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Are You Buried Alive in Data Debt?

Lack of sustainable analytics roadmap and data governance can cripple future personalization and insight objectives

“Technical debt” or “code debt” is a well-established idea within the engineering paradigm. At the most basic level, it involves deferring best practices in favor of short-term solutions until your legacy codebase becomes a house of cards—ready to collapse under the weight of any new feature or release.

Digital marketing leaders are facing a similar issue as marketing technology continues to propagate at breakneck speeds. What happens when a brand team adopts a new social media platform that comes complete with pre-baked metrics in its own reporting dashboard? Or what about that fleet of campaign microsites built on a new CMS by a third-party agency? What happens to your segmentation strategy when you launch a new automated personalization platform that has its own self-learning engine?

While all of these tools allow for quick conversion lifts for agile enterprise marketing teams, incorporating the behavioral and audience data into a scalable personalization or insight program across channels, devices, and business groups requires a healthy approach to data governance, along with a strong marketing technology roadmap. Without these items in place, your organization is at risk for critical levels of data debt that will hinder the ultimate goal of personalizing the consumer experience.

The analytics maturity curve (pictured below) illustrates the relationship between levels of maturity and analytics initiatives.

The analytics maturity curve

It’s a common scenario to launch a capability or tool in the top right corner and see value without completing a capability further down the curve. However, your ability to power that tool with existing behavioral data or connect the insight to inform other channels is severely limited. Hence, you start racking up data debt.

If you’re starting to develop a cold sweat as you imagine all of your disparate data sources across platforms and teams, you’re not alone. Here are four crucial things to keep in mind when dealing with data debt:

1. Start with a true assessment of your current state

Understanding your current marketing technology landscape is a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many organizations don’t have clear documentation on the tools that make up their marketing stack and corresponding data environments. Be sure to assess levels of data access, data connectedness, and data hygiene from each tool. For example, if you’re facing a data capture tagging issue within your mobile experience, it’s a non-starter for fueling any mobile-related targeting initiatives.

2. Don’t confuse quick wins with incurring data debt

ROI is the name of the game, and a moratorium or slowdown on new technology is rarely the answer. Look for tools and processes that allow for quick wins, while keeping an eye on your overall data strategy, which leads us to the point below.

3. Build your strategic roadmap

Getting from Point A to Point B has never been a straight line for digital marketing, but more a future state blueprint that outlines the steps needed to achieve an integrated, cross-channel future state. Focus on developing a multi-year roadmap that intersects business priorities and customer experience with budget requirements, infrastructure, and talent investments.

4. Data governance for the win

Data governance is the fabric that stitches an organization’s data narrative together. From tagging architecture to data transformation, a strong data governance focus specifies the teams, processes, and taxonomies necessary for onboarding new data sources. Done well, it can mitigate the chaos that results from multiple teams approaching problems from different angles. Data governance is never a set-it and forget-it exercise, but a leadership commitment to a common data worldview.

As your organization continues toward a cross-channel, personalized customer experience, it’s crucial to address any existing data debt in your marketing technology stack including your fundamental site tagging.

Contact us today for an initial data capture tagging assessment to ensure you’re collecting the mission-critical behavioral data to fuel your decisioning and personalization initiatives.