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We’re seeing two schools of thought emerge on how best to leverage data in the digital media landscape.
The first is more technically savvy, where marketers are deeply involved in the IT side of their platforms. Conversations center around first-party data, including site and application analytics, tagging and tracking, third-party cookie deprecation — and, of course, data privacy. The second school of thought is from a media and marketing perspective: Concentrated on experience and how to measure and define it correctly.
A company’s data approach can differ considerably depending on which of these schools of thought that organization prioritizes.
This shouldn’t be an either/or decision. The best scenario is when companies can marry both IT-centric and marketing-centric approaches, creating a more holistic data approach focused on maximizing value to accomplish specific goals. For organizations looking to be more efficient and work smarter to maximize their data, being overly IT-focused or overly media/marketing-focused could hold them back. Standing on both legs instead of one will make businesses more fortified at a time when most are striving for resiliency.
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Here are three ways companies can strike the ideal marketing and IT balance to foster a connected data ecosystem.
1. Empower a culture shift
When pursuing greater data efficiency, the successful marriage of marketing and IT often depends on organizational design. The catalyst is one or more senior stakeholders who see the value in an openly data-driven ecosystem and can bring relevant marketing and IT stakeholders to the table.
The message is simple: Being data-driven isn’t some platform that IT invests in, and it’s not something used solely for marketing purposes. A connected ecosystem positively impacts everyone across the business, breaking down silos and making data accessible to the people who need it most. Companies that can navigate this cultural shift — earning buy-in and influencing the necessary stakeholders on each side of the data spectrum — will reduce redundancy, increase visibility, and drive scale.
2. Define the right data-driven use cases
Selling leaders on an open ecosystem is significantly easier when practical use cases are identified. Certain industries, like automotive or financial services, can be more equipped because they’ve had more time to build their own data assets. As a result, they’re seeing the benefits of collaboration across marketing and IT.
Being able to prioritize use cases based on the business value they can bring and how easy they are to implement it is an excellent way to bring everybody together to facilitate conversations and create a culture of data sharing and accessibility.
Other industry verticals — like consumer packaged goods — may face additional challenges due to their reliance on partners lacking data maturity. In these situations, obstacles to data access must be addressed prior to identifying use cases, including evaluating legacy processes, tools and ways of working that could be barriers to an open data-driven ecosystem.
3. Be flexible, nimble and accept imperfection
In an ever-evolving technology landscape, nimbleness and flexibility aren’t just important — they’re necessary. But once organizations have earned support for the approach and identified the right use cases, many think the data-driven ecosystem needs to be perfect.
While it’s preferred to limit technical debt and reduce the number of under-utilized tools, a perfectly designed ecosystem just doesn’t exist. Technology is changing rapidly and data is being engaged with across different mediums. It’s impossible to future-proof a setup when it’s so likely to need upgrading in years to come. Even though perfection can be the enemy of practicality, companies can still be thoughtful about how to invest in certain platforms, how to deploy them and how to evaluate them through testing.
Putting the perfect foundation in place might be a pipe dream, but organizations can still lay the groundwork to drive value in the present while being positioned to flex as needed in response to innovation and changing market demand.
Data is only as valuable as the relevant problems it’s able to solve. When marketing and IT work in silos, they limit the benefits each can gain from greater awareness of and access to the data at their disposal within their organizations.
Connectivity will be even more essential as the world progresses into digital and virtual spaces. The businesses that embrace data-driven ecosystems with the right cultural buy-in, collaboration on use-case development and flexible positioning will be poised for success.
Sisi Zhang is EVP of data science and analytics at Razorfish.
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