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5 Ways Marketers Can Govern Big Data

Data stewardship isn’t just about limiting risk. It’s also about driving engagement and delivering outstanding customer experiences. According to findings in “The New Rules of the Road: Marketing Data Governance in the Era of Big Data,” a study by Winterberry Group in collaboration with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), to achieve these customer-centric goals, marketers must implement considered and purposeful marketing data governance strategies.

Until recently, marketers associated the concept of “data governance” primarily with the objectives of data privacy and security. However, the research shows that there’s a shift in the way marketers perceive Big Data. Rich Walker, managing director at Winterberry Group, notes a marked “pivot in data governance mind-set from reactive to proactive, and from risk management to insight generation.”

Using data to garner insight into customer behaviors and preferences is quickly becoming the modus operandi for many marketers. The vast majority (89%) of respondents consider their companies’ marketing performance “somewhat dependent” or “very dependent” on consumer data. In addition, while approximately two thirds of executives surveyed believe that data-driven marketing brings significant value to their companies at present, a staggering 93% expect this to be the case in the future.

As marketers embrace more data-driven strategies, they “need to start taking responsibility for creating protocols around data stewardship and data management,” Walker says. Although there’s a tangible trend towards greater involvement of marketing departments in data management, for a significant number of marketers, data strategy is still rudimentary at best. In fact, only 32% of those surveyed “strongly believe” that marketing data governance has been identified as a priority for their organization.

According to the study, marketers should keep five key actions in mind as they construct and reinforce their strategic data management capabilities.

1. Maintain a dynamic map of customer information. “Any data governance should start by understanding which assets you have access to,” Walker says. He advises marketers to build a map of all customer data available, from e-commerce and Web analytics, to CRM and direct mail, and classify all marketing assets to achieve deeper granularity.

2. Build a holistic data strategy. One of the most important components of building data management capabilities is having a clear and cohesive strategy that encompasses the complete array of inputs, technological capabilities, supporting use cases, guidelines, and regulations. Walker counsels marketers to identify clear goals, understand what insight they seek to glean from data, and to use these insights to match, and surpass customer expectations.

3. Develop an underlying infrastructure. Nearly two thirds (64%) of survey respondents consider technology platforms a key component in implementing a cohesive data management strategy, and 41% view a lack of appropriate technologies as the biggest impediment to reaching that objective. Building the data management infrastructure may be costly and time consuming, but the potential of data to provide insight and augment customer experiences is huge—thus worth the investment.

4. Be mindful of the needs of all constituent stakeholders. As organization-wide data governance guidelines develop, it is essential to use the data to champion and protect the interests of customers, employees, shareholders, partners, and other parties.

5. Nurture a “data culture.” Walker considers this measure “the most important, and the toughest to put in place if it’s not already there.” Effective data management requires continuous learning and improvement across all strata of the organization. Developing and embracing a “data culture” in the organization will help leverage data to stimulate product innovation, and enhance customer experience.

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