If one of the goals of cloud computing is to enable anytime, anywhere access to a single view of a database, a study released today by the DataFlux division of SAS shows we may not be getting close to reaching it anytime soon. Some 551 data management professionals in North America were asked whether their businesses' data centers enabled a single customer view (SCV) - one database or data store that defines customer data for all software and services.

The responses are somewhat distressing. Only 12% of respondents could confidently say their companies had instituted a data management plan in which customer data is consolidated across the board. Nearly half the respondents know or believe their companies are instituting such a plan, but fewer than half of those are certain their goals can be achieved within 18 months.

It's not a fad topic, at least not worldwide. Beginning back in December 2010, the European Union began enforcing an amendment to its banking laws compelling member states to impose new mandates. As a result, in Great Britain and other countries, any financial institution that receives deposits from customers must be able to provide regulatory authorities with an SCV, or potentially face penalties payable directly to depositors, as much as £50,000 per person.

In an October 2010 report (PDF),, Bloor Research suggests that an SCV is practical because it reduces costs, aids in maintaining compliance with other regulations, and ensures you're not sending multiple copies of letters and e-mails to your customers. But Bloor adds that the official U.K. regulations for SCV are not at all lenient, and include mandates for data cleansing, matching, and de-duplication.

The North American respondents to DataFlux's survey are not bound by E.U. regulations, of course, and in the absence of any policy enforcement authority, U.S. and Canadian firms may not have much incentive to act on their own. In an effort to discern what the challenges really are for North American companies trying to manage their data more effectively, the near-homogeneity of the responses indicate that DataFlux's respondents (40% of whom are C-level executives) may not actually know.

The category of challenge that was more of a factor than others, was implementation lifecycle, making a plan and sticking with it. Some 38% of respondents found that category somewhat challenging, and 23% very challenging.

What are the drivers behind companies' data management strategies, regardless of whether or not they have an SCV plan? Some 43% of respondents found the need for more detailed analysis to be a major factor, and 19% a critical factor. They need to understand the data they have. At the same time, 40% of respondents found the need for better internal reporting to be a major factor, 17% a critical factor. Contrary to the conventional wisdom of some in the cloud services field, the need to understand the data emerging from the Internet - social media resources, Twitter, Facebook, etc. - was ranked lowest among companies' strategic drivers by a very wide margin: Some 65% judged this category to be a low or very low priority.

The DataFlux survey was presented as part of SAS' campaign for better tools to help businesses know their customers better.