Image: Shoestring Branding blogThe recent IBM and Teradata marketing automation acquisitions are examples of integrations to help companies learn more about customers and prospects through more accurate, relevant data.  According to IBM's press release the goal is to "help businesses streamline and automate marketing processes, and understand and predict customer preferences."  Teradata has a similar goal. Overall, this is great news for marketers since it enables them to get even closer to customers and prospects using marketing data with additional business intelligence the above companies already provide. However, the question remains: Will the integration of these systems help organizations achieve "one view of the customer?” Meaning will it bring organizations closer to all customer actions/interactions offline and on-line?

Having worked for a small technology company in the past, I’ve benchmarked CRM and marketing automation platforms including Aprimo (I trialed their MRM module back in the day), Unica, Eloqua and others. I was also a usability/beta tester for our own in-house products and am a huge fan of CRM, marketing automation, and BI tools. Combining data from these systems is the best route to customers. For marketers today, nothing (other than customers of course) is more important than data-driven business decisions, particularly for marketing departments where some expenditures are still challenging to measure like social media.

Despite positive strides towards integrated information systems, four ongoing challenges remain.  

Disparate data sources within an organization
In some organizations, finance, operations, sales, marketing, and service all possess their own data sources. CRM systems have helped combine information, however, the challenge still remains in centralizing all data so each department can use it to make informed business decisions. Key metrics including customer lifetime value (CLTV) and cost of customer acquisition (COCA) require data from various departments. Many organizations still don’t calculate these critical metrics as a basis for marketing efforts either due to lack of data or know-how.

Lack of communication and cooperation among departments
Instead of working together to serve the customer as a team, departments operate as silos with individual objectives and budgets. Lack of communication and integrated information systems cause mixed messages to prospects and customers and present the greatest risk for an organization – losing customers to competitors.

Not enough resources, expertise and budget
Shared data systems require financial investment and expertise that some companies don’t have or can’t afford. The effort to invest, plan and execute a centralized information system is a huge undertaking for some companies, particularly small to mid-size companies.

Must have a data-driven corporate culture
Companies including FedEx, Cisco, and Carnival have made a culture out of being data-driven to benefit their customers. Creating a data-driven culture as with most major strategic initiatives starts at the top. These organizations align all information systems to service their customers and are successful as a result in both retaining and communicating with them. Equally as important is arming their employees with the information and training they need to work together to meet (and exceed) customer needs.  

Gartner Group predicts that business analytics integrations will continue to rise as companies combine data sources for better decision-making. Companies need to have a plan to tackle the above challenges. What do you think? Are we there yet with “one view of the customer?”

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