"Knocking down silos" to ensure the critical role of data strategies and solutions -- from the perspectives of business needs, buyers and users, and software vendors.
A Passion for Software Technology
I have two great passions when it comes to software technology. My tech career and first source of passion for software began many years ago as a developer in the IT group of Texas Instruments, working on systems that supported the semiconductor division. From the very beginning, end users (or customers) were always in the back of my mind, both for the work I did in software development and for the system user guides that I wrote.
When I did analysis for a new software project, my frame of reference included: is this something that the people who do the work really need? Does it help them in the ways that they want to be helped? Will this improve the overall quality and productivity of work done? And, unlike many at the time, my user manuals were created from the user perspective, in a flow that followed how they would use the application for actual work. It seemed natural to me to connect technology to real business needs, and to people. Still does.
Unfortunately to this day, software vendors and in-house developers often put too much focus on technologies and features, and fail to connect with the right potential customers or users to create solutions that help customers solve their business problems. Software vendors and buyers alike need strategies and expert guidance to optimize today's integrated enterprises: how different software applications fit together, how to evolve practices and processes for users to best take advantage of new technologies – even cultural changes for the internal enterprise.
An Equal Passion for Data Applications
My second long-time passion comes from working with a data management software vendor for several years. Obviously data impacts most companies and their systems; functions like data integration and data quality matter a lot for successful outcomes. I'm concerned that many businesses and IT teams still come up short on understanding the importance of connecting data management processes to business needs.
I've worked with other software vendors with offerings for web content management, marketing automation and eLearning, to name a few. These solutions almost always include an increasing number of data-oriented capabilities, including analytics, and metrics.
Data runs through an entire organization and beyond -- connecting employees, customers, partners, systems, processes, actions, and outcomes. Unfortunately silos of all sorts also run through organizations, with horrific consequences for important business initiatives. For business software to work well, it's rarely only about the technology.
A Data Story for Digital Marketing: Silos and Integration
Successful digital marketing initiatives with an authentic customer focus are only possible with the substantial aid of sophisticated technologies. But the right technology isn't enough. All sorts of silos and stumbling blocks can plague marketers working with digital marketing. These hurdles mirror company-wide challenges to becoming customer-focused, business-agile and market-savvy. Integrated data management and analytics are crucial but so is the integration of many kinds of silos.
Silos of information and content, business processes, and corporate functions continue to debilitate many organizations. Digital marketing will not happen if Marketing is a silo. The essentials of digital marketing are cross-team collaboration, bi-directional sharing of data and analytics results, cross-functional customer focus and support, relevant quality content. All of these pieces are needed to continuously update a strong understanding of customers and their journeys – across the organization.
- Data and analytics are mission critical to everything in digital marketing, for successful outcomes. Data from many sources, inside and outside the firewall, is requisite to create and continuously update a multi-dimensional customer view – as well as analytics for buying trends, future customer behavior, understanding which products and which target markets, and better tracking of different customer journeys.
Data analytics initiatives are no small undertaking, especially since many of the sources and analytics processes don't originate in the Marketing 'silo'. As part of the effort to integrate silos, centralizing analytics can eliminate redundant effort to pull together intelligence to benefit all functions in the company. Centralized customer-focused analytics also contribute greatly to nurturing relevant customer experiences across channels by sharing the right insight with all customer-related functions in the business.
- It's very tempting to focus too much on technology and tactics. While technology is essential to make a lot of digital marketing happen, many marketers find themselves too enamored of the tools, thinking that's all it takes. Outcomes: no strategies, no customer focus, the wrong goals, and the wrong metrics. Often the mechanics of working with the technology pull marketers away from the actual customer experience and how to improve it – which are pivotal elements of digital marketing.
The Biggest Silo of Them All
If top management doesn't yet understand who their customers are and why they do or don't buy from the company, then it's crazy to expect marketing to conjure miracles and save the business. Company leaders must build corporate strategies that revolve around customers, delivering what they need and want – and they must pursue marketing as a strategic function. For most businesses, customers drive the sales process -- meaning that an organization will only succeed when marketing is empowered to provide the highly personalized and relevant interactions that help customers want to buy products.
Image Source: netsrv-consulting.com
About the author: Julie is an independent consultant and industry analyst for B2B software solutions, providing services to vendors to improve strategies for customers and target markets, products and solutions, and future direction. Julie has expertise in several solution spaces including: data integration and data quality; analytics and BI; business process, workflow and collaboration; digital marketing, WCM and social media; and the pivotal importance of user and customer experiences. Julie shares her takes on the software industry via her blog Highly Competitive and on Twitter: @juliebhunt For more information: Julie Hunt Consulting – Strategies for B2B Software Solutions: Working from the Customer Perspective