CIOs ‘unable to extract value from data’

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The potential big data mine that many UK firms are sitting on will be of no use unless chief information officers (CIOs) and marketing experts are given the tools they need to analyse it, a new report has suggested.

According to a new study from Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), 41 per cent of British CIOs agree that current IT processes are impacting organisations’ ability to leverage data to drive growth.

Only 11 per cent of respondents felt they have enough access to business leaders to gain the traction they need to develop investment in new technology.

CRM software could be one solution for firms that are unsure how to utilise the data they are gaining about customers and buyers, but only if they have the cash needed to invest in this type of infrastructure.

Some 73 per cent of UK companies are not currently mining untapped intelligence, missing out on potentially useful guidance or predictions, HDS revealed.

Hicham Abdessamad, executive vice-president of global services at the firm, said: “UK organisations can accelerate business growth and competitive advantage by aligning IT with business strategy.”

“‘IT-accelerated’ businesses use technology as a strategic asset, helping them to derive intelligence and mobilise information, [and] enabling them to be more competitive.”

Companies that can draw on a host of different data streams to produce actionable insights will be able to find new sources of revenue, particularly as the economy begins to recover from its former malaise, concluded the HDS vice-president.

Some 90 per cent of CIOs agreed to some extent with the proposition that traditional approaches to IT are stopping companies from getting everything they could out of their big data processes.

While the initial investment can be expensive, putting off many executives, spending on software such as CRM is likely to be easily offset by the new leads it creates as long as it is implemented and utilised properly.

As many other companies begin to take this step, others may need to get involved simply so they are not left behind by their rivals.

Businesses ‘need quality data for marketing’

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Chief executives, chief marketing officers and IT heads can all agree on one thing – the importance of utilising high-quality data to make decisions, with this process becoming increasingly central to many UK businesses on a cross-departmental basis.

This was highlighted through a recent global report from Experian Data Quality, which found that an impressive 99 per cent of companies understand the importance of an information analysis strategy.

“Data is the oil that keeps the business cogs turning and like oil, data must be broken down and refined in order to extract value,” explained the study.

Common issues and errors are having an impact on the quality of information utilised by companies, despite their awareness of the potential benefits well-managed data can offer.

Some 44 per cent of respondents suggested that missing or incomplete data is their biggest problem, while 41 per cent think outdated contact information is causing them the most issues.

Worryingly, 86 per cent of firms expressed the feeling that their information could be wrong in some way.

British businesses are wasting almost £200 million a year on processing or attempting to act on poor-quality data, according to Experian.

As multi-channel strategies and other complications make the cost of these mistakes more pronounced, it is vital that companies take steps to ensure they are dealing with information effectively and weeding out as many errors as possible.

The core cause of data errors varies – issues cited by respondents include the possibility of human error, poor internal communications, lack of resources and inadequate strategising.

While it cannot address all of these problems, CRM software can help companies that are struggling to manage and analyse their information by centralising its location and ensuring staff in all departments can access it.

Firms that want to improve customer satisfaction and behave more efficiently could see a great deal of value from investing in such a system.

Click here to find out how Microsoft Dynamics CRM can help make your operation more streamlined.

Are charities struggling with data?

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As the computer age develops and increasingly sophisticated mobile devices make it easier for consumers to get online while out and about, the amount of consumer data available to businesses has grown.

However, not all firms are well-placed to create actionable insights from this glut of information, particularly if they lack the talent or technology to do so.

According to a new report from Blackbaud and nfpSynergy, nearly 57 per cent of UK not-for-profits are struggling to release the inherent potential within big data.

Azadi Sheridan, Blackbaud Europe's product manager, admitted that the sheer amount of information gathered through modern fundraising activities can be difficult to manage.

"Data can be invaluable for fundraising and marketing, but not-for-profits must be able to analyse that data to get the maximum value from it. Not utilising social media data is a major missed opportunity to better understand supporters," he added.

Only 30 per cent of respondents felt they were doing a good job when it comes to combining data and fundraising, with 70 per cent recognising that there is untapped potential in this area.

Almost half of not-for-profit companies were capable of integrating digital data into their CRM systems, making them less effective – just 15 per cent were able to utilise their social media in this way.

