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At Microsoft Ignite on September 24, 2018, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the Open Data Initiative as a first step to unlocking the value of customer data to fuel customer outcomes and a positive customer experience. Nadella was joined on stage by the CEO of Adobe, Shantanu Narayen, and Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, who first suggested the initiative.

The time is right for the Open Data Initiative, and other major vendors should join

Ovum's latest ICT Enterprise Insights study of almost 5,000 enterprises shows that the digital transformation progress of omnichannel customer engagement capabilities is painfully slow. Time and again we see initiatives floundering, and one of the biggest barriers is customer data locked away in silos. While major cultural and monolithic legacy system barriers create a drag on progress, the more forward-leaning enterprises have all grasped the data nettle. They recognize the critical importance of data and unifying customer data from multiple sources, not just from internal systems but also from external sources, such as social media, advertising, location, and third-party data.

Among the biggest barriers to customer engagement transformation progress are making everything work across heterogeneous technology environments and keeping up with customers' continually rising and changing expectations. Hard-wired integration is incredibly difficult to unpick when it is time to change, which today is almost a daily occurrence. Having three enterprise applications and cloud powerhouses like Adobe (with Experience Cloud), Microsoft (with Azure AI), and SAP (with C/4HANA and S/4HANA) agreeing to collaborate to provide a common data model should make connecting and integrating far more elastic and adaptable.

This is a step in the right direction and very timely, given the enormous pressures on enterprises to become more data and intelligence driven. It will be interesting to see if other major enterprise application powerhouses like Oracle and Salesforce join the initiative. It would be a surprise if they didn't. The days of lock-in and homogenous IT landscapes are numbered.

The ultimate beneficiaries will be those enterprises able to use data to create trusted brand identities and rewarding experiences for customers. The Open Data Initiative bodes well for intelligent and relevant customer engagement. The era of the customer-adaptive enterprise is very close indeed.


Further reading

Ovum Decision Matrix: Selecting a Customer Engagement Platform, 2018–19, INT001-000088 (August 2018)

"A coherent Microsoft makes for a coherent customer-adaptive digital transformation," INT001-000050 (April 2018)


Jeremy Cox, Principal Analyst, Customer Engagement Practice

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