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The Changing Face of Installed Base Data

Not all installed base data is created equal. And how you store it makes lot of difference in how much value you will be able to derive from it in the future. Yes, it provides a record of what the product is and which customer owns it. It might provide a record of how a product was made and what features are enabled. If you’re very lucky, it might even contain real-time data from the product itself.

So, the content matters. It matters how rich the data is. But, it also matters how it is stored, and it matters who can access it.

Paper records: In years gone by, a lot of the data was on paper, often kept by manufacturing or quality teams as part of the permanent record. It was often locked away, and was difficult to access other than in specific instances such as a possible malfunction resulting in a customer complaint (or worse, injury). Paper records often were not accessible to sales or marketing teams, and therefore were not often used to help drive additional revenue. While statistics such as number of units shipped and the product mix might have been generally known, little other value was drawn from these records.

Spreadsheets: Moving data retention from paper to spreadsheets was a big step forward because it made it possible to sort, filter and create pivot tables. Copies of these spreadsheets could be made and the data started to become useful to other functions in a company. But there was a big risk with spreadsheets … someone could copy a spreadsheet and take it with them to a competitor. Another problem with spreadsheets is complexity … not everyone understands the formulas that often wind up buried in spreadsheet cells, and it is very easy to damage the functionality that others have crafted into a spreadsheet. If the spreadsheet is a simple table of data, it is robust. If it is more than that, then it becomes fragile.

Shared spreadsheets: Shared spreadsheets are an improvement because read-only access can be shared, increasing data security. However, they're still spreadsheets, with all the potential flaws of complexity.

MRP/ERP systems: Material requirements planning (MRP) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are some of the earliest and most valuable databases for managing production, from Bills of Materials (BOMs) and purchasing to assembly and test. These systems contain a lot of the information needed by service teams, but often access is restricted to this data because it is part of the permanent manufacturing record.

CRM systems: The world expanded when customer relationship management (CRM) systems came along. By exporting a small amount of information from MRP/ERP systems, and connecting it to customer data, it became possible to get a picture of the installed base that was useful to sales and marketing. Salespeople would know what other equipment the customer had prior to reaching out. Marketing could drive campaigns to target new customer opportunities. CRM systems often increase the visibility of the installed base data, but usually have per-seat licenses that can make broad access too costly.

SRM systems: Service Relationship Management (SRM) systems builds a three-way relationship between the products in the field, the customers, and your teams. Until now, the product in the field has largely been silent, other than through customer complaints that get documented in the ticketing system. SRM systems are different because they incorporate telemetry data from the products themselves, combine it with customer information, and make it readily available to employees in every department.

maiLink SRM software is a service relationship management platform that helps you build a rich database about your installed devices. It also seamlessly integrates telemetry from your products and has no per-user fee (so any employee you authorize can have access to the data). To learn more about maiLink SRM, visit and sign up for a free trial.