Not every organization is in the technology business, but every organization does run on vast amounts of data, much of it generated by customers. And since that data is easily as valuable to a business as its workforce, coming to grips with it is critical to success. Because to truly engage customers and clients, to broaden customer bases or nurture relationships that fuel engagement and growth, data is where it begins.
And as the data landscape shifts—with new privacy guidelines brought on by consumer preferences and tighter regulations—data strategies need to shift as well, raising many questions, particularly for marketers. How can you use data to spark and fuel customer engagement, retention and growth while being mindful of privacy? How do you adapt your data strategy to comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), particularly around first-party versus third-party data? And how can your IT team create an advanced data architecture (probably in the cloud) that helps a business grow and profit while setting expectations with leadership that it will cost them more?
The classic people, process, technology model—a ’60s-era description of critical success factors for organizational change—has given way to people, data, technology, a new paradigm for how organizations can drive growth. It’s also a great way to frame the conversation about shifting data strategy. With that in mind, here are a few recommendations for how to start.
- People: Get the right ones together to figure out the business problem you want to solve. The overwhelming amount of data available in large organizations makes it tempting to think it can answer all questions and solve all problems. It can’t. What it can do, however, is help point out the best path forward—provided you know to ask the right questions. This step starts with covening the right people around the table. To minimize churn down the road, ensure that stakeholders align on the business problem and that relevant data sets are easily available. Otherwise you’ll likely waste resources spinning up a team that will generate little valuable output. Your business problem might be a sticking point in a customer journey, lack of consumer insights or identifying how to best break into a new market. Whatever it is, starting with crisp definition is a foundational element of your data strategy, and thus roadmap to success.
- Data: Once you’ve understood the problem, build a strategy that leverages it. So you’ve nailed the problem statement—now what? Surprise! The solution is in the data. Now to figure out which, specifically, holds the key. This process starts close to home, with the first-party data you already own: data not affected by the new regulations (so far). Because the CCPA will restrict access to third-party data, forward-thinking businesses will focus first on what their customers are telling them directly, giving what they learn here first priority in addressing their business problems. Make no mistake: This will be a heavy lift, so assign a value to each data bucket, then prioritize your data mining according to business impact. Capturing all the relevant data along the customer journey, for instance, will help stitch together a customer’s story—and in turn help you understand how to better message and serve that customer, thus boosting engagement and retention.
- Technology: Leverage the cloud to build a future-facing solution. Cloud-based solutions with flexible data architectures are an excellent way to help your business adapt to the ever-changing needs of this new environment, evolve and succeed. Cloud technology is elastic and adaptive to a business’ data needs; and although initial migration costs can often be higher than on-prem solutions, cloud solutions are often more cost efficient in the long run, with the additional insights gleaned from the data well worth the cost. Benefits of cloud solutions include predictive insights that can unlock cost savings and modernized data integration along with updated, continuously scaling infrastructure so that analysis can happen nearly as fast as a business can demand them.
Each element of the people, data, technology model is powerful on its own, but only a strategic combination of all three allow for growth and profitability in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Having a better understanding of your target audience and customers creates a domino effect: clarity on what questions to ask about the business can only lead to better insights, which in turn will lead to better ways of engaging with customers, which leads to better relationships, happier customers and ultimately, a better bottom line.
As your business embarks on its journey into a new decade and all the uncertainty this brings, one thing is for sure: You’ll be using data for fuel. Where the journey leads is up to you—making strategic decisions now about how to extract, manage and consume that data today will help set you up for success tomorrow.