Wheelhouse spins CRM data unity tool

Wheelhouse Corp. on Feb. 19 will roll out a platform intended to provide unified “business definitions” that enable improved management of customer data.

The company’s Wheelhouse CRM Director software purports to help enterprises unify disparate systems through coordination of CRM data, through the development of business definitions. These definitions establish a single meaning for terms such as customer, preference, customer value or response, across multiple channels. Among these channels can be call centres, Web sites and e-mail.

“Essentially, what the product allows companies to do is unify disparate CRM systems in order to facilitate multi-channel marketing (and) to reduce system management costs,” said Gordon Burns, vice-president of marketing at Wheelhouse, in Burlington, Mass.

Unified attributes enable customers to have the same experience across channels such as a call center or Web site, Burns said.

For example, a customer with a high lifetime value designation in one channel might be given special promotions in that channel. But if the customer interacts with the company via a different channel and that designation is not maintained,” the customer will have a totally different experience, which hurts customer loyalty,” said Burns.

CRM Director “allows each system to have its own data model, but to map the different fields from the data models into a common translation engine, which is the business definition,” Burns said.

A user of CRM Director prototype said the new version appears to offer more automation. “It looks like they’ve automated quite a bit of the mapping of metadata and the run-time access to the metadata,” said the user, Dan Oldis, project lead for CRM IT at Mazda North America, in Irvine, Calif. “Before, it was more of a static-type reporting tool.”

Mazda is using Wheelhouse to merge data elements from multiple customer and legacy databases into a common structure, for use in a data warehouse.

The Wheelhouse tool attempts to perform functions that might otherwise require the assistance of outside consultants, said analyst Eric Schmidt, of Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass.

“The Wheelhouse product addresses a very real problem and that’s the issue of multiple definitions of customer data throughout the enterprise. Customer data is not only fragmented but there’s overlap,” and inconsistencies, Schmidt said. The tool, however, might be a hard sell these days, given tough economic conditions that have IT departments wary of new expenses, said Schmidt.

CRM Director, which can function with CRM applications such as those from Siebel or E.piphany, features a thick-client interface to allow features such as drag and drop. Business analysts map customer definitions between various systems. This map of definitions is accessed via SOAP and Java APIs and third-party data movement tools, such as those from Informatica.

CRM Director prices start at US$150,000 for software and related services. It is slated to ship in March.

Wheelhouse’s endeavour mirrors the goal of another recent announcement, from eConvergent, which is attempting to provide a single view of customer data via its eMerge tools. The eMerge tools also complement CRM offerings such as those from Siebel.