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How SOA can help Transformation

Undoubtedly, today’s business leaders face myriad challenges ranging from fierce market competition to increasing market unpredictability. In addition, the modern consumer is more informed and in control of what, where and how they purchase. Couple these challenges with effects of globalization, and you will appreciate that need for business transformation is more of a necessity than a privilege.

As recent business trends show, top companies are characterized by organizational and operational agility. Instead of being shaken by rapid technological changes and aftershocks associated with market changes, they are actually invigorated by these trends. In order to survive in these turbulent times, business leaders are opting to implement corporate transformation initiatives to develop leaner, more agile and productive operations. In line with this, service oriented architecture (SOA) has emerged as an essential IT transformation approach for implementing sustainable business agility.

By definition, service oriented architecture is a set of principles and techniques for developing and designing software in form of business functionalities. SOA allows users to compile together large parts of functionality to create ad hoc service software entirely from the template software. This is why it is preferred by CIOs that are looking to develop business agility. It breaks down business operations into functional components (referred to as services) that can be easily and economically merged and reused in applicable scenarios to meet evolving business needs. This enhances overall efficiency, and improves organizational interconnectivity.

SOA identifies shortcomings of traditional IT transformation approaches that were framed in monolithic and vertical silos all dependent on isolated business units. The current business environment requires that individual business units should be capable of supporting multiple types of users, multiple communication channels and multiple lines of business. In addition, it has to be flexible enough to adapt to changing market needs. In case one is running a global business enterprise, SOA-enabled business transformation can assist in achieving sustainable agility and productivity through a globally integrated IT platform. SOA realizes its IT and business benefits by adopting a design and analyzing methodology when developing services. In this sense a service consists of an independent business unit of functionality that is only available through a defined interface. Services can either be in the form of nano-enterprises or mega-enterprises.

Furthermore, with SOA an organization can adopt a holistic approach to solve a problem. This is because the business has more control over its functions. SOA frees the organization from constraints attributed to having a rigid single use application that is intricately meshed into a fragmented information technology infrastructure. Companies that have adopted service oriented architecture as their IT transformation approach, can easily repurpose, reorganize and rescale services on demand in order to develop new business processes that are adaptable to changes in the business environment. In addition, it enables companies to upgrade and enhance their existing systems without incurring huge costs associated with ‘rip and replace’ IT projects.

In summary, SOA can be termed as the cornerstone of modern IT transformation initiatives. If properly implemented great benefits and a sharp competitive advantage can be achieved. SOA assists in transforming existing disparate and unconnected processes and applications into reusable services; creating an avenue where services can be rapidly reassembled and developed to support market changes.

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The Connection between Big Data and MDM

Master Data is information that is critical to your business. This could include contracts, proprietary information, intellectual capital and a whole lot more besides. Because this often reposes in a variety of different places, you need a master data management / MDM policy to control it. That way, you can link it all together in a single, secure, backed up file.

This Sounds Like Big Data

Not necessarily: big data refers to extremely large data sets that are best stored and analysed on a cloud using big technology, in order to uncover trends, patterns and associations often relating to human behaviour. Of course, if you run a niche restaurant your critical master data might be limited to a few recipes and the books you do not care to show your accountant.

The distinction is largely a question of size: think of your master data as the subset of big data that you already have your mind around. According to John Case of IBM this is probably already in a structured format and available to share. He goes on to present a cogent case for using this as a peg point around which to systematise the rest. This is because the average organisation already has master data recording customers’ and prospects’ behaviour.

Do I Still Need My Master Data?

Yes you do, because real people created it with the benefit of human insight. Retain it as a separate set. Then compare it with the results of big data processing for even richer insights. Two heads are better that one and that goes for data processing too.

Trends in CRM Big Data

Adding data via location-aware devices like smartphones and tablets is adding a new dimension to customer information. We now know where they were when they made the enquiry or punched in the information. Use this geo-location data to hone the way you interact with customers and service their accounts. Do not phone a customer who makes decisions at work when they are at home.

Does My Master Data Belong on a Cloud?

