Bob Lambert

Jazz on the harmonica

Data Integration Benefits? They’re Obvious.


“At least 84 percent of consumers across all industries say their experiences using digital tools and services fall short of expectations.”* That quote headed a recent article by David Roe on the role of data integration in digital workplace apps. However, the opening quote reflects the pervasive dearth of integrated data among the companies most of us frequent.

We’ve all experienced the effects. Last week I was in a fender bender. Due to a mixup I didn’t have my insurance card with me, so I called the insurance company to get the info. They had no record of me associated with my car. It turned out that my car is insured under my wife’s name, hers under mine. Although I’ve been their customer for 25 years, and was driving my own car, they couldn’t give me insurance info. Sure, they were following good security practices. But I’m not letting them off the hook. 

My car is registered jointly with me and my wife at the DMV, and I’m sure they have that information. Over decades our family has served up a rich vein of data for their householding algorithms: payment from joint checking and credit card accounts, a few other fender benders and one bad accident, two children covered under the policy, 25 years of joint homeowner’s insurance across several different houses, and more. This company had ample evidence that I was a valued customer trustworthy with information about my own car’s insurance details, and failed to help when I really needed it.

When we talk about the benefits of data integration we usually focus on side issues. A google search result features this article listing benefits like “easy and fast connections”, “integrating data from multiple sources”, “availability of the data”, and so on. Outside of data geeks (like myself) no one cares about those “benefits”. Related to my own recent experience, what they care about is a seamless experience that helps retain customers. They care that the first contact resolves all of a customer’s questions — I was transferred to three different reps over the course of my call — delighting the customer, reducing call center cost, and increasing the call throughput.

Over the years we in the field have developed a collective tic. Whenever anyone uses data and business case in the same sentence, we reflexively revert to technical jargon, elevate to “strategic thinking”, or say it’s all to hard to figure and trot out a railroad analogy. Real hard money data integration benefits are everywhere. Whenever you hear a business case listing “availability of the data” or suchlike as a benefit, say “what for” until you find the money. As Lorraine Lawson writes, “IT hates to calculate return on investment and other financial metrics, but sometimes you’ve just got to put on your grown-up pants, pull out the pocket calculator and as [John] Schmidt puts it ‘do the hard work to translate qualitative benefits into measurable business results.’”

My accident worked out ok. No one was harmed and I eventually got the info I needed and filed the claim. I’m unlikely to switch insurance companies. My longstanding relationship with the company stems from good relations with their agent and low prices due to long tenure. However, after this customer service awkwardness directly caused by unintegrated data, I won’t recommend the company to others.


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*Roe cited CIOs Must Help Close the Gap Between CEOs’ Digital Ambitions and Consumers’ Digital Perceptions (Fee Required).


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