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Who in the Org Owns Your Customer Data?


Post Date: January 28, 2014
By: Stephanie Miller

When it comes to data governance and stewardship in an organization, it’s tempting to declare an “owner” of customer data –
be it marketing, IT, legal or other. Bruce Biegel, Sr. Managing Partner of Winterberry Group (and a DMA Board member) said today at the DMNews Marketing & Tech Partnership event, that a better approach is to make it a partnership with shared goals between marketing (who owns the relationship with the customer), IT (who owns the technology and security oversight) and legal (who owns the governance framework).

The answer, Bruce said, is that the ENTERPRISE owns customer data.

Okay, so admittedly, that was a trick answer. However, in an ideal world, there should be no reason why marketers shy away from making it happen. “Legal and IT should not prevent marketers from doing what you need; they should help you avoid mistakes and optimize growth and integration,” Bruce said.

“The problem is silos,” he said. “Marketing owns data, e-commerce owns data, sales has data, the store has data, research has data. Finding, connecting and understanding the data in all areas of the business must happen first.”

When it comes to using customer data in innovate and creative ways, it often feels like marketing is pushing, and everyone else is pulling backwards,” Bruce said.  However, every functional group already has shared goals because good and effective use of data will drive more business value, and that will be good for everyone. Winterberry surveys show that executives understand that data is used to improve customer value and revenue, he said, and so the corporate will may already exist, even if it is currently untapped, Bruce said.

Most (79%) of marketing executives in a Winterberry study on data governance say they would benefit from a purposeful approach to data governance – but fewer than a third plan to fund it. That is no longer an option for modern marketers, he said.

Marketing can’t do this by itself.  There is no single action or process that will solve this challenge. It’s more than data security, he said. “Security protects the data, but doesn’t set the rules to help us use the data responsibly.”  It’s got to be a partnership between marketing and IT departments – along with legal, he said.

There are five steps to building a data governance program, according to the Winterberry Research:

  1. Map your customer information. “If you think you need more data, you don’t know what data you have or where to find it,” Bruce said.
  2. Develop a unified data strategy. “We need really clear objectives. Clearly state what data we need for insights and what data we need for targeting,” Bruce said.  Data for insights has a different set of privacy considerations – if you are not going to actually market to people or add addressable records, you can treat data differently.  We need to mark all data with it’s availability for different purposes, he said.
  3. Build an infrastucture to support data utilization. Work with IT on quick wins, engage them as partners so that you can maintain a specific level of marketing excellence. If IT understands what you need, then they will help you find and manage the data you need.
  4. Consider the needs of all stakeholders.  “An essential aspect of partnership.”
  5. Instill a “data culture” that values continual learning and improvement.

Success will rely on partnership and cooperation not ownership, Bruce said.

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