There are a number of ‘ifs’ to consider. How comfortable are you with your service provider. What would happen if someone hacked their server? There are many advantages to cloud technology. Denizon knows of solutions you can rely on, and makes sure its clients have contingency plans to protect them at all times.

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Technology

Technology and process improvement

Tightening organisational flow to improve productivity and minimise costs is a growing concern for many businesses post the Global Financial Crisis. Businesses can no longer afford to waste time and personnel on inefficient processes. Organisations using either Six Sigma or Lean techniques better manage their existing resources to maximise product out-put. Both of these techniques involve considerable evaluation of current processes.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is an organisational management strategy that evaluates processes for variation. In the Six Sigma model, variation equates waste. Eliminating variation for customer fulfilment allows a business to better serve the end-user. In this thought model, the only way to streamline processes is to use statistical data. Each part of a process must be carefully recorded and analysed for variation and potential improvements. The heart of the strategy embodied by Six Sigma is mathematical. Every process is subject to mathematical analysis and this allows for the most effective problem solving.

What is a Lean Model?

Lean businesses do not rely on mathematical models for improvement. Instead, the focus is on reducing steps in the customer delivery cycle, which do not add value to the final deliverable. For example, maintaining excess inventory or dealing with shortages would both be examples of waste behaviour. Businesses that operate using Lean strategies have strong cash flow cycles. One of the best and most famous examples of Lean in action is the Toyota Production System (TPS). In this system, not only is inventory minimised, but physical movement for employees also remains sharply controlled. Employees are able to reach everything needed to accomplish their tasks, without leaving the immediate area. By reducing the amount of movement needed to work, companies also remove wasted employee time.

Industry Applications for Lean and Six Sigma

Lean businesses reduce the number of steps between order and delivery. The less inventory on hand, the less it costs a business to operate. In industries where it is possible to create to order, Lean thinking offers significant advantages. Lean is best utilised in mature businesses. New companies, operating on a youthful model, may not be able to identify wasteful processes. Six Sigma has shown its value across industries through several evolution’s. Its focus on quality of process makes it a good choice for even brand new businesses. The best use is the combination of the two strategies. With the Lean focus on speed and the Six Sigma focus on quality combined, the two organisational processes create synergy. By itself, Lean does not help create stable, repeating success. Six Sigma does not help increase speed and reduce non value-added behaviours. Combined, these two strategies offer incredible value to every business in cost savings.

Using Technology to Implement Lean Six Sigma

Automation processes represent an opportunity for businesses to implement a combination of both Lean and Six Sigma strategies. Any technology that replaces the need for direct human oversight reduces costs and increases productivity. A few examples of potentially cost saving IT solutions include document scanning, the Internet, and automated workflow systems.

  • Document Scanning – Reducing dependency on paper copies follows both Lean and Six Sigma strategies. It is a Lean addition in that it allows employees to access documents instantly from any physical location. It is Six Sigma compliant in that it allows a reduction on process variation, since there is no bottleneck on the flow of information.
  • The Internet – The automation potential offered by the Internet is limitless. Now, businesses can enter orders, manage logistics and perform customer service activities from anywhere, through a hosted portal. With instant access to corporate processes from anywhere, businesses can manage workflow globally, allowing them to realise cost savings from decentralisation.
  • Automated Work Systems – One of the identified areas of waste in any business is processing time. The faster orders are processed and delivered, the greater the profits for the company and the less the expense per order. When orders sit waiting for attention, they represent lost productivity and waste. Automated work systems monitor workflow and alert users when an item sits longer than normal. These systems can also reroute work to an available employee when the original worker is tied up.

Each of these IT solutions provides a method for businesses to either reduce the number of steps in a process or improve the quality of the process for improved customer service.

Identifying Areas for Lean Six Sigma Implementation

Knowing that improved processes result in improved profits, identifying areas for improvement is the next step. There are several techniques for creating tighter processes with less waste and higher quality. Value Stream Mapping helps business owners and managers identify areas of waste by providing a visual representation of the total process stream. Instead of improving single areas for minimal increases in productivity, VSM shows the entire business structure and flow, allowing management to target each area of slow down for maximum improvement in all areas.

