How successful marketers deal with data disruption

The Mood of Marketing 2017 report provided fascinating insights on a rapidly changing industry. We wanted to go behind the numbers and get the lowdown on how technology and data is changing New Zealand organisations. We caught up with several of our respondents, and in this, the second part of our series on the report findings, we take a look at technology and execution, and how successful marketers are dealing with the disruption caused by data.

Legacy systems create technology challenges

As a co-founder and director at The Exponential Agency, Kursten Shalfoon knows more than most the impact and disruption data can create. A particular challenge is faced by long-standing companies responding to the data opportunity. “These guys have spent years building up legacy technology systems, they have invested significantly and created institutional knowledge around them. At the same time boards and the C-suite can find new technology and transformation expensive and risky - scary even. Often these businesses can’t just throw away and start again. In the real world it’s not as simple as picking your data management platform off the shelf and pressing go…” 

At the same time marketers are increasingly charged with making decisions around the tech stack. 76% of Mood of Marketing respondents listed data and technology as their fastest growing activity, with almost half also expecting budgets associated with technology to increase in 2018.

The balance between legacy and new tech is one Julia Jack (CMO, Mercury) understands well. She and the business faced a fairly typical technology problem kicking off their data journey. A long established entity, with roots dating back to 1990s, Mercury had multiple data management systems, covering amongst other things customer relationships and transactional and consumer energy consumption. From a data perspective this gave Julia immense scale, but it was stretched across multiple legacy technology systems which couldn’t provide a single consistent view.

“Our underlying technology was SAP, installed in 1999. Even if we’d wanted to, we couldn’t just chuck it out, we had too much invested in the data and supporting structures to commercially justify it”.

Evolution versus revolution

The challenge was similar for global education provider ACG Education. Acquisition created significant scale for the group over the last couple of years, but for Group Marketing Director AnaMaria Rivera, this was a double edged sword. Many of the schools and colleges acquired have pre-existing CRM and student management systems, with no consistency in data across channels or platforms. “We have a pretty good view around EDM or web activity for retargeting, but the reality is it is a challenge to achieve a single customer view across platforms”.

The solution for each organisation has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary - both businesses decided to upgrade their legacy technology to the latest and best capability, before looking for a layer of smart middleware to help create a unified view. This is a smart and popular way to work for legacy businesses, providing a viable way to compete against digital first and data-driven disruptors. It means they extract ongoing value from sunk investments, and at the same time can create new value by organising data.

For Julia there was another challenge. “As a public company we have a responsibility to the shareholder. It’s really hard to take shareholders on that journey, when so much of the technology and investment is long term strategy and doesn’t always deliver the short term uplift you’d expect for the cost. So a 'legacy-plus' technology strategy for us was very important, to show we were balancing the needs of all our stakeholders”.  

One final view on technology choice comes from Kursten.

“There’s one thing I see often… loads of organisations get that data is important, but almost always have a preconceived that notion their data landscape will be poor and unusable. What they almost never consider is that their data is probably quite good… typically it is held in separate systems and silos and it’s the organisation of it and the collaboration across the organisation that are the real inhibitors.

Partnerships and the technology stack

Many organisations will seek to address their technology needs through partnerships. It doesn’t matter whether you repurpose your legacy systems, or are able to build from scratch, resource is highly likely to be a challenge. For many organisations balancing the desire to move quickly with building out institutional resource and knowledge, the decision between internal and external delivery becomes a key consideration.

Nathalie Morris, Qrious, GM Data Powered Marketing says “The challenge with the big internationally scaled enterprise marketing automation solutions is that they require scale to really deliver. That’s scale in numbers and data, and scale in resource… and that sort of scale is rare in the New Zealand market. Smaller companies, and even the smaller enterprise organisations really need to keep this in mind - especially when an organisation is sold the dream of something like personalisation. By the time you’ve added two or three filters over a segment to deliver best-in-class personalisation, you’ll find the New Zealand audience has shrunk to non-viable numbers."

It’s not just scale that should have New Zealand marketers thinking carefully about their technology choices.

Nathalie shares “Sadly many of the local offices of global enterprise solutions are heavily weighted towards sales staff. Service teams are thin on the ground, and no matter who you are or what your scale, you’re going to need service support, at least in the first year or two. The resource and capability to drive these offshore marketing solutions just doesn’t exist in our market, good people are hard to find. I really advise anyone looking to a tech partnership to think carefully about their service needs - make sure you’re going to get the local support you need before kicking off”.

In our next installment we’ll take a deeper look at how organisations are managing this resource question, but for now we’ll leave the final word on technology and execution to Astrud Burgess, CMO at ANZ.

“We did everything right… we spent a lot of time identifying our marketing outcomes, we carefully business-cased against our aims, we identified the need to work cross functionally in delivery… all of it was textbook stuff. But our initial methodology for execution was waterfall. Within a short period of time we were struggling to deliver to deadlines, and quite quickly fell behind the promises in the business case. It wasn’t until we moved to Agile, with a focus on customer use cases that we started to make it work. Suddenly we were able to deliver value into a number of different business units, all by focusing on customer and delivering the data journey against use cases. It revolutionised our delivery, and even if we are still in early days we can now show the business a real return on investment and have confidence we’re on the right path”.

Missed the first instalment? Read how leading marketers are getting started with data here.


2017 Mood of Marketing Report - Download now


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