The charities responding seemed to agree that the inability to utilise their data is having an impact on their engagement with potential fund-givers and supporters, highlighting the need for not-for-profits to develop expertise in this area.

Jo Graham, nfpSynergy's research director, pointed out that technology is clearly important but warned that resources remain a major issue for charities.

"Data is key to modern fundraising and the findings in the Data Driven Fundraising report suggest that not-for-profits are aware of this but need help unlocking the true potential of that data," she added.

CMOs ‘must integrate data’

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According to a new study from IBM, high-performing chief marketing officers (CMOs) are excelling in their role by bringing together external and internal data to generate insights and leads within their company.

The report is based on findings from face-to-face conversations with more than 500 CMOs from across the globe. It found that 84 per cent anticipated advanced analytics playing a major role within their sector over the coming years, helping them reach their goals.

Worryingly, however, there appears to be a widespread consensus that organisations are not yet ready to take advantage of the so-called data explosion.

Some 82 per cent of respondents expressed this concern, compared to 71 per cent three years before. 

"After speaking with CMOs around the world, it became evident that more companies across all industries are striving to integrate their physical and digital presence in order to provide a more integrated, seamless customer experience," said John Kennedy, marketing vice-president of IBM's Global Business Services division.

The survey identified three 'types' of CMOs – traditionalists, social strategists and digital pacesetters. As well as being more likely to adopt CRM technology and integrate their data, the latter grouping proved to be more financially efficient than their counterparts.

Another aspect of the report suggested that marketing chiefs are becoming central parts of their organisation, with 63 per cent involved in formulating their company's overall business strategy. 

IBM declared that this is making it more important for marketing experts to engage with data and analytics and convey that information to the rest of the C-suite.

The study also found that when a CMO has a close working relationship with the chief information officer, the enterprise is more likely to perform better overall.

Utilising CRM technology can make it easier for businesses to form these kind of connections, because it allows firms to make their analytic data available to everyone rather than simply to a handful of experts.

Businesses that collect data ‘perform better’

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For all the buzz around the potentially game-changing impact of big data analysis on the business world, the hyperbole has not always been matched up with a coherent, clear-eyed examination of the tangible benefits this process can offer.

Addressing this deficit was one of the aims of business innovation charity Nesta when releasing its latest report, entitled Inside the Datavores.

Its study revealed that companies that collect, analyse and deploy customer data become eight per cent more productive as a result, meaning some degree of investment in this area is clearly justified.

Businesses that perform deeper analyses of their data see a boost in profits of £3,180 per employee, Nesta revealed.

Furthermore, it is crucial that this information is spread throughout the company rather than simply left as the preserve of marketers or tech experts, as organisations that empower workers to act on the data they gather benefit four times as much as those which do not.

Nesta highlighted a number of ways in which the data market is evolving and maturing. Real-time analysis is becoming more common, while variety is also increasing – firms are dealing with many different kinds of information about sales processes and consumers.

“As a result, data has passed from being a modest and oft-discarded by-product of firms’ operations to become an active resource with the potential to increase firm performance and economic growth through ‘data-driven decision making’, and data-driven goods and services,” the study suggested.

The Nesta paper analysed the performance of 500 medium-sized British firms to reach its conclusion, which appears to largely back up the claims made by business analysts across the globe in support of big data analysis.

While it is undeniably vital for firms to have the right staff in place to cope with this influx of information and turn it into actionable guidance when it comes to marketing or targeting consumers, technology can also help with managing the flow of data.

For instance, CRM software can ensure that some of this process is automated, reducing the strain when it comes to hiring analytics or administrative staff.

Businesses ‘must keep data secure’

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The recent furore around data and information security has put a great deal of pressure on companies to ensure they keep their systems safe from intrusion and avoid losing sensitive material, particularly when they wish to use it for marketing purposes.

Only nine per cent of consumers have confidence in brands to keep their data secure, representing a ten-year low when it comes to consumer trust, according to a report by Fujitsu released late last year.

George Gee, head of CRM at restaurant reservation service Bookatable, told Marketing Week huge organisations such as Tesco and Barclays getting it wrong highlights just how difficult keeping information safe can be.

The latter recently saw thousands of confidential files hacked and stolen, while the former has some 2,000 customer data profiles posted online by a cyber criminal.

