Clearly, there are a lot of reasons why business intelligence makes sense in the context of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). After all, both of these applications typically provide deep insights into customers. BI can give you the analysis and behavior patters or answers to the questions "why" and "how", while your CRM will tell you "who" and "what" among many other things.

For example, your CRM will tell you who your customers and what they have bought. There are a number of complex CRM systems that provide bundle software services to allow you to add in to that mix planning, scorecards, what-if scenarios and other BI domain functions. Things are much more complicated then that, but this is a blog and I don't want to bore you to death! So let's stick with simplicities here and focus on my little topic of the day, which is to look at the BI part of CRM and how these are independent.

At this point, once you are looking at a complex and independent BI infrastructure to provide, let's say, a BI portal (we'll assume Sharepoint) for a metals manufacturer. We'll want to have all points of the supply chain benefiting from both of these so that the financial planners, operations managers, sales team, marketers and strategic decision makers are looking at the same data points and making streamlined excellent decisions.

Great, now we have to worry about single source of truth and a single view of the customer. Is the BI infrastructure using the same customer database as the CRM system? Are your suppliers and B2B customers linked into your CRM? If not, we've immediate run into problems that can be resolved with CDI (customer data integration) and MDM (master data management).

MDM can provide the central hub to supply that single view of customer, product, employee, etc. These entities are common MDM modelling entities and is definitely a direction to begin thinking about with your company data. Any BI system that is supplying knowledge for decisions must use a unified, up-to-date, accurate vision of the business and the underlying process. Otherwise, you are doing more harm than good.

For a good dive into the Microsoft vision of MDM, I recommend starting here:
http://www.microsoft.com/sharepoint/mdm/default.mspx

Roger Wolter has some good writings on there and the CDI Institute is sort of rebranding as the MDM institute:
http://www.the-cdi-institute.com/

So thanks for hanging in there with me this posting! It is vitally important to get your data marts, data hubs, customer views, etc. correct before we can have fun with analysis and data mining. Which is what I will focus on next time. I am going to give you some samples of real-life data mining applications that created real business value for our MEC customers.

Best, Mark