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How Marketing, Data & IT Teams Can Work Together to Unlock the Power of Customer Data

Eric Wendt

Senior Content Marketing Manager

A customer data platform (CDP) isn’t just a marketing solution — it’s a business solution. But you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

CDPs are commonly advertised as tools made for — and in some cases managed by — marketers, often with the express purpose of reducing dependence on data and information technology professionals.

It’s true: Business-friendly user interfaces that empower marketing, sales and customer service teams to self-serve customer insights without having to rely on technical teams is essential to the value of a CDP. But the role of data analysts and IT professionals in unlocking the power of customer data is not diminished with a CDP solution — it’s enhanced by giving them the opportunity to master projects that matter instead of servicing ad hoc requests.

As a recent Gartner report highlighted, brands are waking up to the fact that CDPs are designed to empower much more than marketing — and that every team plays a fundamental part in maximizing their value.

Image showing how customer data platforms work

Teams Are Navigating Competing Priorities & Pain Points

It’s no coincidence that explosive growth in the CDP market aligned with increased demand for highly personalized customer experiences.

We now live in an experience economy, and customer-centric brands are poised to leave CX laggards in the dust. But exceptional CX requires accurate, accessible and actionable customer data. Marketers who are reliant on technical resources must contend with missed market opportunities, either because they can’t execute on the desired velocity of their existing campaigns or they’re unable to innovate new ones.

That’s why marketers approach CDP selection focused on speeding up time to market for their different initiatives and providing personalized brand interactions across all channels to hit revenue targets.

Yet CX is a cross-functional pursuit, and CDPs are designed to help each function.

Data analysts want to see more of their work end up active in the market, from actionable insights gleaned from complete customer records to predictive models that help organizations increase acquisition, reduce churn and grow customer lifetime value. But accomplishing that is easier said than done when analysts are faced with endless marketing requests, limited access to unified customer profiles and an inability to quickly operationalize data models.

Meanwhile, IT experts want to optimize technology operations and investments, as well as refine data security and governance — all while ensuring internal stakeholders across teams are well-satisfied with their work. But how can IT professionals shine when they’re spending most of their time fielding requests, struggling against inconsistent processes and manually managing marketing activation endpoints and data pipelines for business applications?

Technology is Driving More Collaboration

According to Gartner’s 2020 Marketing Technology Survey, CDPs are the most highly utilized data and analytics solution, beating out data management platforms, social marketing management platforms and mobile marketing platforms.

To ensure this technology supports organization-wide success, stakeholders from marketing, data and IT teams must come together to understand each other’s objectives and develop a shared roadmap for how a CDP solution will be owned and operated across teams.

This isn’t always easy. A combination of poor cross-team communication, siloed decision-making and confusion over roles and responsibilities has long contributed to strained relationships. But the growing need for advanced marketing technology to support CX goals may be changing that. Whereas marketing leaders called out IT as an obstacle in a Gartner report as recently as 2017, CMOs now highlight IT as among their biggest advocates.

Why? Because creative and technical teams are collaborating more than ever before.

Gartner’s 2020 Marketing Technology Survey revealed that as technology becomes more essential to core marketing functions, partnership between marketing and technical teams has grown. For example, data showed that marketing teams led the creation of the martech roadmap with guidance from IT at 34% of organizations. Meanwhile, IT teams led the integration of different technologies and databases with guidance from marketing at 33% of organizations. No matter who’s in the driver’s seat, it’s clear marketing and technical teams are working together at a much higher rate.

Image showing CDP user interfaces

Success Starts With Understanding

In order to help themselves — and each other — marketing, data and IT leaders must all have hands-on roles in CDP selection and implementation.

How will the platform execute against marketing use cases? How is profile unification accuracy measured? How does this technology differ from master data management platforms and where does it fit within enterprise data management architecture?

No one stakeholder will know the answers to these questions — or even think to ask them. Ensuring each business function’s requirements and goals are accounted for enables organizations to make the most of their most valuable corporate asset — customer data — and it all starts with defining business outcomes and how success will be measured.

This requires viewing CDPs through each other’s eyes. It’s not enough to understand what capabilities a team is asking for — stakeholders must understand why. Some of the core marketing functions of a CDP may seem to overlap with existing technologies used by data and IT teams, but were they designed to empower non-technical users to execute on business use cases?

Concentrating on business outcomes throughout CDP evaluation and implementation — and how they apply to different teams — is key to seeing the forest for the trees and avoiding suboptimal results.

Ultimately, CDPs may not be the best choice for your company. If sprawling tech stacks, huge amounts of customer data and scalable personalization aren’t presenting challenges for your enterprise, other options may make more sense.

But make sure all stakeholders get their say and are on the same page to determine the best way forward.

Learn More

Download Gartner’s What Data and Analytics Leaders Need to Know About Customer Data Platforms to learn more about how marketing, data and IT teams can work together to solve business challenges with the right technology.

Written By

Senior Content Marketing Manager

Eric is an experienced marketer who's passionate about the intersection of storytelling and enablement. He uses his expertise to help high-growth companies develop impactful content strategies, strengthen brand positioning and boost customer advocacy.

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