Seeing the areas of waste helps management better determine how processes should work to best obtain the desired outcomes. Adding in automated processes helps with improved process management, when put in place with a complete understanding of current systems and their weaknesses. Start with mapping and gain a bird’s-eye view of the situation, in order to make the changes needed for improvement.

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The Connection Between Six Sigma and CRM

Six Sigma is an industrial business strategy directed at improving the quality of process outputs by eliminating errors and system variables. The end objective is to achieve a state where 99.99966% of events are likely to be defect free. This would yield a statistical rating of Sigma 6 hence the name.

The process itself is thankfully more user-friendly. It presents a model for evaluating and improving customer relationships based on data provided by an automated customer relations management (CRM) system. However in the nature of human interaction we doubt the 99.99966% is practically achievable.

Six Sigma Fundamentals

The basic tenets of the business doctrine and the features that set off are generally accepted to be the following:

  1. Continuous improvement is essential for success
  1. Business processes can be measured and improved
  1. Top down commitment is fundamental to sustained improvement
  1. Claims of progress must be quantifiable and yield financial benefits
  1. Management must lead with enthusiasm and passion
  1. Verifiable data is a non-negotiable (no guessing)

Steps Towards the Goal

The five basic steps in Six Sigma are define the system, measure key aspects, analyse the relevant data, improve the method, and control the process to sustain improvements. There are a number of variations to this DMAIC model, however it serves the purpose of this article. To create a bridge across to customer relationships management let us assume our CRM data has thrown out a report that average service times in our fast food chicken outlets are as follows.

<2 Minutes3 to 8 Minutes9 to 10 Minutes>10 Minutes
45%30%20%5%
Table: Servicing Tickets in Chippy’s Chicken Cafés

Using DMAIC to unravel the reasons behind this might proceed as follows

  • Define the system in order to understand the process. How are customers prioritised up front, and does the back of store follow suit?
  • Break the system up into manageable process chunks. How long should each take on average? Where are bottlenecks most likely to occur?
  • Analyse the ticket servicing data by store, by time of day, by time of week and by season. Does the type of food ordered have a bearing?
  • Examine all these variables carefully. Should there for example be separate queues for fast and slower orders, are there some recipes needing rejigging
  • Set a goal of 90% of tickets serviced within 8 minutes. Monitor progress carefully. Relate this to individual store profitability. Provide recognition.

Conclusion

A symbiotic relation between CRM and a process improvement system can provide a powerful vehicle for evidencing customer care and providing feedback through measurable results. Denizon has contributed to many strategically important systems. 

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Systems Integration as a means to cost reduction

System integration in an organisation refers to a process whereby two or more separate systems are brought together for the purpose of pooling the value in the separate systems into one main system. A key component of process consolidation within any organisation is the utilisation of IT as a means to achieve this end. As such, system integration as a means to cost reduction offers organisations the opportunity to adopt and implement lean principles with the attendant benefits. The implementation of lean techniques requires an adherence to stated methods to facilitate the elimination of wastage in the production of goods and services. In summary, the lean philosophy seeks to optimise the speed of good and service production, through the elimination of waste.

While analysing some of the traditional sources of waste in organisational activities, things like overproduction, inventory, underutilised ideas, transmission of information and ideas, transportation of people and material, time wastage and over-processing stand out. The fact is that companies can eliminate a significant portion of waste through the utilisation of IT to consolidate processes within their organisation.

Adopting lean principles calls for the identification of all of the steps in the company value stream for each product family for the purpose of the eliminating the steps that do not create any value. In other words, this step calls for the elimination of redundant steps in the process flow. This is exactly what the utilisation of IT to consolidate processes offers a company. For instance, the adoption of a central cloud system across a large organisation with several facilities could increase efficiencies in that company. Such a company would drastically reduce the redundancies that used to exist in the different facilities, eliminate the instances of hardware and software purchase, maintenance and upgrade, modernise quality assurances processes and identify further opportunities for improvement.

Perhaps, from the company’s point of view, and from the perspective of lean process implementation, the most important factor is the effect it has on the bottom line. Reducing the number of hardware, eliminating the need for maintaining and upgrading hardware, removing the necessity for software purchase and upgrade across facilities also contributes to a significant reduction in operational costs. This reduction in the cost of operations leads to a corresponding increase in the profit margin of the company.

