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03/10/2014

How marketeers can achieve a technically brilliant, customer centric big data solution

As a Marketeer you want a customer centric big data, information management and analytic solution that optimally delivers ROI and advantage. You certainly don’t want a mere technical showcase, a project that fails or one that spirals in cost and time (it happens). So how can you ensure you achieve a brilliant customer centric solution, on time and on budget? Like many things it’s the initial planning and preparation that really counts.

Designing a customer centric big data solution

The right vision for a customer centric solution varies from organisation to organisation. However, the broad principle applies to all and it’s important to get it right.

For most it’s about taking current stand alone activities or systems, which may even be excel spreadsheets, and linking them all together with the right technology and configuration. Once all systems are informing each other, the additional insight and automation possible is usually transformational.

This diagram shows six tasks your organisation may be doing now. Delivering promotions, managing product mix, understanding customers, predicting the result of actions, managing customer relationships and optimising revenue per customer. It’s not hard to imagine that with all these tasks integrated and automated there will be significant benefits in accuracy and productivity.

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A customer centric big data solution means integrating tasks, data feeds and outputs into one system.

For example, insights about a customer from your social media and research can be combined with actual buying behavior data to automatically deliver personalised promotions. The ultimate goal is a centralised deep customer understanding and decision-making ability that extends across the whole enterprise. Also a solution that supports the certain growth in data volume and variety.

Getting it right from the start

Defining your vision for how all your data sources will integrate is vital and is not about technical expertise. It’s about understanding the tasks you need your solution to perform. So, you don’t have to be a technical expert; you can leave that to the IT team and consultants. However, you do need to ensure the team clearly understands exactly what you want to achieve, right from the very start. As the project progresses your initial work is the benchmark by which you can keep things on track. Here are 6 key considerations for your initial steps.

1. Establish business requirements and consumer needs

Time spent examining and defining the outcomes required from the solution, for the business and its customers, sets the focus for the whole project and enables effective decision-making. This should include consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of any current solutions capability, what the new or improved system needs to deliver and the benefits and advantages that will be achieved.  This may include a proof of concept or pilot study to help visualise and understand the capabilities of the potential tools.

2. Define the existing and required data sources

A clear and comprehensive list and definition of the data that needs to be explored to provide the right output.  This may include ecommerce, email service provider integration, data management platform, website cookies, survey data, newsletter data and manual data loading. It is also important to anticipate future data source requirements, so that the solution is flexible and can add these without a heavy cost.

3. Determine the outputs the user base needs

By carefully considering the needs of the user groups the data output, interfaces and automation can be designed to optimise productivity. This may include business analysts, marketing executives, telemarketing teams, others who require downstream data and senior management who may just want reporting capability.

4. Specify current and future Scope

This is where you are likely to need more technical help. Specific details of what will be included and achieved in the project. This may include data formatting and configuration, set up and management of a data warehouse, establishment of data feeds, web loader implementation with validation rules and error trapping, and configuration of front-end analytics tools. The scope will also cover key deliverables such as production monitoring, business user support and automation of marketing activities.

In order to anticipate evolutions, details of developments that can and will be added later should be specified so that the solution can be constructed with this in mind. For example social integration, marketing automation or a data cleansing and enrichment service. It is also sometimes useful to define what is out of scope of the project to avoid ambiguity, particularly if the project will be in various phases.

5. Set success criteria and milestones

Precise details of the measures of project success over time provide internal teams, suppliers and consultants with a clear focus and the ability to monitor progress. These will be based on the work carried out in points 1 to 4 above.

6. Evaluate the architecture

This is where significant technical expertise is required. The design and configuration of the technical architecture should be based on a thorough review of all the options for technology and configuration, and assessment of the benefits or weaknesses of each vs. the requirements and scope. It is important to challenge why the ‘best’ option has been proposed and why it is better than others.

In summary

Marketeers have a clear vision about what they want from a customer centric information management and analytics solution. Delivering a ‘technically brilliant’ solution to achieve the vision requires a disciplined process and technical expertise. Critically, first stage planning must be right.

EBI are acknowledged as one of the UK’s leading information management and analytics consultancy firms with world-class expertise in all aspects of information management and analytics and an impressive list of enterprise and fast-growing businesses as clients. EBI’s business results focus, fail-safe methodologies, unique skill in building bespoke business-changing applications and business intelligence expertise has been refined for over 13 years.

Find out why EBI could be the right partner for you here or contact us for an initial discussion.

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