Given the huge volume of information being processed by many firms, particularly as big data analytics begins to gain traction within the corporate world, it is clear that this issue is unlikely to be swept under the carpet.

Mr Gee suggested that ensuring all members of staff within an organisation know the best practice when handling sensitive information is one way of reducing the likelihood of embarrassing incidents.

“Obviously, our IT department has processes in place around security on laptops and computers for example, but human error will always be a factor in these situations and organisations need to limit that ” he explained.

CRM can help in that it ensures data goes through safe channels and is dealt with by the right people, suggested Mr Gee.

He also advocated that companies should not hold on to information for too long after they have utilised it, which is also a process that can be automated through the use of a CRM system.

“It limits our risk because our database is where data should be held. It is about addressing human error – your systems can be as secure as possible but, ultimately, if someone decides to email a bit of data to someone, then that [system] is flawed,” concluded the Booktable expert.

CRM and automation

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Marketing can prove difficult to quantify – certain campaigns may offer a relatively intangible benefit to a company, like brand awareness, that can be difficult to explain to financial directors keen to see a direct return on investment.

This is especially true when belts are being tightened and budgets examined closely. Despite the UK’s tentative recent steps towards economic growth, the country remains on a slightly shaky footing, meaning firms are keen to ensure that all parts of their organisation are not over-spending or wasting cash on pointless exercises.

For marketers, this has led to a new ‘era of accountability’, according to a host of recent studies.

One way in which firms can respond to this paradigm shift is to work with CRM software, which can offer a number of benefits when it comes to accountability and return on investment.

By automating a number of processes that would otherwise need to be carried out by staff, the technology can save both time and money, allowing marketers to focus their attention on other tasks that can add value to their business proposition rather than being snowed under by administrative issues.

Recording performance

A host of experts have suggested that marketing departments are being put under pressure to quantify their successes, with this trend set to continue over the course of 2014.

The Marketing 2020 report produced by Marketing Week, EffectiveBrands and ISBA revealed large, growth-orientated decisions are increasingly being placed at the door of this part of the business.

Furthermore, 58 per cent of senior marketers suggested they are now being asked to work with the chief executive on producing overall plans, up from 38 per cent in 2006.

“Under-performers are not guided by big data, whereas the over-performers have integrated it into the way they work,” said Marc de Swaan Arons, founder of EffectiveBrands.

What this means is that marketers are increasingly being asked to utilise complicated information to justify their spending and explain how they are attempting to engage with existing customers while maintaining a relationship with current ones.

CRM software can help with this process in a number of ways. It makes it easier to prioritise and track leads, potentially creating profit as well as freeing up employees from having to undertake this task manually.

It also ensures that customisable dashboards can be used to create visual representations of performance – this ensures marketers can easily find out what aspects of their overall scheme are providing the best return on investment, making them more accountable to the holders of the purse strings within their organisation.

Also, by displaying a sales funnel it can make it easier for marketing chiefs to forecast performance and work out how well specific teams are carrying out their tasks.

Automation and productivity

In addition to placing marketers under pressure to justify their spending, the current economic situation has encouraged them to become more productive and wring everything they can out of the time they have available.

This shouldn’t mean working longer hours or bringing in a host of new workers, which can be expensive in itself – instead, chief marketing officers can look to automated processes to make life easier for their existing staff.

CRM can offer a number of benefits in this arena, presuming it is installed correctly and well-integrated with an organisation’s overall aims.

By reducing manual data management to a minimum, it ensures workers can fulfil their potential, spending time on value-adding tasks rather than busywork. Although some training will need to be provided, this initial expenditure of time will be more than made up for once the CRM software is operating effectively.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be especially useful in this regard because it utilises an interface that will be familiar to anyone who has used a Windows computer, meaning less initial familiarisation time will be needed.

Mr Swaan Arons also suggested that “marketing has caught up with the rest of the board in terms of accountability … now we need marketing to step up and lead”. CRM software can make it easier for the department to do just that.

Big data ‘can empower CMOs’

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Embracing big data can help chief marketing officers (CMOs) leverage their position and gain more influence within an organisation, as long as they have the right tools in place to manager it, according to a new report.