Applying system integration as a means to cost reduction can also lead to the reduction in the number of people needed to operate the previous systems that have been integrated into one primary unit. Usually, companies must hire people with specialised knowledge to operate and maintain the various systems. Such employees must also receive special training and frequent ongoing education to constantly stay informed of the latest trends in process management. With the integration of the system, the number of people needed to maintain the central system will be significantly reduced, also improving the security of information and other company trade secrets.

Based on an analysis of the specific needs that exist in a particular company environment, a system integration method that is peculiar to the needs of that organisation will be worked out. Some companies may find it more cost-effective to use the services of independent cloud service providers. Others with more resources and facilities may decide to set up their own cloud service systems. Often, private cloud service system capabilities far exceed the requirements of the initiating company, meaning that they could decide to “sell” the extra “space” on their cloud network to other interested parties.

A company that fully applies the lean principles towards the integration of its systems will be able to take on additional tasks as a result of the system consolidation. This leads to an increase in performance, and more efficiency due to the seamless syncing of information in a timely and uniform manner.

Companies have to combine a top-down and a bottom-up approach towards their system integration methods. A top-down approach simply utilises the overall system structure that is already in place as a starting point, or as a foundation. The bottom-up approach seeks to design new systems for integration into the system. Other methods of system integration include the vertical, star and horizontal integration methods. In the horizontal method, a specified subsystem is used as an interface for communication between other subsystems. For the star system integration method, the subsystems are connected to the system in a manner that resembles the depiction of a star; hence, the name. Vertical integration refers to the method of the integration of subsystems based on an analysis of their functionality.

The key to successful system integration for the purpose of cost reduction is to take a manual approach towards identifying the various applicable lean principles, with respect to the system integration process. For instance, when value has been specified, it becomes easier to identify value streams. The other process of removing unnecessary or redundant steps will be easier to follow when the whole project is viewed from the whole, rather than the part. Creating an integrated system needs some patience in order to work out kinks and achieve the desired perfect value that creates no waste.

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Handwriting of quality guarantee

ISO Certification and Training

ISO, or the International Organization for Standardization, is a global standard-setting body, made up of a network of various standards organizations from among its 162 member-nations. ISO is a vital force in the manufacturing industry, promoting industrial and commercial global standards for specifications and requirements in materials, products, procedures, information, and quality management.

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Succeed at Transformation

Despite the pomp and fanfare associated with launching corporate transformation programs, in reality very few of them succeed. According to a recent report by McKinsey the success rate is pegged below 40%. In addition, the same research indicates that defensive transformations – those undertaken as part of crisis management – have lower chances of success than progressive ones – those launched to streamline operations and foster growth. However, adopting certain strategies, like setting clear and high goals, and maintaining energy and engagement throughout the implementation phase, can really boost the project’s success rate. A key aspect of business transformation is IT transformation. This can be attributed to the fact that significant business change is either driven or influenced by technological change.

So what is IT Transformation?

IT transformation is basically a holistic reorganisation of the existing technological infrastructure that supports the company’s mission critical functions. In essence, IT transformation is not all about effecting change for the sake of change but involves systematic steps that align IT systems to business functions. To appreciate this approach, it is important to explore current trends in the business world where human resource, finance and IT transformations are being carried out in unison. This is being done to develop strong corporate centres that are leaner, agile and more productive that enhance greater synergies across all business functions.

IT transformation inevitably results in major changes of the information system’s technology, involving both hardware and software components of the system, the architecture of the system, the manner in which data is structured or accessed, IT control and command governance, and the components supporting the system. From this scope of works it is evident that IT transformation is a huge project that requires proper planning and implementation in order to succeed.

Tips to Improve Success in IT transformations Projects

1. Focus on Benefits not Functionality

The project plan should be more focused on benefits that can be accrued if the system is implemented successfully rather than system functionality. The benefits should be in line with business goals, for instance cost reduction and value addition. The emphasis should be on the envisaged benefits which are defined and outlined during the project authorisation. The business benefits outlined should be clear, feasible, compelling and quantifiable. Measures should be put in place to ensure that the benefits are clearly linked to the new system functionality.

