Customer data dominates at NCR user conference

Business customers of the Royal Bank of Canada are taking a wait-and-see approach subsequent to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the United States, according to the Bank’s chief customer relationship management officer Richard McLaughlin.

“Small- and medium-sized businesses are not moving ahead with plans they had to expand business and plants or buy equipment until they feel clearer about the economy in the future. They are being cautious about taking loans,” he said, adding, “it is good that they are being prudent not to overextend themselves.”

McLaughlin was one of the customer presenters at the 15th annual NCR data warehousing and analytical applications user group conference and exposition being held this week in Orlando.

While reports of the economic downturn dominated much of the early days of the NCR Partners 2001 conference, the 1,500 attendees at this year’s event have access to 170 conference sessions aimed at helping them better use their company’s data to create revenue, reduce costs and boost customer relationships.

“To be successful now, in a difficult economic climate and going forward, companies must understand and respond to the shift from technology for information to technology for relationships,” Lars Nyberg, NCR Corporation chairman and CEO, said in his opening keynote remarks.

“Although product, price, distribution or place, and promotion – the four P’s of marketing – clearly will always play an important role in business, they no longer create the advantage they once did – at least not a sustainable competitive advantage,” he said.

“The ability to form relationships with customers and to nurture and grow those relationships is the ultimate competitive advantage – perhaps the only sustainable competitive advantage. If you have a fantastic product, your competitor can probably copy it, possibly within weeks – days if you’re in a service industry. But no competitor can copy the knowledge you have about your customers.”

In an interview after his presentation, Nyberg told IT World Canada: “I’m convinced that every industry is ‘commoditized’. So how do you distinguish yourself from your competitor? With information and the ability to analyze your data to give better service levels than your competitor.”

Regarding NCR’s ATM business, he said that pilot tests are underway for a deposit ATM for the North American market that will read a deposited cheque and show an image of the cheque for instant processing, instead of holding funds for several days. Although the deposit ATM will be in production next year, Nyberg said it would be four to five years before there is a full roll out.

Nyberg claimed that customer relationship management (CRM) software is taking hold in companies, and he boasted that NCR’s Teradata division achieved a 60 per cent increase in new customers in the second quarter.

NCR president and COO Mark Hurd later added at a press conference that Teradata last year had 100 new enterprise warehouse customers. He told IT World Canada that Teradata is aimed at companies and industries where there is a lot of rivalry, heavy commoditization and strong consumer bases.

Hurd joined Nyberg in stressing the need for a single company-wide view of a firm’s data as opposed to data marts, i.e. smaller databases running a single application. He estimated that the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a single data mart is US$1.6 million to US$2 million per year, including the cost of server, license fee or software maintenance fee for database, a couple of database administrators, plus network costs and facility costs.

He noted that a majority of companies have many data marts – some more than 100 – “because it flies under the capital expenditures radar screen. It is done at the department level.

“Take the enterprise data warehouse approach and avoid the two-watch trap,” Nyberg advised. “With one watch, you know what time it is. With two or more watches, you’re never quite sure.”

“The e-commerce honeymoon is over but not the marriage,” Ohio State University marketing professor Richard Blackwell said in his keynote address.

The author of the book Customers Rule!, said that electronics and commerce as well as technology and business are two long-term marriages, although they “may need a little counseling.

“Data warehousing allows us to get where conventional marketing research did not. If you don’t have data, you’re just guessing at all the segments of your market. Data are just data. Data plus analytics is information. Information plus wisdom is strategy.”

He suggested that business-to-business technology could become 50 per cent of the total Internet market and predicted that companies will develop a blended strategy that makes the Internet as essential to their business as electricity is to today’s grocery stores.

Also at the conference, Teradata announced that its CRM division will serve as a preferred analytical technology partner for Cap Gemini Ernst & Young’s (CGE&Y) CRM practice in North America. Both companies will team up to help companies who have invested in CRM solutions such as sales force automation, call centres or Web sites, and integrate them. CGE&Y will be Teradata’s preferred systems integrator for the Teradata CRM product. To that end, Teradata will train up to 70 CGE&Y consultants by May 2002.

Teradata also introduced the Financial Management solution aimed at enabling chief financial officers to understand profitability across many dimensions and improve the management of receivables, inventory and expenses. The product is described as an analytical architecture made up of hardware, software, professional consulting and support services. It is said to work with nearly all existing ERP or legacy applications. It incorporates Ottawa-based Cognos Corp.’s analytical application best practices.

Boeing Autometric and Teradata have struck an alliance to offer Spatial Query Server (SQS). The new data management software is said to enable the use of corporate data to uncover clues about customer buying behaviour. Initial shipments are scheduled for the second quarter of 2002.

Other newly announced Teradata contracts include Hong Kong’s TravelSky Technology Limited, Taiwan’s EVA Airways, Illinois-based Argosy Gaming Company as well as France’s Caisse Nationale of the Caisse d’Epargne and Caisse d’Epargne Alsace et Lorraine.

NCR’s Teradata Division is at

Also in Dayton, Ohio, NCR is at

More information on the conference is at:

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