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Marketing owns the Customer! Does it?


A Customer
Customer
The customer, the elusive entity that every business is about – or at least should be about.
The customer gets targeted, marketed to, sold to, serviced, analysed, shall have a positive customer experience, and sometimes even is made happy.
The ‘customer’ as an entity is owned by the marketing department, err, the service department, oops, sales … or is it IT? After all IT is likely to run the CRM system. If it is not a cloud system, that is.
In reality it is different in every company and probably rightfully so.
On the other hand every department has their own requirements and the ‘owner’ of an entity is likely the one who decides upon the relative priorities of these requirements. And the fulfillment of requirements regularly decides upon the effectiveness and efficiency a business unit can operate with.
Now the marketing department is heavily invested in collecting all data that a customer leaves behind in order to understand behaviours and be able to entice known and unknown customers into buying (in the case of a B2C business) or solidifying the lead to an extent that it can be handed over to the sales department (in case of a B2B business). They are interested in lots of attributes, segmentation, slicing and dicing towards various dimensions. Born were Data Management Platforms, and Customer Data Platforms, and overall a very thriving industry of Marketing Technology.
The sales department now is interested in opportunity management, CPQ (configure, price, quote), relationship with the buyers and their potential influencers, closing the deal as efficiently as possible. Born is a world of sales support software.
The service departments are mainly dealing with customers post sales, or when there are questions/issues coming up in the course of the buying journey, trying to resolve them as efficient as possible. This helped the creation of more classes of enterprise software.
These times it is easy to purchase and deploy them, with the help of the cloud and decentralized budgets.
All these types of software regularly have their own data store and, of course, different data models. And, as they are often implemented locally, they are also not integrated, with all the negative consequences this has.
As the ‘customer’ is one important piece of the enterprise data model an important consequence is that suddenly there is different customer information at different places. There is no single ‘truth’ anymore, not even different views on the same data, just different data with little chance of consolidation that is left.
But, in the context of their own jobs (to be done) the individual departments get closer to their optimal process.
Just that this optimal process is not likely to be close to a global optimum, which would be defined around the customer’s job to be done.

The Solution?

Given all this: Who should own the customer and the customer data? Someone needs to.
I would argue that it should not be a single business unit. They have their local objectives (which are not always directly inferred from global objectives) and tend to prioritise their own goals over other business units’ goals; and they surely do not have the skills necessary for proper data modeling.
I would also argue that it is neither a group. This normally leads to no one feeling accountable and thus will not yield results.
In conclusion this leaves a department that delivers a service to the other business units. As we are talking technology here the logical candidate is IT.
The precondition for this to work is that the CIO sees him-/herself as an enabler to the business, and conversely also is expected to be in this role.
Dilbert and Mordac; Source: Scott Adams
Dilbert and Mordac; Source: Scott Adams
A CIO these digital ages needs to be on the forefront of the business transformation that any digital transformation is.  And the enterprise data model as part of an enterprise architecture is part of this.
Am I dogmatic about this? No, as long as the enterprise architecture is part of a cross-business strategic unit – and has a cross-business governance body to ensure proper direction.
And it needs to stay nimble. This I am dogmatic about, because, in an adaptation of an SAP slogan: IT and business must run at the speed of the customer.
A tall order.

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