with the company.

Q4: In general, what computerized decision support do managers need and want?

Dyche's Response: Again, it depends on the business' "need, pain, or problem." The common refrain of "We want a customer dashboard" is close to universal, though.

Q5: At the 2003 Partners Conference, I attended your Super Session talk on "Segmenting the Stages of CRM". Please briefly summarize the "good" and "bad" approaches to CRM and decision support.

Dyche's Response: Wow! Great memory, Dan! That was a fun one since I got to relate companies to mythological characters as a means of providing a taxonomy to CRM maturity. Briefly, the "bad" approach to customer intelligence projects is everyone hanging their own shingle. We've seen several companies with over a dozen different CRM projects. This simply exacerbates the problem most companies have of reaching one true view about their customers.

The "good" approach is really a combination of top-down and bottom-up, meaning that there is executive awareness and support of a customer intelligence initiative, but also a focus on tactical delivery of incremental value (otherwise known as the "quick win"). Contrary to a lot of the buzz, the companies that have acheived ROI with their customer intelligence initiatives are those that delivered value to business people quickly and expand on that, not the ones that go through protracted executive workshops and strategy sessions.

Q6: What new decision support projects are you working on?

Dyche's Response: We've got a bunch of cool clients doing interesting projects. A lot of them are fairly mature data warehousing environments that are turning their heads back to what Baseline calls the BI Portfolio. This is basically the collection of heterogeneous decision support applications that benefit from the common data warehouse platform. We're also doing a lot of BI Scorecards right now, in which we'll give the client a report card based on six different best-practice levers. Then we tell them what to change, what to fix, and how to grow.

Q7: What vendors do you think are the major innovators in BI/BPM/DSS?

Dyche's Response: It's a tough call. They all offer value. But in terms of innovation, I think we're going to see a lot coming out of some of the smaller firms that are emerging around the data integration space.

Q8: What do you see as major trends in computerized decision support? Where are we headed?

Dyche's Response: I think Customer Data Integration is the next big thing. Simply put, CDI is the automation of customer individualization. You're seeing some of the data quality vendors like DataFlux expand their native functionality to incorporate CDI capabilities. Certainly the "big guys" like Oracle and IBM already have their stories in place. The buzz is that one of the golden eggs of Oracle's Siebel acquisition was Siebel's CDI solution, a combination of their UAN and UCM products. (Dan's note Universal Application Network and Universal Customer Master.) And, of course, there is a crop of emerging vendors in the space--I'm thinking of Siperian, Purisma, and Initiate Systems--that we'll definitely be seeing a lot more of in the coming months.

Q9: How does Customer Data Integration figure into what you and Baseline will be doing in 2006?

Dyche's Response: Baseline's already begun working on several CDI projects. The health care example I mentioned up front is a real-life instance. And we have a readiness assessment going on. CDI is not data warehousing or BI, so we're doing a lot of client education. It's also the topic of my next book. Should be out mid-2006, so stay tuned!

About Jill Dyche

Jill Dyche is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and business consultant. She is a partner and cofounder of Baseline Consulting, a professional services firm specializing in business analytics, data integration, and data warehousing. Prior to co-founding Baseline, Jill worked for technology vendors Teradata and Computer Associates. Jillís first book, e-Data (Addison Wesley, 2000) has been published in six languages. Jillís latest book, The CRM Handbook (Addison Wesley, 2002) is the bestseller on the topic of Customer Relationship Management. Jill is a faculty member for The Data Warehousing Institute, a columnist for CRMToday, and on the board for and the CRM Association.


Power, D., "Jill Dyche Interview: Customer Data Integration for Decision Support", DSSResources.COM, 02/03/2006.