B2B market research company Circle Research and marketing agency dnx surveyed 52 marketers from B2B and B2C organizations in the UK and Europe, finding that 83 per cent of respondents have already put plans in place for big data investment.

According to the survey, the main reason behind this spending is that big data can offer granular, detailed understanding of consumer behaviour – allowing businesses to put more reactive, engaging plans in place for their own customers.

Some 69 per cent of people in the sample are already utilising this information to shape their overall operational and commercial approach.

Furthermore, there is a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ element to the widespread investment seen across the sector, with nine out of ten respondents worrying that insufficient spend on big data could see firms placed at a competitive disadvantage to their rivals.

Drew Nicholson, the chief executive of dnx, said technology is now in place to gain an unprecedented level of insight into what makes consumers tick, whatever the service or product involved in the process is.

“Whether it’s search, affiliate, display or email blasts, all of those things you can measure and work out if they’re helping your business or not,” he explained.

However, he warned that a shift in thinking may be needed before companies can fully embrace the potential of big data; although creativity remains crucial, it is vital that this approach is leavened with the use of hard information.

“Marketers need to be prepared to roll their sleeves up and get involved in the data, maybe a slight cultural change [is needed] in the way they think about things,” he explained.

Consumers ‘will provide data to trusted brands’

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Despite the recent furore over the privacy – or otherwise – of online data, a new survey has revealed that consumers are happy to give their information to brands they consider to be trustworthy as long as it will be used for something productive.

The report, from SDL, found 79 per cent of respondents willing to interact in this way with brands or companies they felt were likely to keep their personal information securely.

For firms utilising customer relationship management (CRM) tools to improve the sales journey of clients and customers, certain kinds of data can be crucial in shaping policy.

The SDL survey also revealed that while consumers are not comfortable with being “tracked” in a physical store, they do not tend to read privacy policies or take the option to drop out of web tracking practices, highlighting something of a lack of understanding among many internet users in the UK.

Mark Lancaster, chief executive and founder of the organisation, said that building up trust will be crucial if companies are to justify their use of personal information gleaned from the net.

“Marketers and brands need to earn that trust to be successful. They need to ensure the customer data they use translates to a better experience for their customers and give customers a compelling reason to share their data,” he explained.

Web-savvy operations “that understand their customers’ privacy concerns and commit to using customer data judiciously will create a strong customer commitment,” concluded the SDL chief.

CRM technology can help ensure that information is used to create a good experience for consumers – responsive sites, strong communication levels and personalisation are all vital in this metric, and many of the processes involved in this can be efficiently automated via the right software.

For firms that want to take advantage of the growing amount of consumer data available online, privacy and efficiency are likely to be crucial measurements of success over the coming years.

Companies ‘must address privacy concerns’

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Online marketing campaigns need to be seen as secure as well as being innovative and engaging if they are to connect with an increasingly web-savvy customer base, it has been claimed.

The latest edition of the annual TRUSTe Consumer Confidence Index, released late last month, found six in ten web users to be more concerned about their privacy than they were in 2013.

Given the shocking revelations about the NSA that made headlines last year, this caution is entirely understandable, with Britons worried about how their personal data is likely to be used.

However, firms can take the initiative and ensure that potential buyers – on a b2b as well as a b2c basis – feel comfortable in engaging with their advertising initiatives.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a highly secure system for this form of marketing, with the tech giant keen to be seen as a trustworthy partner when it comes to data security.

"We proactively monitor to help identify potential unknown threats by predicting malicious behaviour and monitoring for irregular events that may indicate threats," the company claimed.

TRUSTe European managing director Ken Parnham said: "After a barrage of media headlines about government surveillance programmes such as NSA's PRISM, it is perhaps unsurprising that consumer online trust has fallen to its lowest point yet … it is a wake-up call for businesses."

Considering that the data contained within a CRM system can often be a business' most valuable asset when it comes to marketing, it's obvious that choosing the right provider is crucial.

And in the light of the TRUSTe report showcasing widespread consumer concern over privacy, this looks like an even more important decision.

Lack of trust can result in a drop in sales and restrict the growth of the digital economy as b2b or b2c customers prefer to use traditional marketing tools which they consider to be more secure, so firms need to take a great deal of care with their data handling.