Before the 1990s, everything companies knew about their customers was stored in one or more central locations: lists, spreadsheets, or databases. Only a limited number of people had access to the data, and it had to be manually updated. It was a tightly controlled system, without much fluidity or flexibility.
With the advent of the internet, SAAS applications, and cloud storage, customer information became more detailed and less centralized, housed in multiple systems or applications. Information about a single customer might, for example, be distributed across a company’s CRM, ticketing, and ERP applications. When mobile technologies and social channels came along, customer data became even more fragmented.
But that was just a warm-up compared to what’s happening now. Not only is information about customers distributed across companies’ own systems and departments (customer support, marketing, finance, sales, etc.). It’s also spread across social channels, third-party apps, FAQs, knowledge bases, products, and just about any other application or channel a consumer interacts with. As new technologies and channels emerge, the amount of information about your customers will keep multiplying and become increasingly fragmented.