Trend Alert – Customer Data Platforms


Recently you may have heard – from your business network or circle of marketing friends – that Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) is the new ‘black’. Can a CDP really be an all-rounded solution to marketing’s most pressing problem, when it comes to enhancing customer experience?

Certainly, if you are in the BI field, the concept of CDPs seems to be making waves within the industry. So in this post, I wanted to focus on some viewpoints that question this trend – as it seems to be cropping up as a quick-win solution for marketers. Recently I read an article on the topic, and I was really fascinated by the fact that many believe this platform to be an ‘end-all’ solution if you are looking for an integrated view of the customer.

However, having held a strong interest in BI, information management and systems architecture for decades – I beg to differ on popular opinion that CDP seems to hold that “magic” key for marketing. In fact, it looks like trouble to me – but, let me put my case forward.

The systems view

Let’s take a very real example; as the CIO/CDO you are chatting with your colleagues or business network and you suggest implementing a substantial IT system, in the marketing department, under their budget, which will enhance customer experience – and it sounds so good, everyone says great, go for it. However, do you think marketing has the required IT skills to run and manage it? Following my experience – this is a clear no. Of course, you can choose a vendor that will manage this for you.  However, when you do, would this fall under IT’s governance policies? Often this answer is also no – and marketing will tend to want to go ahead and do this implementation as quickly as they can, but who will face the music later?

The information management view

Following a meeting with the CIO, you think, ah – let’s create another “version of the truth” of the customer.  However, chances are that it’s more than likely not going to sync with the single view of the customer that BI is already trying to create and manage. So, what often happens is that when reporting time arrives, you are not sure which version is the right one. This means that endless hours of key executive time are going to wasted debating between the different customer views and the different values of customers and their loyalty.

The business intelligence view

While looking at that beautiful view from your corner office, coffee in hand, you think, ‘BI’ (or whatever they call it in your organisation) has been trying to establish the 360-degree view of the customer for quite a while already and they have been working really hard to integrate data from all these internal and external sources. Why if they haven’t been able to come up with anything, would CDP get it right? There is a reason as to why BI has been grappling with this. It is not because BI are incapable – it is hard for BI because it is so complex!

The “cookie cutter” view

Vendors often think they know how data and systems should integrate, interface and share data, but what they seem to forget are the small intricacies – every system is implemented differently, configured differently and used differently by users in different organisations. The CDP would have to be PRETTY smart to cater for all these different ‘out of the box’ scenarios. And if it doesn’t, will you have to configure all that data again – if so, then why are we repeating this work that the business analysts and gurus in BI and IT have been undertaking for years?

Concluding remarks

With the above in mind, this trend seems like the ‘Customer Data Warehouse’ independent from the ‘Enterprise Data Warehouse’ debate all over again. So, despite its noble objectives, this is merely a platform that creates another version of the truth and yet another duplication of effort. In my opinion, it also seems like another vendor making a quick buck, while the business users get more frustrated and still don’t get the ‘full’ single view of the customer.

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