Are you Normal?

Posted on Jul 20, 2010

By Donato Diorio, CEO of Broadlook Technologies

Warning:  This Article is not for tech guys!

Broadlook has just completed developing a new, revolutionary tool for any CRM user.  It is called CRMShield™.  CRMShield solves a serious issue faced by every business that uses a CRM: data duplication. CRMShield will be shipped in May and is included free in every Broadlook product that works with contact information. Is your company at risk?

Some people want nothing more than to be normal, others would take exception to that description, myself included.  When it comes to your CRM, being Normal is a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very good thing.  The reality is that over 30% of the information in most companies CRM is duplicates. That is not only ugly, but it causes problems for your sales team and costs your company revenue.

In simple terms, I’m talking about Clean CRM Data.  If you asked your tech guy, he would call it “Data Normalization”.  If you are a tech guy, we covered this…come up, stop reading!

Understanding the problem

Nearly every CRM company and internal corporate IT department has taken a stab at solving the problem of data normalization.  Unfortunately, no one has done it right!  Why?  Think about it: when you buy a CRM, it is usually empty.  If you import dirty data from an old CRM, the new CRM will be dirty. The problem is not the result of you forgetting to turn on a feature in the new CRM. Massive duplicates and miskeyed data does not become a problem until after you start to use the CRM. When a CRM is implemented, it is typically at that time the buyer realizes there is a huge problem with the information.  Without some systematic way to start with and keep information clean, duplicates will be introduced and someone has an opportunity to make more $$ on professional services.

Dirty data is a profit center.

While dirty data can lose you revenue, it is good for service providers; you store more due to duplicates and eventually someone will need to clean that data.

An unending cycle

So, you bit the bullet and spent the money to have your data cleaned, now what?  Unless you have an enforceable, real-time strategy to keep your data clean, the cycle will continue.  Six months to a year after “cleaning” your data, it will go from pristine to ugly again and the cycle will continue. Efficiency, revenue and opportunity will be diminished.

How does data get dirty?

There are 3 ways information enters a CRM.

Hand Entered.  This is a common method that takes place literally every day.  Did you know there are over 20 ways of writing the company name “The Container Company Corporation”?   Some people are verbose and will type out the entire company name, others will take shortcuts or just mis-key the information.  We are all unique, and unfortunately for your CRM, that can lead to 20 instances or more of the same company in your CRM.

Product Imported.  Many software products have the capability to directly import data into a CRM.  What rules do those products obey?  Do the rules that they use match your company rules?  Do you even have a set of rules that your company follows? What happens when a duplicate is encountered?  Unfortunately, most of these questions are never asked.  The result: more ugly data.

Mass Imported. Mass imports are most often done by the IT department of a company or by your CRM vendor.  Guess what?  Mass imports can be the worst offenders.  In some cases, the person charged with doing the import is exceptional and it is done correctly, however, this is rare.  When I say rare, I mean 1 out of 1000 rare. The challenge is that in most cases no one has the proper tool set or has done the in-depth question asking that is necessary to do it 100% correct.  For what they have at their disposal, and by measuring the best consultants compared to their peers, many of them would get an “A” under those parameters.

I contend that most imports that are generally considered successful would get a flat “D” on my score card.  If you think your process was good, read on.

Establishing a lasting solution

Solve a problem at its source and you solve it for good.  The best way to get control of your CRM is to create and enforce a Data Plan.  This is not a minor undertaking, however, for any sales team over 5 people it is critical.  The quiz below is dual-purpose; it will teach you what you need to do and give you a scorecard of where are now.

QUIZ: Is your company at risk?

So, where does your company rank in terms of the sources and impact of duplicate data?  Take a moment to take the quiz below. How do you think you will do? I want to hear from you! Send how you did to Donato Diorio (  Good luck.  Be honest!

Data Plan. 15 pointsDoes your company have a standard format for CRM data?  If you don’t, this is where you start the entire process.  To comply with best practices, your Data Plan should be centrally stored, accessible in real-time and treated as a single-point-of-truth for your company.

Staff Training. 5 points. Has your staff has been trained on your Data Plan and is it easily accessible?  While this is a great step, it is not as important as making the CRM enforce your data plan automatically.  If your CRM does offer a feature like this, the training is most important for your IT department who can circumvent the constraints put on the average user.

CRM Cleaned. 10 pointsHas your CRM gone through a full normalization and de-duplication process?  Once you have your Data Plan developed, you need to ensure that the data you have meets the plan.

CRM Enforcement. 20 points Is your Data Plan enforced by your CRM?  This is tremendously important. The reality is that not one CRM provider (that I have seen) has a detailed data normalizer that can enforce your data plan like like Broadlook’s CRMShield™.  If your provider does not have this feature, it means you must either build or find an add-on to the CRM.  An even better option is to would be to provide all users to the CRM a tool like Broadlook’s Contact Capture to enter contacts into your CRM.  Contact Capture is FREE (not trying to sell anything here).

Product Enforcement. 10 points Do other products you use to access or bring information into your CRM comply with your Data Plan?  Beware of products that dump data to a Excel or CSV file.  Sometimes it is unavoidable, however, direct exporting systems that can comply with your Data-Plan and do de-duplication in real-time are always a superior choice.

Vendor Enforcement. 10 Points. Do your vendors that provide you with list data deliver it in compliance with your Data Plan?  Some vendors may push back at first. However, it has been my experience that the entire process will go smoother if both sides can comply with a similar format.

Import Enforcement. 20 points. Do any mass import capabilities comply with the Data Plan?  The rules that imports adhere to should not be able to be circumvented by the IT staff.  If the IT staff needs to change the rules, the Data Plan, being the single-point-of-truth for your company’s data should be modified.

URL Enforcement. 10 pointsDo you have a URL (website) field for each company in your CRM? The URL of a company is more important than a DUNS number, location or anything else.  It is the single best piece of information that can be used to update company information over time.

Less then 20 Points – F

20 – 40 Points – D

41 – 60 Points – C

61 – 80 Points – B

81 – 100 Points – A

Knowing how your data and processes rank is a great start.If your results do not make the grade, don’t worry.Broadlook’s CRMShield™ is on the way.