The issues that firms seem to have can be summarised as follows:
- Increasingly firms want to be able to tailor communications in multiple languages and therefore their data needs to reflect that requirement;
- Data management resource is often centrally located in the marketing department who don’t have the necessary language skills and may not know the companies, clients and contacts of all the international offices as well as local resource;
- Offices, for which English is not the primary language, may often record marketing and business development activity, particularly notes, in languages other than English, creating difficulties in running reports for English speaking users;
- Microsoft Office, in particular Outlook, has made significant improvements in the way in which it manages international data, most of the CRM systems in the professional services market have not kept up with those developments;
- As expansion continues in to the BRIC countries, the need to manage non-latin character sets increases, most professional services firms have their base in English speaking countries.
When it comes to implementing an international data management solution where do you start?
- The most important thing is to facilitate an audit of the communications and reporting requirements across the firm. There is a great deal of annecdotal debate about the issues and potential solutions for internationalising data so it’s vital to get a grip on the scale of the issue facing your firm;
- Ask your data team to provide a report of the different language sets being used across Outlook. It’s likely that this is going to prove to be the most challenging issues to resolve, so knowing the extent to which you have multiple languages within Outlook is going to be key;
- Self validation of data is likely to be very helpful here, so ensuring that your CRM system has the capability to allow contacts to update their own information is extremely important;
- Remember that internationalisation of data is not just about the name and address of contacts, it also has to incorporate internal reporting requirements and it’s about ensuring consistency of naming conventions for things like marketing lists, segmentation and activities;
- There is a widely held perception that managing databases (including the data) is the responsibility of the database department. The reality is that the database team should be responsible for the system and the process, but not the content. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to managing international data. Your role should then be to facilitate the firm’s move to a more de-centralised approach to managing its data.
However it’s at least as important to be realistic about what you can achieve, it’s much worse to set expectations of an “all singing all dancing” solution but then find you’re unable to deliver everything you’ve promised. In our experience the concern of the issue is greater than the actual problem, so a key role is to ensure that the internal discussion on this issue is focused on fact rather than fear.