Are data and IT tech solutions the answers? Only if you know your marketing problems first | DMA

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Are data and IT tech solutions the answers? Only if you know your marketing problems first

The oft-quoted Gartner stat that by 2017, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO, is still doing the rounds in articles and blogs.

Given the ongoing obsession with the hackneyed concept of Big Data, it’s understandable how this situation has arisen.

And vendors are busy making hay whilst the sun shines. LinkedIn is abuzz with salesmen ‘reaching out’ to unsuspecting marketers who they hope are in the market for a social media monitoring tool/marketing automation suite/business analytics package/multi-channel contact centre/cloud hosting solution/customer experience management tool*

(*delete as appropriate)

With more and more solutions being developed by an increasing number of suppliers, and with the big boys throwing glitzy user conferences in a bid to woo you, it can be difficult to make an informed choice. Throw into the mix a CMO who wants to do something, anything, to show the board that they’re keeping abreast of the latest developments, and the decision can become even more confusing.

However, is technology always the answer? And even when it is, how do you decide what constitutes the right piece of technology for your business or that of your client?

Know your problem

I like a spot of retail therapy as much as the next person, but will buying a new piece of kit really make everything better?

It’s important to identify the problem that you’re hoping the new piece of enterprise software will solve. What are your key challenges in improving your marketing function: disparate data sets; a lack of insight; an inability to report accurately; data quality, integrity and management issues; processing and load capacity issues; or some combination of these and other issues?

Each problem needs to be assessed on the merits of commercial priority and the concomitant improvement in ROI by resolving it.

Have a roadmap

Once you’ve got a clear picture on where you are, you need to have at least a vague idea of any likely future requirements. There’s little point in investing in a large IT installation, only for it to be unfit for purpose in a short amount of time, despite any short term gains you may make.

Conversely, it could be that you need to develop certain processes or complete certain tasks before you will be in a position to make use of enhanced technology. It’s possible that with certain tweaks or additional training, a solution you already have in-house could tide you over until you’re in a position to take a technological leap forward.

At Honda (UK) we’ve recently reached this very decision. Having mapped out a data roadmap for the next couple of years, we’ve identified some minor refinements that we can make to our current infrastructure and architecture that will mean we can make significant improvements to our CRM operation without any major technological changes. In our case, ripping out systems would act as a distraction and only serve to divert attention from the job at hand.

Is your organisation ready?

Technology is never the only answer as any system is only as good as its users. Having won the business case for the investment, you don’t want your shiny installation of the latest CRM automation system to languish in the corner because your team doesn’t have the skills to maintain the rules that generate the output.

Similarly, does the organisation have the processes to support your latest purchase? If a marketing team is still split along channel lines, each with its own reporting metrics and budgets, a cross-function BI solution is unlikely to be adopted until internal processes are changed.

Off-the-shelf doesn’t mean one size fits all

Each organisation is unique. Even within the same industry, there are nuances within a business that means that one size of technology solution never fits all. There is always an element of configuration required, and in my experience, the more sophisticated the technology, the more configuration that’s required. This can have a very real impact on the implementation cost and schedule that is sometimes overlooked during the procurement process.

Developing bespoke solutions can often be more efficient in the long term, especially for businesses with particular operational complexities.

By DMA guest blogger Rachel Hall, member of the DMA Data Council, CRM and Database Manager at Honda (UK)

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