Your CDP Should Be an Extension of Your Larger Customer Data Infrastructure


As CTO of The New York Times, Nick Rockwell was charged with modernizing the legendary media company’s data infrastructure, and supporting a company-wide transformation aimed at putting the reader at the center of everything they do. As the foundation of his effort, he led the charge to re-platform the entire company and its massive troves of enterprise and customer behavior data onto Google Cloud.

Next, he and his marketing team needed a CDP tool they could plug into the large, scalable infrastructure they had just deployed. One that would allow The New York Times’ marketers to design and test customer segments, build them a customer journey, take advantage of the latest AI and ML capabilities, and much more-all leveraging every ounce of customer behavior data signal that could be placed at the marketers’ fingertips.

As it turned out, finding the CDP marketing tool that met these requirements wasn’t as easy as they might have expected. But after an extensive evaluation process, The New York Times selected ActionIQ’s purpose-built CDP for its ability to bridge the gap between the need for marketer self-service and enterprise-grade customer data analytics infrastructure.

“With [ActionIQ] we were able to marry the usability of a typical campaign management solution with infrastructure grade architecture and scalability.”

– Nick Rockwell, SVP of Engineering at Fastly and Former CTO of The New York Times

Alongside other transformational work performed by Nick and his marketing team, implementing the purpose-built CDP helped The New York Times increase conversions, deliver more subscribers, and more revenue.

(For more on the larger story, read Nick Rockwell’s retrospective on his four years transforming marketing technology and business at The New York Times).

The Promise of Modern Data Infrastructure

Over the past decade, many large and medium enterprises across every sector have embarked on a similar journey to that of The New York Times—investing in advancements to their infrastructure technology that make IT and business more nimble, efficient, and cost effective than ever before. Some of these advancements include:

  • Greatly reduced cost of storage
  • Increases in processing power
  • Cloud data stores and EDWs
  • Virtual DevOps
  • Cloud apps
  • AI and ML

When it comes to gaining a deeper understanding of customers and acting on that understanding to improve personalized customer experiences, this modern infrastructure technology offers great promise.

It has the ability to store and enable access to massive amounts of the most granular data analytics about individual customer behavior from both owned and external data sources. This customer data management system has the computational power to test and train sophisticated models that can predict customers’ most pressing wants and needs. And it scales better, integrates better and makes application development light years faster and more cost effective than ever before. This customer management system can help create a personalized experience, improve customer loyalty, and provide your team with actionable insight.

Powering a Superior Customer Experience

With customer experience taking center stage in recent years, marketers need to tap into the power offered by modern customer data infrastructure. And IT professionals want to empower marketers to do so in a way that leverages all their modernization investments,but also gives business users the ability to self-serve, so that IT isn’t in the critical path of day-to-day marketing operations.

The customer data platform (CDP) is intended to serve that need. And a large number of market entrants have thrown their hat in the ring as the ideal way to meet the CDP need. But for many medium and large-sized enterprises, rather than finding solutions that act as an extension of their modern data infrastructure investments, most organizations find themselves at the edge of an infrastructure chasm when searching for a CDP solution.

Differentiating Purpose-Built CDPs from “Retrofits”

Even though the CDP is a new category of solution, the majority of CDP offerings in the market today are not new. Rather, they are “retrofit CDPs” from any vendor who has revamped the marketing messages around their legacy products to survive in a crowded marketplace. Behind the messaging, these solutions are adaptations of ten-plus-year-old architectures that previously served another purpose.

While some of these offerings feature modern-looking user interfaces, or are bolted on to a marketing cloud vendor with whom marketers already have a relationship, they are not built atop the modern, enterprise-class architecture required to take advantage of your current (or planned) modern customer data infrastructure investments.

In contrast, purpose-built CDPs are designed to act as a seamless extension of your modern customer data infrastructure. They provide the business-friendly UI marketers require without limitations on speed, scale, extensibility or data depth and breadth.

From an IT and infrastructure standpoint, here’s how purpose-build CDPs and retrofits stack up:




Data ingestion Ingests real time data in its existing format without requiring modeling or transformation in advance Requires a data modeling and ETL project to conform enterprise data to the CDPs requirements
Data scale Leverages 100% of fully granular customer behavior data from all available sources Requires real time data sampling, aggregation or truncation to accommodate limited data scalability
Data integration Unifies all data providing a single comprehensive view of customer behavior across all touchpoints Requires a separate data unification project to bring together data, 3rd-party systems, or unsupported channels
Channel and martech integration Deep library of prebuilt integrations to marketing channels and martech, with nimble architecture for integrations not offered out of the box Limited pre-built integrations, cumbersome legacy interfaces for developing unsupported integrations


In the end, customer data is at the heart of every CDP implementation. When evaluating alternatives for your CDP solution, be sure to examine how well it meets your current and future customer data infrastructure requirements.

(See the CDP Market Guide for a deeper discussion on the five types of CDPs on the market today, and how to set them apart).

Assessing Your Customer Data Infrastructure

The ActionIQ team has extensive experience in assessing and advising enterprise-class organizations about modernizing their customer data infrastructure. To learn more about how we can help, contact ActionIQ now.

Florian Delval
Florian Delval
Director, Technical PMM
For the last decade, Florian’s mission has been to empower enterprise organizations in their digital transformation process via the definition and deployment of a strong Customer Experience Stack. Florian educates enterprise organizations to increase the value of their technology investments in a complex and ever changing environment. Find him on LinkedIn.
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