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How to Work Technical Capabilities Into Your Cloud Strategy

In my previous post I talked about the early stage of cloud planning. Now, let’s discuss when cloud planning starts to get real by using a specific example to tell that story. At the end of cloud planning, you start to dive into the first pilot project that will launch your cloud initiative. Below, is an example that shows how to address that first project.

Customer Data Platforms (CDP) are a powerful tool in the hands of marketers and are, arguably the most popular topic in martech right now. Many organizations are either evaluating CDPs, beginning to deploy CDPs, leveraging CDPs, or are now in the second iteration of either replacing their CDP, moving to a multi-CDP model, or going a different approach.

We’re going to use the CDP example to describe how to look at your cloud strategy in terms of one specific area of capability and how that will fit into your overall long-term marketing technology strategy. The CDP is a great example; many marketers think that because they have a CDP, they don’t need a cloud strategy, which is not the case.

First, go back and leverage some of the key outputs of your cloud plan:

  • What is your current ratio of on-prem to cloud?
  • What is your cloud approach (ex. private, hybrid)?
  • What kind of cloud capabilities in support tools do you already have or are currently deploying?
  • And finally, what is the long-term direction for cloud at your organization?

According to the Enterprise Cloud Index Report , hybrid cloud deployments are expected to increase over 37% over the next five years. So, there is a great chance that you are going to be dealing with a hybrid cloud. It is important to determine what kind of cloud environment you will be using.

Choosing your first pilot project

Once you’ve chosen a cloud environment, you’ll be ready to begin looking at the specific solution you want to evaluate; in this case the solution is a CDP.  You will need to evaluate the functionality of this first solution and determine how those capabilities will need to connect to the rest of your marketing ecosystem, both today and in the future. CDPs are complex as they cover many different areas of the CX tech stack and no two are alike. Depending on which CDP you have, there will be five or six high-level areas of capability you will need to consider. These can span across data capture, customer profiling, and data activation. 

There are three routes you can select to deploy a CDP:

  1. On-prem and build it yourself
  2. On-prem and leverage cloud capabilities
  3. Outsource to a CDP partner

This is where the cloud comes in. 

  1. First, your CDP will most likely be a cloud deployment. Cloud deployments are the operating model for most of the popular CDPs. Also, there are instances where organizations try to build their own. In these instances, the outcomes have been less than positive. 
  2. Second, the majority of the endpoints your CDP will be connecting to will be cloud-based.

This is why even if you already have a CDP, you will still need a cloud strategy. You’re either likely be in the phase of determining how your CDP will fit into your cloud strategy or your CDP will be a key driver of that cloud strategy.   

You will need to consider how your CDP connects and will need to connect in the future. After you have determined which of these areas of capability are critical to the organization, you will then need to start looking at how each of these areas connects, not only inside the organization but, outside the organization. From here, each one of those connections will be a specific type of connection.  Look for categories such as:

  • Cloud to cloud
  • Cloud to on-prem
  • Cloud to outside partners
  • On-Prem to on-prem (only if your CDP is on-prem)

Integration with your cloud strategy

For each of these categories, you need to determine the ideal way to connect. You can leverage APIs, microservices, or even create custom connections. Either way, take advantage of functionality that has already been created for the cloud and identify what tools and capabilities the cloud offers that are already built. This, however, can also be constrained by what CDP you have, and the integration capabilities each CDP possesses. Consider all of the options you have in front of you and leverage the work you did in your cloud strategy to be more efficient in connecting your CDP. The more cloud-based it is, the easier and faster you will be able to integrate across your ecosystem. 

Integration will be critical to your cloud strategy because the majority of this will be, and should be, cloud-based. At this point, take a close look at your cloud future state and get ahead of how your future connections will need to be deployed and what approach is leveraged.

In the short-term, whether you already have a CDP or need to get one, the chances of it being a cloud solution are very high. Also, the chances of the CDP needing to integrate with multiple other cloud vendors, solutions, and environments is also high. For the long-term, what this means is there is a very high chance that multiple cloud capabilities and decisions are going to be required and they will all interact with each other. In order to make these decisions correctly, you will need to understand both where you are today, what “your cloud” looks like today, and where your cloud strategy is taking you in the future, including the impact the cloud is having on specific areas of your tech stack.

For each technical capability you are addressing, like what’s expressed in this example with a CDP, you will need to look at it from the wholistic perspective of your overall cloud strategy. Think about how it is a part of (and fits into) your cloud environment and how your cloud strategy will change that environment in the future.