Mastering Customer Data: The Next EA Opportunity – And Challenge

Several recent Forrester reports home in on what we call “The Age Of The Customer” in which firms must seek to become customer-obsessed to build differentiation and loyalty. Those firms that embrace this will ramp up investment in four priority areas: 1) real-time customer intelligence; 2) customer experience and customer service; 3) sales channels that deliver customer intelligence; and 4) useful content and interactive marketing. All these needs are technology-infused – wholly dependent on technology and in categories where technology is evolving rapidly. Underlying these investments is the need to master the flow of data about customers: capturing/collecting data about them, analyzing it, distributing to those points of engagement, and, finally, integrating the insights into the customer experience. 

Companies can’t succeed at doing this without a close partnership between the business areas leading the charge and IT. The rate of change of your customers, markets, business opportunities, and technology is simply too fast. Forrester is exploring this theme in our first CIO/CMO joint forum

The reality, though, is companies flounder at this marketing-IT partnership. They flounder because of:

  • More ideas than capacity. A plethora of desired initiatives are constantly being surfaced – beyond the limits of available budget and with no mechanism to sort them into an achievable plan that IT can deliver on.   
  • Different approaches to getting the work done. IT wishes for well-defined processes with clear roles and metrics. Marketing works in a more ad-hoc fashion through leaders and teams.
  • Different values. Marketing values speed and takes risks. IT values predictability and reliability and minimizes risk.
  • Few established ways to work together. Marketing and IT work in parallel with hand-offs from one to another as opposed to working as part of the same team. This, combined with the previous three points makes a prescription for frustration and failure. 

The business need to master the flow of customer data is an opportunity for enterprise architecture programs. Information and application architects can design the substrate for this need and translate it into business-enabling road maps. Technology-oriented architects can oversee emerging technology adoption programs – and integrate tech-savvy and innovative staff from the marketing team. Business architects can use business capability maps to bring the plethora of possible initiatives into a single picture and thus help business and IT work through priority and sequence. Business-embedded architects can be the bridge between the world of marketing and the world of IT. 

The challenge will be that EAs are putting themselves into the gap between marketing and IT – an area where few EA organizations work today. There are no processes and no metrics, and each side’s expectations are low. 

Afternoon sessions at the CIO/CMO forum will examine how to move from collaboration – too often at arms-length – to co-creation. The first deliverable marketing and IT must co-create is the combination of the culture and processes necessary for this partnership. This will be the topic of a working session co-facilitated by myself and my colleague David Truog

As an EA professional, are you working in this gap between marketing and IT? What are you bringing to the table to help advance the co-creation? Have you found ways around these challenges? 

Shameless commercial plug – if you want to be part of these discussions and have not yet made plans to attend Forrester’s CIO/CMO forum, we have a special offer for you: Register for the CIO-CMO Forum by calling +1 888.343.6786, and use the promo code CIO11BLOGto save $200 off the nonclient rate.