BrainTrust Query: Can’t The IT Department Do My Customer Analysis?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Cultivating Your Customers, the M Squared Group blog.
Our clients often must justify the necessity of using an outside firm to do their customer analysis. One of the most common alternatives suggested is to let the internal IT department do the work instead. It sounds cheap, easy and fast.
But the truth is that letting the IT department work on your customer analysis is not cheap, easy nor fast — and the better your IT department is, the more difficult it will be to get the information you need to better understand your customers.
Here are some reasons why:
- You don’t know what information and analysis you need, which means you are not likely to get it "right" the first time you ask. You will need to revise both the information you want to analyze and how you analyze it until you get the insights that can drive profitable actions.
- Your customer data is incomplete and "dirty," so any analysis you conduct is also likely to be incomplete. You will need to work with whatever data you can get "about right" and cannot wait until your customer data, from multiple sources, are neatly combined together and thoroughly cleansed.
- You need insights fast and cannot wait to have your project placed "in the queue" and prioritized along with all of the company’s other IT projects. If you cannot get the results quickly, not only your project, but your career may be in jeopardy.
Just as important, the goals of a strong IT department are antithetical to data mining. The goal of a well-run IT department is to make sure every project is scalable, reproducible and completely accurate. Your customer analysis will end up being a one-off (at least at the start), and represent only the data that is accurate at the time of the analysis. If you spend time cleaning the data to 100 percent accuracy, you will never complete your project — the goal is action, using whatever data is available and clean at the moment. The better you are at mining your customer data, the more grumpy you will make your IT group.
Net, net, you and your IT group end up grumpy at each other, since neither one can meet their goals while the other group meets theirs.
A strong IT department is important to a data-driven marketing team, after the marketing team has decided on the analysis and want to see that analysis repeated consistently over time. In addition, after the customer analytics effort demonstrates profitable revenue growth, marketing will want more clean data to expand the effort.
The key is to use both consulting and IT for what they do best — consulting for customer data exploration and actionable insight, and IT for standardization and reporting.
Discussion questions: What roles should IT departments and outside consultants take around data mining? Can internal IT and marketing departments be reorganized to better capitalize on customer data insights?