OASIS Takes on New Standard to Improve Customer Data

OASIS, an XML-interoperability consortium, has taken over the development of a new open standard for defining customer associations. It is expected to be used in conjunction with the consortium’s existing standards for customer characteristics to bring a new dimension to customer relationship management.

The new standard, CRML, was originally developed by MSI Business Solutions Pty. Ltd., and was released as a beta last week. MSI in turn submitted it to OASIS’ Customer Information Quality Technical Committee in an effort to bring it into the mainstream.

An XML-based vocabulary specification, CRML is designed to provide a common method for describing person-to-person, person-to-company and company-to-company relationships.

“In order to achieve a 360-degree view of the customer, there needs to be a standard way of defining customer relationships,” says Ram Kumar, chair of the OASIS CIQ Technical Committee.

Kumar, who is MSI’s lead technologist and the writer of the CRML specification, says he is hoping to work with other standards bodies to help promote widespread adoption of CRML. He is currently talking to the governing body for ebXML -- an XML-based set of definitions for electronic transactions – and is hoping to initiate similar conversations with the committee for Universal Description, Discovery and Integration.

With ebXML, Kumar says CRML creates a more powerful specification that can search not only on business entities, but also business relationships. In the framework of UDDI, he says CRML gives the directory system the capability to initiate relationships.

According to Kumar, CRML goes a step farther than UDDI version two in terms of how it handles relationships. UDDI version two, which was just released as a beta in November, has been enhanced with new features for highlighting relationships between listings. Kumar describes these features as “base level,” and says they merely help users find out if relationships exist, but offer nothing in terms of initiating them, which is what CRML adds to the equation.

CRML is based in part on two other standards also under development by OASIS, xCIL and xNAL, which define customer characteristics. xNAL is a global standard for name and address information, while xCIL is a standard method for describing other customer information, including telephone and pager numbers, e-mail addresses and URLs.

Although xCIL and xNAL are subsets of CRML, OASIS does not plan to merge the three specifications. By keeping them separate, OASIS expects CRML will be more likely to fit into ebXML, UDDI and possibly other specifications under development by the World Wide Web Consortium. As a unit, Kumar says xCIL, xNAL and CRML will give users of customer relationship management systems more flexibility in working customer data.

CRML is currently available for download at the OASIS Web site (www.oasis-open.org).

About the Author

Matt Migliore is regular contributor to ENTmag.com. He focuses particularly on Microsoft .NET and other Web services technologies. Matt was the editor of several technology-related Web publications and electronic newsletters, including Web Services Report, ASP insights and MIDRANGE Systems.