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Information Management - Building bridges between IT and marketing

NCC Guidelines for IT Management
Number 336

Every business now collects and stores volumes of information that were unimaginable even a decade ago. Managed well, this data can be used to unlock new sources of economic value and provide fresh insight for marketing. But how many organisations can truly claim to be maximising this data?

In fact, rather than delivering quantifiable corporate value, the proliferation of data is creating significant problems. IT is struggling to determine what information must be recorded and stored while marketing does not understand what information is available or how to determine its relevance. Critically, these departments have no common reference points to enable the business to leverage this information to drive immediate corporate value.

Indeed, the rigid disciplines of IT and Information Architectures and the softer, customer-centric focus of Marketing have traditionally seemed poles apart in the organisation. But this has to change. The emerging integration of digital media, data and direct marketing means the ground rules are changing, fast.

In the online environment, a company not only learns about an individual’s product purchases, but also about intent, aspiration, demographics, history, acquisition, experience and current activity. This information can be used to transform the timeliness and relevance of customer interaction and support effective cross channel promotion. Yet the majority of organisations are stilled fundamentally constrained by poor, irrelevant web analytics, summary data and a lack of real-time insight.

For Marketing, the inability of IT to deliver the information initially promised a decade ago during the dot.com boom has been very disappointing. Senior management in every organisation now expect Marketing to be able to leverage the measurability of the online channel to provide tangible return on investment figures for every campaign – and yet many organisations still struggle to attain the information required in a form that enables any effective measurement.

Furthermore, in a world of customer power and unlimited consumer choice, Marketing is being forced to change its emphasis in order to build closer relationships and greater customer loyalty. And key to this is achieving customer relevance which demands the in-depth understanding of customers initially promised by the rich source of online data.

Unfortunately, most organisations are still fundamentally constrained by the irrelevant and patently inaccurate information delivered by web analytics for the past decade. This is set to change: with the arrival of online customer data capture (OCDC) solutions, the IT department now has the chance to capture, manage and use a wealth of detailed, online data without destroying existing information architectures, or compromising the customer’s privacy. By evolving from web analytics to online customer analytics organisations have the chance to achieve true customer relevance.

With this business-focused analysis of online channel data, and a detailed view of customer’s interactions with, and experience of the business, an organisation can start to drive effective personalisation, marketing, BI, CRM, pricing optimisation and anti-fraud applications across the enterprise. Finally, IT can provide the answers to those critical customer questions posed by the business.

So just how does the IT team need to adjust to meet the needs of a modern, multi-channel business? What are the challenges and opportunities that are emerging in this new environment? And just how can IT forge a close, relevant relationship with Marketing to ensure information is captured and made available in a way that supports the challenges of a customer relevant organisation?

For any business that derives significant revenue and profit from the online channel, managing and maximising the digital industrial revolution is the biggest challenge. The online channel is the richest source of data available to a business, as the popularity and prevalence of ‘big data’ is showing. But, to date, its business value has been limited. While storage costs may be low, there is growing board level recognition that there is no point in collecting this data if it delivers no value. And there is also a realisation that this data holds huge potential, if the right strategy can be put in place.

The emergence of Online Customer Data Capture (OCDC) systems is finally making this data accessible for integration into the modern IT infrastructures and Information Architectures, and doing this in an affordable and rapidly-deployable way. ‘Big data’ is definitely a trend that has arrived and is ‘of the moment’, and so wringing every possible insight and subsequent use from the sheer volume of online customer activity data is essential.

Sales and marketing functions in all businesses are under increasing pressure to provide tangible return on investment from marketing budgets and recognising the ever increasing need to improve the relevance of customer offers. So how can marketing directors get access to this critical business information, in a form that is both relevant and timely?

By forging closer links, sharing goals, targets and processes, the IT and Marketing departments can transform the value of this new customer and business insight to deliver serious value and improve competitive advantage.

But to truly leverage this information, it is essential to build common terms between IT and Marketing. By setting IT goals that reflect marketing objectives and actively fostering cooperation between IT, information architects and marketing teams, organisations can begin to realise the original promise of the web, unlock the potential of customer data and deliver significant corporate value.

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