At Actable we regularly speak with enterprises trying to improve and accelerate their customer data initiatives.  In most of these conversations our stakeholder is primarily focused on technology solutions to their challenges.  In fact, the driving imperative of most enterprises is to look for technical solutions to solve customer data problems – and budgeting, resourcing and corporate attention follow in that direction.


It’s true that many enterprises do have deep and endemic technical challenges as it relates to customer data that needs acute intervention.  But a focus on technology alone, however, misses a key part of the problem, as many of the issues enterprises are trying to solve are not inherently technical in nature.  Most enterprises have deep organizational, skillset and “imagination” challenges that, left unaddressed, will doom any successful tech evolution – regardless of the merits or efficacy of the underlying technology itself – to underperformance and underutilization.  In our experience, “team” is every bit as important as “tech” in a customer data transformation initiative.


Challenges with team and organizational structure require the same kind of “discovery, recommendation, implementation,” frameworks that enterprises anticipate with their tech decisions.  And if they are addressed in tandem, and in coordination with those tech decisions that enterprise is an order of magnitude better equipped for success.


We’ve highlighted the requisite tech challenges and associated organizational challenges in the “Customer Data Framework” illustration below:


Enterprise Framework for Customer Data Acceleration

customer data maturity

As mentioned, the default focus areas for most enterprises are on the “Technical Needs” highlighted on the left-hand side of the illustration.  These enterprises may understand their current and future needs for data capture and storage, data quality, accessibility for key constituents, enrichment opportunities, and portability across their ecosystem.  They may even consider the internal stakeholders and “Teams” required for technical implementation and operation.


But that’s typically where the organizational considerations for rollout and deployment end.  The “Organizational Requirements,” in the center of the illustration are rarely acknowledged upfront.  In fact, we often engage with customers who have made progress on the technical aspects of their journey but failed to progress on actual implementation and rollout due to lack of organizational clarity and organizational design.  And as we’ve seen time and time again, successful implementation of comprehensive customer data initiatives requires real organizational change, including: role-definition and allocation of new responsibilities for customer data stewardship, building a center of excellence to develop and promote standards and operating procedures, aligning partners, such as agencies, key suppliers and media partners, and developing comprehensive use-cases that improve (not mimic) current-state capabilities.  All of this requires a commitment to organizational change, and clear and explicit direction from leadership about that commitment.


It’s only through the combination of well-implemented technology and organizational design (and all the effort that requires) that real and meaningful business applications for customer data come to fruition.  Enterprises that follow this guidance realize outsize returns on their technology investments, while those puruse a tech-only solution are destined to underperform on their ambitions.