2. Adopt a Multiple Release Approach

Typically most IT projects are planned with focus on a big launch date set in years to come. This approach is highly favoured because it simplifies stakeholder expectation management and avoids the complexity associated with multiple incremental releases. However, this approach misses the benefit of getting early critical feedback on functioning of the system. In addition, the long lead times often result in changes in project scope and loss of critical team members and stakeholders. IT transformation projects should be planned to deliver discrete portions of functionality in several releases. The benefit of multiple release approach is that it reduces project risks and most importantly allows earlier lessons learnt to be incorporated in future releases.

3. Capacity of the Organisation to confront Change

As pointed out, IT transformations result in significant changes in business operations and functions. Hence it is important that all business stakeholders should be reading from the same script in regards to changes expected. In addition, key stakeholders should be involved in crucial project stages and their feedback incorporated to ensure that the system is not only functional but business focused.

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Transformation to a process based organisation

Today’s global marketplace rewards nimble organisations that learn and reinvent themselves faster than their competition. Employees at all levels of these organisations see themselves as members of teams responsible for specific business processes, with performance measures tied to the success of the enterprise. As team members, they are “owners” of the process (or processes) to which they are assigned. They are responsible for both the day to day functioning of their process(s), and also for continuously seeking sustainable process improvements.

Transforming a traditionally designed “top down control” enterprise to a process-based organisation built around empowered teams actively engaged in business process re-engineering (BPR) has proven more difficult than many corporate leaders have expected. Poorly planned transformation efforts have resulted in both serious impacts to the bottom line, and even more serious damage to the organisation’s fabric of trust and confidence in leadership.

Tomislav Hernaus, in a publication titled “Generic Process Transformation Model: Transition to Process-based Organisation” has presented an overview of existing approaches to organisational transformation. From the sources reviewed, Heraus has synthesised a set of steps that collectively represent a framework for planning a successful organisational change effort. Key elements identified by Hernaus include:

Strategic Analysis:

The essential first step in any transformation effort must be development of a clear and practical vision of a future organisation that will be able to profitably compete under anticipated market conditions. That vision must be expected to flex and adjust as understanding of future market conditions change, but it must always be stated in terms that all organisational members can understand.

Identifying Core Business Processes:

With the strategic vision for the organisation in mind, the next step is to define the core business processes necessary for the future organisation to function. These processes may exist across the legacy organisation’s organisational structures.

Designing around Core Processes:

The next step is development of a schematic representation of the “end state” company, organised around the Core Business Processes defined in the previous step.

Transitional Organisational Forms/ Developing Support Systems:

In his transformation model, Hernaus recognises that information management systems designed for the legacy organisation may not be able to meet the needs of the process management teams in the new organisation. Interim management structures (that can function with currently available IT system outputs) may be required to allow IT professionals time to redesign the organisation’s information management system to be flexible enough to meet changing team needs.

Creating Awareness, Understanding, and Acceptance of the Process-based Organisation:

Starting immediately after the completion of the Strategic Analysis process described above, management must devote sufficient resources to assure that all organisation members, especially key managers, have a full understanding of how a process-based organisation functions. In addition, data based process management skills need to be provided to future process team members. It is not enough to schedule communication and training activities, and check them off the list as they are completed. It is critical that management set behavioural criteria for communication and training efforts that allow objective evaluation of the results of these efforts. Management must commit to continuing essential communication and training efforts until success criteria are achieved. During this effort, it may be determined that some members of the organisation are unlikely to ever accept the new roles they will be required to assume in a process-based organization. Replacement of these individuals should be seen as both an organisational necessity and a kindness to the employees affected.

Implementation of Process Teams:

After the completion of required training AND the completion of required IT system changes, process teams can be formally rolled out in a planned sequence. Providing new teams with part time support by qualified facilitators during the firsts weeks after start-up can pay valuable long term dividends.

Team Skill Development and Continuous Process Improvement:

Providing resources for on-going skill development and for providing timely and meaningful recognition of process team successes are two keys for success in a process-based organisation. Qualified individuals with responsibility for providing training and recognition must be clearly identified and provided with sufficient budgetary resources.

