Even if you've already got analytics and Business Intelligence tools in place to influence your strategic and day-to-day decision-making, a single view can improve these, by providing high-quality dimensions that enhance the accuracy of trends, opportunities and risks you can identify from your existing tools.
The analytical single view also draws together related structures and hierarchies, enabling you to build a more complete picture of each customer, product or other entity.
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Doing so can have a raft of benefits across your organisation. In terms of compliance, for example, you may be required to understand better the relationship between your customers and products; a single view can enable this.
Similarly, if you operate a diverse fleet of equipment, imagine the difficulty you could have if you discover a particular part needs replacing, but have no idea which units in your fleet contain that part.
A single view that brings together the parts contained within each fleet unit would enable you to identify which units to call in for maintenance quickly and proactively. This is something The Highways Agency does, using its Technology Performance Management System.
Your marketing department could use the analytical single view to improve customer segmentation, as well as to tailor campaigns more effectively, based on a deeper understanding of people's preferences and behaviours.
Those involved in product or service development could use similar customer insights to guide where they focus their time and money.
A manager overseeing a portfolio of products or services, could use a single view of each to see which are performing well, which are delivering the greatest margins, returns on investment and so on. Based on these holistic insights, they could make any necessary changes to their portfolio.
All of this and more will be made possible by designing the reports or dashboards correctly, following a user-centred design (UCD) process, which will ensure the right information is presented in the right way for the person who'll be consuming it.
This will ensure the hard work you've done to compile the single view is fully taken advantage of, and thereby delivers a return on the investment.
The benefits of a fully functional operational single view are many, all of which can essentially be distilled down to the concept of your organisation being fully in sync across the board – or put differently, the left hand will always know what the right is doing.
And this is good for the way your organisation operates, good for staff morale, and good for the external perception of your organisation among potential and existing customers.
Making a consolidated view available to your live operational processes will give staff in all departments a high-quality understanding of the people, products and services they are working with.
Think about your various customer-facing departments: it may be that an individual initially speaks to your general customer services team and is then put through to a team specialising in a given product.
The operational single view would ensure that the details seen by all the staff they speak to are in sync.
This would prevent the situation where a customer requests a change to their details, and the department they speak to fails to pass this on. It would also equip departments with the information they need to cross-sell and up-sell more effectively.
The situation where a company was paying its suppliers several times for the same invoice would no longer be able to happen, because as soon as it was paid, this would be reflected across all the relevant systems.
Any organisation managing an inventory of goods would benefit too, because the operational single view would give it a near-real-time view of current stock levels and locations, thereby enabling better management of inventory across the organisation.
The beauty of having a single view – whether it's for analytical or operational purposes – is that it's likely to deliver benefits that you hadn't foreseen.
You may initially put it in place for compliance purposes, and find that it becomes a huge help to your product development team as well. And as we touched on earlier, building the single view is a journey, not an end.
Most organisations start out by focusing on one area, before expanding it into other departments. The question is, where will your single view journey take you?
- Ian Sinclair is an Information Management specialist, who has worked with numerous high-profile organisations to help them manage and exploit their information, including delivering single views for the Ministry of Defence.