Customer Data No Longer a Competitive Edge

customer-manager.jpgWho owns the information in your CRM system -- the system you've put time and money into building and maintaining? If you answer this question based on old-school ideas of data ownership, you might say, "My company does." If you're entering into the equation the effects of Web 2.0 on information availability, you might answer differently.

Information Today explores how the "democratization and transparency of data, as influenced by Web-based practices, have altered the notions of data ownership." Since contact information is non-proprietary, it never actually belonged to anyone, but it was easy to maintain that illusion when building a database took time and resources. But times, they are a changing -- and managers need to rethink their companies' policies to reflect the current business landscape.

According to the Information Today article:

Most companies require employees to sign NDAs (nondisclosure agreements), which, if read carefully, do not allow them to take any data with them when they leave. Of course, this is a policy that is openly ignored by both parties. It is well known that a "Big Gun" salesperson is hired for his or her Rolodex. To think that the salesperson won't continue to build that Rolodex and take it when he or she leaves is naive. That can and will happen whether your policy allows it or not.

Managers need to rethink their policies based on the changing environment. Basic company and contact data no longer represent a competitive advantage. Anyone can have a "Big Gun" Rolodex in his or her holster. The Web 2.0 sales and marketing herd can easily access this data now. My perspective is that the market is moving toward the concept of "co-ownership." Companies will welcome professionals who bring large amounts of this data to the company and will not be concerned when they leave with what they have gathered during their tenure.

Data is marching inexorably down the transparency path, and we should all be leveraging this change to our collective advantage.

Perhaps with the focus shifting away from the ownership and management of data, companies will put more energy into developing relationships with customers, and doing so better than the competition. The social and collaborative nature of Web 2.0 provides immense opportunity for customizing interactions. So the information belongs to everyone. But what are you going to do with it?

Related Reading:

Who Owns Customer References and Support in the World Wide Web?
(Customer Manager image by Andre Charland)