The Hernaus model for transformation to a process based organisation is both well thought out and clear. His paper provides an ample resource of references for further study.

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Roadmap

Could Kanban Be Best for Knowledge Workers?

Knowledge Workers include academics, accountants, architects, doctors, engineers, lawyers, software engineers, scientists and anybody else whose job it is to think for a living. They are usually independent-minded people who do not appreciate project managers dishing out detailed orders. Kanban project management resolves this by letting them choose the next task themselves.

The word ‘Kanban’ comes from a Japanese word meaning ‘billboard’ or ‘signboard’. Before going into more detail how this works let’s first examine how Japanese beliefs of collaboration, communication, courage, focus on value, respect for people and a holistic approach to change fit into the picture.

The Four Spokes Leading to the Kanban Hub

  1. Visualise the Workflow –You cannot improve what you cannot see. The first step involves team members reducing a project to individual stages and posting these on a noticeboard.
  2. Create Batches – These stages are further reduced to individual tasks or batches that are achievable within a working day or shift. More is achievable when we do not have to pick up where we left off the previous day.
  3. Choose a Leader the Team Respects – Without leadership, a group of people produces chaotic results. To replace this with significant value they need a leader, and especially a leader they can willingly follow.
  4. Learn and Improve Constantly – Kaizen or continuous improvement underpins the Japanese business model, and respects that achievement is a step along the road, and not fulfilment.

The Kanban Method in Practice

Every Kanban project begins with an existing process the participants accept will benefit from continuous change. These adjustments should be incremental, not radical step-changes to avoid disrupting the stakeholders and the process. The focus is on where the greatest benefits are possible.

Anybody in the team is free to pull any batch from the queue and work on it in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation. That they do so, should not make any waves in a culture of respect for people and a holistic approach to working together. All it needs is the courage to step out of line and dream what is possible.

The Kanban Project Method – Conclusions and Thoughts

Every engine needs some sort of fuel to make it go. The Kanban project management method needs collaboration, communication, courage, focus on value, respect for people and a holistic approach to work. This runs counter to traditional western hierarchies and probably limits its usefulness in the West.

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Migrating from CRM to Big Data

Big data moved to centre stage from being just another fad, and is being punted as the latest cure-all for information woes. It may well be, although like all transitions there are pitfalls. Denizon decided to highlight the major ones in the hope of fostering better understanding of what is involved.

Accurate data and interpretation of it have become increasingly critical. Ideas Laboratory reports that 84% of managers regard understanding their clients and predicting market trends essential, with accelerating demand for data savvy people the inevitable result. However Inc 5000 thinks many of them may have little idea of where to start. We should apply the lessons learned from when we implemented CRM because the dynamics are similar.

Be More Results Oriented

Denizon believes the key is focusing on the results we expect from Big Data first. Only then is it appropriate to apply our minds to the technology. By working the other way round we may end up with less than optimum solutions. We should understand the differences between options before committing to a choice, because it is expensive to switch software platforms in midstream. data lakes, hadoop, nosql, and graph databases all have their places, provided the solution you buy is scalable.

Clean Up Data First

The golden rule is not to automate anything before you understand it. Know the origin of your data, and if this is not reliable clean it up before you automate it. Big Data projects fail when executives become so enthused by results that they forget to ask themselves, ‘Does this make sense in terms of what I expected?’

Beware First Impressions

Big Data is just that. Many bits of information aggregated into averages and summaries. It does not make recommendations. It only prompts questions and what-if’s. Overlooking the need for the analytics that must follow can have you blindly relying on algorithms while setting your business sense aside.

Hire the Best Brains

Big Data’s competitive advantage depends on what human minds make with the processed information it spits out. This means tracing and affording creative talent able to make the shift from reactive analytics to proactive interaction with the data, and the customer decisions behind it.

If this provides a déjà vu moment then you are not alone. Every iteration of the software revolution has seen vendors selling while the fish were running, and buyers clamouring for the opportunity. Decide what you want out first, use clean data, beware first impressions and get your analytics right. Then you are on the way to migrating successfully from CRM to Big Data.

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