The landscape for marketing analytics solutions is more cluttered than ever with multiple options and approaches for marketing departments to consider. One option that we are seeing more and more of is a seductive offering that promises a simple, fast, nearly turnkey approach to getting analysis and insight from your growing stacks of data. The offer is this: a vendor will import your data to their systems, do analysis on it with their in-house experts, and come back to you with insights that will help you run your business better.
No doubt, this is an attractive offer if you are like many marketing organizations, struggling to get internal resources to help consolidate data and do the analysis required to get you the insights you need. Business Intelligence resources are hard to find in your company, the data holders in IT are backlogged and short staffed. You need insights now to help engage and sell to your customers and are done waiting on internal resources so why not go this route? While likely a quick, tactical solution that will get you answers in the near term, there are several major drawbacks to this solution as a longer term strategy.
Market leading organizations know that their data is a significant asset that, when used well, can help them better understand and engage their customers, anticipate customer needs, cross sell, upsell, and stay ahead of the competition. As part of making data a core competency, your organization has to do the hard work to intimately know its data, its strengths, its shortcomings, and understand what it can tell you about your business. That intimate understanding of data only comes from digging in, “doing the homework,” investing in the infrastructure and skillsets to excel at business intelligence inside the organization. Organizations that have this kind of understanding of their data are continually improving the quality of data in their organization and building the kind of sustainable internal BI capability that actually adds significantly to the value and sustainability of the company. C-suite, take note!
If you outsource that knowledge, you may get the answers you seek fast, but you do not get the sustainable, growing capability in-house that becomes a core differentiator for your company and helps you lead the market. I’m amazed when I hear this but it is very common practice. What if your vendor company goes out of business, gets acquired, changes business models or you decide to change vendors? Your vendor is holding your data hostage. What are you left with then? All the money you spent bought you yesterday’s insights but you have no investment or capability towards the future. Your team has none of the knowledge or infrastructure to sustain and continue to grow that flow of business intelligence that is critical to serving your customers and staying ahead of your competition. You are back to zero.
Fair enough you say, but damn it, I still need insights now and I can’t wait any longer. Tactical and non-sustainable is better than nothing right? Well consider that it doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” approach. There is a way to get fast and sustainable. You can start with a partner who gets you to the critical insights you need now, but is doing it on your systems, building out infrastructure you own (be it in the cloud on your behalf or on premises), and is helping mentor your team members along the way. You may spend a little more along the way to do this, but in this approach you are investing, not just paying a monthly fee with no incremental addition of value to your company. Very quickly you will be way ahead.
If the vendor you pick, in this case, goes out of business, moves on, or you decide to part ways, there may be some short term pain, but you own the assets, data, and business logic they built and you have team members who have been working directly with the technology and data, “doing the homework”, and can keep you moving forward. Nobody has your data held hostage.
The right choice for a vendor should:
- Have deep experience utilizing the cloud to get you up and running fast, with limited need for hardware purchase and support. The cloud is great but make sure it is your, cloud, not someone else’s.
- Work with you to understand your unique needs, data, internal team skills and challenges, and creates a roadmap to Business Intelligence ROI internally.
- Provide all the senior BI talent you need now to get answers fast, but also help you grow that skill in house, with training, new employee interviewing and ongoing mentoring. They need to have a demonstrated understanding that knowledge transition to your team is part of the deliverable and be committed to providing it.
Pick a partner who can help you avoid having your data taken hostage, while getting you the insights and ROI you need fast!
Written by Duane Bedard, eSage Group President and Co-Founder