StrikeIron delivers real-time data services that provide specialized business functionality from the "Cloud". These include many different solutions such as using constantly updated reference data to validate, verify, and enhance customer data, provide communication services such as text message notification solutions, ecommerce related services such as sales tax rates, foreign currency rates, and several other data-oriented services.
These solutions are put to use by our customers in the form of XML-based Web services. These are actually application programming interfaces (APIs) that give our customer access to this functionality over the Web, out in the Cloud, and without the requirement of having to manage any of the supporting back-end data sources (we take care of that). Because of the flexibility provided by offering SOAP and REST protocol Web services, these solutions are platform independent and work with just about every development environment in existence.
Many of our Web services-savvy customers take our APIs and build them into their custom Websites, applications, and business processes utilizing the development environment of their choice. This enables them to customize and optimize the access to our Web services and their functionality as they see fit, including usage levels that fit their requirements.
However, many of our customers often make use of system integrators who have been given the task to solve a certain problem, acquire any necessary technology and execute on that technology to deliver a desired result. Very often, these system integrators' search ends with StrikeIron as the solution. They "try out" our services and solutions with their current environment on behalf of their customer, and then as they determine that it fits their requirements, the actual production usage begins.
Most of our system integrator relationships have come to us this way, and then as they have success and enjoy our capabilities and reliability, they begin to utilize StrikeIron on many different projects and with many different companies. We provide a significant level of support to system integrator partners to help them meet the needs of their customers.
To demonstrate this ongoing commitment to system integrators, today we are announcing a partnership with Astadia, a cloud computing systems integrator and top partner with Salesforce.com, Eloqua, and Informatica. They will use their expertise in a wide variety of SAAS and Cloud applications to bring StrikeIron's data quality solutions seamlessly into their customer base. We are very excited about this partnership and look forward to working more closely with the Astadia team.
Organizations in the Retail industry are now realizing how strategic customer data can be, that it is a significant corporate asset, and why a focus on data quality is a key requirement in order to leverage that data asset.
Customer data can often be poor because it is primarily sourced by hurried retail associates at the point of sale, internal data entry operations, and self-service Websites where customers provide their own data. Typically, data can be entered incorrectly, incompletely, or possibly even be intentionally misleading. This collected data then comes in contact with multiple parts of an organization where it is used for customer communication, customer service, marketing, operations, and analytics-based decision-making. Large amounts of poor quality data can severely affect each one of these business initiatives.
In retail, this can be especially damaging as customer service and communication can be a major part of competitiveness and long-term success. As a result, a sound data quality strategy with the right mix of technology and processes can greatly reduce the incidence of data quality errors and its success-inhibiting effect of a retail establishment, Web-based or otherwise. In addition, it can also help to fuel some new innovative ways to engage with customers, including e-receipts with messaging, custom 1:1 email marketing, and other data-driven communication mechanisms.
As StrikeIron has had a lot of success with real-time data quality in the retail industry with many large-scale deployments, today we are continuing that by announcing a partnership with Tomax. Tomax is a leading provider of real-time merchandising and store execution applications and services. They are creating 360-degree customer views to better understand customers and behavior, and as a result recognize how high quality data is paramount to the success of their customers. Integration with our Cloud-based data quality solutions help them significantly enhance their offering and drive better ROI.
The concept of better data equals better customer service and better decision-making is not new. However, with the emergence of the Cloud, leveraging data quality capabilities has become significantly easier and cost-effective. Now, higher quality customer data can touch each part of an organization.
Having the best possible data about customers and prospects provides a lot of benefits. Customer service is better, CRM ROI is higher, business processes run more smoothly and efficiently, marketing communications are more effective, and businesses just generally run better if they have high quality, complete, and accurate data at the core of their systems.
While traditionally achieving this has been a complex exercise, the Cloud makes it a simpler reality at a reasonable cost. Plaform-independent APIs built for this purpose can be integrated into just about any Website, application, or business process with a line of code or two. Leveraging these APIs can have a tremendous impact on customer data accuracy and all of the business processes that depend upon it.
For example, the three major points of customer communication are the phone number, physical address, and email address. The challenge here has always been acquiring, managing, and maintaining the reference data that these points of communication are compared against for validity, accuracy and filling in any blanks. In the past, obtaining, storing, and keeping this comparison reference data current meant people, planning, hardware, software, and all of the corresponding costs, especially since these databases can come from so many different sources.
Now, thanks to the Cloud, having all of these reference data sources maintained and updated by one organization (such as StrikeIron) and available in a time-shared manner makes a lot of sense. Rather than having it done redundantly by companies everywhere and absorbing the total cost of the exercise, this shared approach dramatically reduces the complexity and cost for those who choose to leverage the capability. Just like people share units in an apartment building, chefs at a restaurant, or timeshare seats on an airplane, the same ought to be true for those who wish for shared access to better customer data quality engines. The Cloud makes it a possibility, and StrikeIron delivers it.
At their annual Dreamforce event in San Francisco this week, Salesforce.com announced its latest features and offerings available in the Winter '12 release of its SaaS CRM product. While there was a good deal of talk around the "Social Enterprise" and their Twitter-like Chatter product (announced in 2009), the new product offerings announced are primarily geared around the data that is at the foundation of an organization's CRM system.
So why the focus on data? Now that there is a broad base of customers that have been using Salesforce CRM for years, the demands from these customers do not appear to be around new CRM-related features, but rather the data requirements that exist at the very core of CRM.
Early in the CRM system discovery process customers can get excited by slick product functionality. Yet, as these CRM systems are put to use and optimized, its the data and data-related issues that ultimately come to the forefront of an organization's needs.
For example, announcements included:
- Database.com, an "Enterprise Cloud" database available over the Web has now reached general availability with the capability of creating "deep social profiles".
- a "Data Residency Option" is now available within Database.com, allowing critical and/or sensitive data to be stored somewhere else other than Salesforce.com's data centers (perhaps a response to Larry Ellison's data security critiques of Salesforce?).
- Data.com is a new service announced that allows company and prospect data such as that available from Jigsaw (acquired last year by Salesforce.com) and Dun & Bradstreet to be pulled into a company or contact record.
In other words, after listening to customer feedback, Salesforce has recognized how critical data assets are to the success of a CRM implementation. This should be an indicator to anyone implementing CRM, from Salesforce.com or anywhere else, how important a focus on the data itself must be for success. Look for more data-oriented solutions to come out of Salesforce.com and its partners, including continuing enhancements to data quality solutions for Salesforce like StrikeIron provides.