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Vendors frequently claim that Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are revolutionary game-changers for marketing. On paper, CDPs promise a unified, omni-channel view of the customer and the power to seamlessly deliver personalized campaigns at scale. While these value propositions are true for many vendors, it’s essential to recognize that the implementation of any CDP technology alone won’t single-handedly unlock the desired return on investment that marketers seek.

Our clients develop ambitious business cases and goals to justify why they want to implement a CDP. One of our recent clients projected remarkable outcomes: an 8x return on investment, $15M in incremental revenue, and a 10% increase in their target customer base – just to name a few. Sounds like a piece of cake for a CDP right? Unfortunately, it’s not. Although the CDP exists as a vehicle to unlock massive incremental value for brands, it does not inherently deliver that value without the right operational components in place to drive it. 

In this blog, I will dive into the three operational keys I’ve learned from hands-on operations within a CDP that make it successful.

Key 1: Demonstrate Value Early in the CDP Journey

Once you identify that you need a CDP, demonstrating the value of it can only occur if you establish organizational alignment, prioritize high-value use cases and then create a clear value story through a test and learn framework early on. 

Establish Organizational Alignment:

To ensure successful CDP implementation, it’s crucial during selection to align all cross-functional stakeholders to a vision that the CDP can deliver on. When everyone understands and believes in the specific use case that can drive value, it becomes easier to rally the organization towards achieving these goals.

For example, we worked with a client who selected a CDP focused on its real-time capabilities, but particular members in the marketing organization initially resisted the need for this change because they wanted to stick to their legacy methods of ‘batch and blast’. It took nearly three years for that brand to fully leverage the CDP as intended with the initial real-time use cases. Establishing a clear vision and aligning to use cases at the upfront will improve the speed to adoption.

Prioritize High-Value Use Cases:

Not all CDP use cases are equal in terms of their impact on the business. It’s essential to prioritize the ones that will deliver true value. Impact can be represented and evaluated in three ways:

  • Capabilities: Enabling net-new, incremental digital marketing capabilities
  • Performance: Achieving an incremental lift in campaign performance
  • Efficiency: Improving processes and operations for increased speed to market

Create the Value Story:

It is important to set up mechanisms to measure and prove the success of the CDP as part of the initial implementation. A test and learn framework can be used as a tool to effectively demonstrate the incremental value the CDP creates and showcases quantifiable evidence of why marketers should leverage the tool. 

Key 2: Manage the Complexity with the Right Resources & Processes

The CDP is a complex tool that can only be effectively operationalized by establishing a program management function, as well as a clearly defined intake process to standardize the way configuration requests are managed. Managing the complexity also includes building your resourcing plan for scale and ensuring cross-functional collaboration is created. 

Establish Program Management & Intake Processes:

To effectively manage the workload and request volume of the CDP, it’s essential to implement strong program management and intake processes to support your development team. We define these components as follows:

  • Program Management: Set up standardized workflows and utilize appropriate tools and ticket management systems to streamline operations and keep projects on track and in line with marketing initiatives. This includes practices such as daily scrums, backlog refinement and sprint planning to ensure that the development team is focused and properly prioritizing tasks.
  • Intake Process: Document, refine and validate all business requirements for configuration requests to clearly define and outline how the technical task or project is aligned to the strategic objectives. Proper intake processes prevent development time spent on capabilities that do not deliver on business needs or drive business value.

Prepare & Plan Resources for Scale: 

We recognize that success often breeds more work. As you increase the number of Business Units the CDP supports, configurations become more complicated and additional resource support is required. Resource planning is vital to the success of the CDP to enable scale required to meet business needs. At minimum, we recommend that the team operating the CDP must include the following functions: Data Architect, Business Analyst, Project Manager/Scrum Master, Product Owner and Campaign and Audience Configuration lead. 

Increasing the volume of data flowing in and out of the CDP, oftentimes also leads to a natural uptick in data quality concerns and investigations. There are a couple of options to solve this concern: increase resources’ time spent on investigations vs. net-new build, increase headcount or invest in automated technology to monitor data anomalies. 

Ensure Cross-Functional Collaboration:

Because the CDP is a centralized tool that sources and sends data to and from multiple systems, operationally it requires the CDP team to work cross-functionally. For example, our CDP team works with IT, Data Management, Marketing, Channel Execution teams, and more. Cross-functional collaboration must be the cornerstone of all CDP projects from start to finish. This often means that you must create mechanisms for continuous cross-functional share outs from a business perspective to gain visibility into projects that may impact the CDP in either an upstream or downstream manner. This also may require cross-functional involvement in the testing and roll out of any new integrations to ensure all systems are operating as expected and designed. 

Key 3: Institute Change Through Advocates & Owners

In order to institute the change required for full utilization of the CDP, change management practices, advocates and product ownership must be put in place to overcome resistance.

Overcome Resistance With Change Management 

You cannot expect people to adopt a new CDP just because you tell them to. It can often be challenging to get individuals who are comfortable with an old way of working to change. With a clear vision, dedication to socialization and training, and evidence of value created early on, you can overcome any potential resistance for utilizing the CDP. To enable these critical change management components, it is imperative to have a strong business leader that advocates for the CDP itself and the effort required to evolve.

Sustain Acceleration Through In-House Product Owners

Having an assigned Product Owner is crucial to the success of the CDP. This is someone that will maintain full accountability for the operations of the CDP, manage and prioritize the product backlog, promote understanding of the data and capabilities available, and champion the vision, among other functions. It is highly recommended that this person is in-house so that they can advocate internally.

As you can tell, the best solution for operationalizing a CDP isn’t a simple equation. It’s an intricate orchestration of the people and processes that support it. The main lesson I learned from working with CDPs is that proving a strong return on investment doesn’t happen by chance. 

If you are interested in how we have supported our clients tackle their complex CDP operational journeys, contact us here.

Sarah Johnson, Manager, Accounts