There's No Substitute for Structured Data


Cloud-based contact management software provider Nimble recently introduced a new feature called its “Smart Contacts App.” Load the app to a supported browser, and if you see the name of a person or company that interests you, whether reading a news story or in Facebook or Twitter, just highlight the name and Nimble constructs a full profile on the fly. In addition to basic background information, Nimble also searches a number of social networks to find matching accounts. The goal is to build the richest possible profile of the person or organization, and it’s all real-time. With one more click, you can load the profile into your Nimble contact manager.

This isn’t an entirely new concept, but it’s slickly executed. After putting a magnifying glass up to the various screen captures provided by Nimble, what I think I see is that a lot of the magic depends on LinkedIn. And guess what? LinkedIn is a data product. Nimble’s ability to associate social media accounts is impressive, but still imperfect. Indeed, it asks the user to explicitly confirm every social media account match. Nimble also does a nice job integrating with email so that it can pop up a profile of anyone who sends you an email. Microsoft has offered this for a while now, but this is part of a bigger push by Nimble to have its customers do all their work in Nimble so all prospect and customer data resides in one place, all tightly linked and readily accessible.

I draw two insights from all this:

  •  The push to tightly integrate sales prospecting data is serious and intense. The idea of any contact manager (and this includes Salesforce) having a button that says “click to view profile” is quickly getting dated. That means data has to be more tightly integrated into these systems to a degree we haven’t yet seen, and that means software companies will need to license more data from data publishers to get this level of deep integration.
     
  • For all its sizzle, this new offering from Nimble isn’t creating data; it’s assembling data from other data sources. To be valuable, Nimble needs data that is accurate, rich and most importantly, structured. You can’t assemble that out of thin air. And that unique characteristic – structure – is what makes data so powerful and so valuable.

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