September 19, 2022
Data Tech

Common Data Model - What is it and Why do I need it?

Often seen as a boring necessity when storing data, we explore why The Data Refinery’s common data model is actually the fundamental cornerstone of all things Refinery.
Common data model text with a diagram moving data into one model

What’s so important about a common data model?

Why are we singing the praises of a subjectively boring concept such as a Common Data Model?

Even the definition is pretty dry:

“The Common Data Model defines a common language for business entities covering, over time, the full range of business processes across sales, services, marketing, operations, finance, talent, and commerce and for the Customer, People, and Product entities at the core of a company's business processes.”

Well the answer to that is we think it’s blooming brilliant! A simple way of thinking about it is “a set of linked tables with fixed standardised column names”. Nothing more, nothing less. A simple concept for a powerful thing.

Still not on the edge of you seat? I thought not, but just hold on, because the beauty of a Common Data Model, is what a good one enables you to do with your data.

I’m still not impressed, how does that affect me?

At The Data Refinery, we see lots of businesses with multiple e-commerce, marketing and CRM systems. They are all needed and do important work, but reporting on them can quickly become a nightmare.

Often these ‘siloed’ systems generate their own reports that don’t tally up with what the other systems are saying. At best, this often means extracting the data and manually manipulating them into a single report in excel. At worst, you may simply give up on trying to bring the two sources together entirely. Despite the obvious pitfall of human error creeping into the reports, they require a lot of time out of your day producing the same report over and over again.

This is where our humble Common Data Model steps into frame (cape flowing in the wind).

While a tad dramatic, the problems already outlined become a thing of the past. No more deciphering whether gross value is really gross value, or whether marketing reach in one system is actually displayed as impressions at another.

So ‘like for like’ reporting starts to become standard once we have mapped all these systems into the same model.  Apples are now apples and oranges, oranges. Using the Refinery all of your data can now be stored in one place with sensible standard names.

That’s great and all, but why write a blog post about it?

Well if that’s not enough to pique your interest, we’ve only just begun scratching the surface of what a great Common Data Model allows a Refinery user to do.

With access to over 160 pre-built connections to business systems, getting your data into the Refinery world is as simple as authorising the connection.

Once you are hooked up, this is where the Refinery can really start to help:

Multiple entries for the same customer across your systems?


Our matching algorithm picks this up and assigns those accounts into a single ‘profile’. This single view of a customer means you can track if someone is using different sales channels, responding to one form of marketing over another, hasn’t actually churned.

The Data Refinery Single View of a Customer

Lots of time spent on manual reports?

We need more of a challenge than that!

Out of the box, the Refinery gets to work producing automated segmentations as well as business and marketing KPIs. We produce nine standard dashboards for each of our customers so within minutes you are starting to see the power of your data all in the same place.

The Data Refinery reports example

Our single view of a customer feature means we can segment each of your customers on their total history of interactions and transactions with you, not just a snapshot. Any reports that you produce not currently in the standard Refinery offering? That’s not a problem, our data science team can work with you to understand how they are made and get those automated.

Don’t have the resources for a team of Data Engineers and Analysts?

No problem!

With the Refinery, there’s no need to sink money and time into a costly and time consuming data pipeline to get your data into one place. All that’s taken care of for you. With setup being as simple as a few clicks, value is realised in hours, not weeks or months. Because of the Common Data Model, we can offer you the latest analytics and machine learning packages used to deliver team level work without the team.

I could go on and on about the benefits of a single source of truth for your data, or the reduction in data ‘silo-ing’ leading to hours of your valuable time wasted but I think you get the point. Having a proper, well maintained Common Data Model can bring in more value to your business than you can shake a stick at.

How can we see if this can help us?

Just get in touch with us! The Refinery team would love to have a chat with you so we can get an insight into what are the annoying parts of your job at the moment and how we can automate our way into ditching the spreadsheets and getting you back to the real work that makes your business so great.

All thanks to a humble, but magnificent Common Data Model.

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Data Scientist at The Data Refinery

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