Data: Freedom & Flexibility

Last week we published our first chapter in our series on an Enterprise Customer Data Platform (CDP). Our first chapter discussed how we’re only using 1% of our data and how to change that to ensure you’re getting the most out of your data. In chapter two we talk about Freedom & Flexibility. 

Chapter 2: Freedom & Flexibility

In Chapter 1, we spoke about how keeping ALL profile & behavioral customer data. Keeping all data around has two benefits: first, you get a much more complete picture of your customer journey. Second, and equally important, you have the flexibility to focus on the behaviors that matter the most – even if those behaviors are something you hadn’t thought about before.

Thou shalt create & change customer attributes on the fly 

Most CDPs, Email Service Providers (ESP) and Campaign Managers allow some form of segmentation. In theory, those features would allow for a broad range of segments to be created. In practice, however, all these systems are greatly restricted to a very limited set of customer attributes & behaviors, that are determined when the system is deployed (and thus all the ETL work happens).

For example, perhaps a CDP has an attribute that’s called “active customer”. The definition of the active customer is anyone that bought anything in the last month or visited the website in the last month. 

However, you now launch a mobile app. Guess what; a customer active on mobile is an active customer. Now the definition of active customer has to change. Or, assume that your analytics team tells you that a single web session is not enough; you should consider active customers that have visited the website at least 3 times in the last two weeks. Again, the definition needs to change. 

Think about this, for a second: you are buying a CDP to help you get a better picture of your customer journey; learn your customers better and deploy strategies to bring your brand closer to them. However, you are being asked to decide, before “any” of that happens, what attributes and behaviors are important! That’s obviously putting the cart before the horse. And what happens if you’re wrong? You need another IT development cycle to get a new set of attributes, which can take months – or forever!

One of the biggest breakthroughs of next-generation Enterprise CDPs is that you don’t have to decide ahead of time what customer data matters and what customer data does not matter. For instance, ActionIQ allows you to collect and connect *all* customer data, ahead of time. By collecting data ahead of time you can start defining attributes on the fly! These attributes in ActionIQ are called “Business Variables”. “Business” because they are business-friendly (no SQL skills needed to be utilized) and “Variables” because, in contrast to traditional ETL attributes they can easily change as your insights and customers change.

In contrast with other technologies like DMPs and Tag Managers, the moment you have a new “Business Variable”, it reflects not only future customer activity but *all past customer history* as well. This includes all customer events across all channels (clicks, taps) and goes back for years. This is important because if that is not the case, you now need to wait for weeks or months before the new Business Variables could be reflected in full customer journeys.

Thou shalt properly govern your data

A related and important concept is data governance. If just by reading this phrase you want to switch tabs on your browser, stick with me for just a minute. Traditionally, marketers have outsourced data and governance to IT. That reduced their responsibilities but as customer data became more and more critical for the success of the CMO,marketers found that the traditional set up is not an ideal solution. 

A key advantage of separating data & Business Variables (i.e. business logic and definitions) is that Business Variables act as a very transparent dictionary for the whole Marketing, Marketing Operations, Analytics & IT teams. To use the example above, let’s say an analyst is wondering what the definition of ‘Active Customer’ is. ActionIQ has the answer at its fingertips. In contrast, in every other Marketing solution involving customer data, the answer will be buried on the 3rd page of a SQL script that some person wrote years ago (and by applying Murphy’s law, that single person may not be with the company any more!)

Having a Data Dictionary of key Marketing definitions around Customer Data, not only improves flexibility and usability, but gets all these different teams on the same page – thus improving turnaround times and greatly reducing the chance for error or inconsistencies (e.g. by people using different definitions for the same concept).

In addition, a Data-First Enterprise CDP like ActionIQ also automates the headache of data governance so that Marketers can focus on what matters the most: creating new, engaging and high performing customer experiences. ActionIQ takes care of the data governance headaches by offering powerful automation around things like: 

  • Automating the data pipelines: making sure data always flows from sources to ActionIQ and from ActionIQ to destination systems
  • Having clearly defined roles & responsibilities, with the proper permission system, to minimize the chance of user error. With ActionIQ system administration becomes an easy and transparent task, despite having dozens of data pipelines active at any time
  • Protecting data confidentiality: ensuring that people that are not authorized can’t see sensitive user information, or information that may be confidential (e.g. how many devices from a particular brand are active in a telco network)
  • Providing separate interfaces for IT & Business. IT gets access to high level of detail to ensure compliance and validate the data (if it wishes to do so); business gets access to User Interfaces that abstract all that complexity and do not require any technical expertise. This separation of roles is key to good governance

ActionIQ’s DNA is in the Big Data space. Our founders built some of the most sophisticated big data systems for IT. All that expertise can be seen all over the ActionIQ platform and will satisfy even the most demanding IT teams; however it doesn’t come at the expense of usability. The opportunity for Marketing to own Customer Data, for the very first time, is enabled by ensuring IT gets the access and assurances they need. 

Tasso Argyros

Tasso Argyros

Tasso Argyros is the founder and CEO at ActionIQ. He started ActionIQ to combine his passions for solving real-world business data problems and developing innovative technology. Originally from Greece, he dropped out of the PhD program at Stanford to start one of the first companies in the Big Data infrastructure space, Aster Data.
Tasso Argyros

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