“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”
A couple of blog posts this week got me thinking about the vital importance of high-quality, authoritative data in marketing applications.
It’s not just a matter of assuring the accuracy of the information used in the applications (though that’s obviously important). It’s a matter of being able to develop and deliver those applications quickly and nimbly enough to respond to changing market conditions.
“Governance is Relevant” is the unassuming title of a brilliant, blistering blog post by Jim Ericson, editorial director for Information Management magazine. In it he defends the critical nature of data and information governance, and calls out a number of contrary reader comments on recent articles and LinkedIn discussions.
Ericson especially upbraids those who seem to think these terms are just marketing language or fancier names for data and information management. To counter these and other notions, he invited Ted Friedman (Gartner) and Rob Karel (Forrester) to add their rebuttals to these claims.
The entire piece is must-read compelling, but Karel gave one particularly colorful response that sums up the message:
It’s a big challenge in governance just to come up with an enterprise standard on how to define the data and how it’s going to be used in a thorough, effective policy… Calling it data management doesn’t describe what it is. We might as well call it a blueberry muffin.
The next day, Forrester analyst Nigel Fenwick offered a blog post that asks, “Is marketing the biggest opportunity for IT since the Internet?” He emphasizes the importance of optimizing the “customer value chain” (CVC) in achieving business goals and says that “the only way to achieve this is through an obsessive focus on customer data.”
He also explains that he and colleague Luca Paderni have researched the relationship between IT and marketing as being “one of the critical success factors in managing the customer data flow and becoming a CVC-dominant company”:
Among the early findings uncovered from our research are a number of best practices for CIOs and CMOs to help establish an effective IT/marketing collaboration. For example, because of the need to react quickly to market changes, successful CIOs focus on the quick delivery of marketing projects, most often using Agile as a means to drive both collaboration and speed.
Obviously, data needs to be accurate when consumed in the CVC-enabling cases Fenwick describes as well as in any other business application.
But beyond that need, delivering rapid-response IT solutions requires everyone’s confidence in the data before work on the application even starts. Properly governed data must be the default assumption on everyone’s part; all the Agile or other RAD techniques in the world are pointless if the data used in the resulting application is suspect.
Only with pre-existing processes and tools for data governance in place can IT and marketing focus on the requirements of the application. Otherwise they must start at Square One by ensuring that the data they plan to use is clean, current, consistent and correct — which means cranking up initiatives for data quality, master data management, business process management, and other disciplines from a standing start.
In which case, say goodbye to “the quick delivery of marketing projects.”
A Chinese proverb says: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” If you’re in marketing and your company doesn’t have a data governance program — or if you don’t even know whether it does or not — now is the time to get involved.
P.S.: Fenwick also says this: “But there are challenges too, often arising from misperceptions IT has of marketing and marketing has of IT. For example, while marketing often sees IT as unresponsive, IT too often sees marketing as flighty.”
Which made me think of this… from September 8, 1993: