The way business data is consumed by marketers is changing dramatically to the point that data is a strategic asset -- the foundation and DNA on which success is achieved. From new access points to an increased number of data sources, making sense of it all and managing it in a scalable and affordable way has become a business-stopping challenge. Marketing teams need to effectively connect business data into their systems to deliver successful campaigns that grow the business.
The main issue for marketers is how to overcome the phenomenon of "data islands." Data islands occur when business data is updated sporadically in disparate systems, without unification or analysis that keeps the data fresh and useable. Marketers need to deploy a system for business data management that allows for interaction and visibility for the whole organization to access, update and maintain the data. By combining access with unification, marketers have a clear sense of how to make data actionable and can approach their goals with confidence.
Can you think of any organizations that have not embraced some level of mobility? In today's world, the traditional internal business network model is dead. Employees are constantly working from home, on the road, and in the air. Taking a page from the cloud's information accessibility features, businesses can improve data consumption by leaps and bounds. Instead of only hosting information through an internal network, employees can have access to business data in real-time. The added bonus of a cloud approach is accessing information on individual terms. Business data touches numerous segments such as geography, industry, and size. When dealing with an offline approach, workers are reliant on a few people to customize queries. Data gatekeepers are tasked with requests longer than the line at Space Mountain, and each time a query is made, it's left at the end of the queue. This limits the margin for error when making requests and wastes time in the event a misstep occurs.
Another accessibility item that should be considered is how the workplace is evolving in terms of both remote offices and business travel. If workers are constantly on the move or are working remotely, they need to have access to actionable data on the fly. According to Gartner, the number of remote employees surpassed 46 million in 2011, and U.S. business travel costs are expected to reach $250.2 billion by the end of the year. Not only are people remote, but they are also accessing data via mobile devices more so than desktops, and this trend is only growing. In Mary Meeker's report on internet trends, data shows exponential growth via smartphones and tablets. This is not only a result of consumerization, but it also includes a CIO-supported distribution of mobile devices across businesses. With the number of workers at home or on the road, housing data offline and away from your workforce is crazier than trying to invent a coconut radio. People are on the move, so business information needs to follow.
Management and unification
Managing business information is a massive undertaking for any organization. Currently, data is delivered offline and is not built around an organization's systems and processes. This leads to the creation of large IT teams tasked with managing a constant flow of information that is nearly impossible to keep up to date. As a result, it's time consuming and expensive to integrate data sources. For example, when researching a prospect, sales teams want as much information as possible on this contact in a single location. Having insight such as email and phone along with postings, social feeds, or credit information gives sales teams a full view of the people and organizations on their target lists. When information is unified, business systems can truly drive actionable data, putting sales and marketing in a position to succeed.
The cloud unifies both the people and the information necessary for success, while remaining offline only further divides marketers from business data. Unification of social, business contact, and corporate data is simply not possible outside of the cloud. This level of unification can be extremely influential in how sales teams approach targets or how marketing executes its next campaign.
Easy access to high-quality business data can mean the difference between winning and losing customers. Right now, organizations are stranded on "Data Island." Crucial business information is stuck in limbo while employees need to access updated information on-the-go. It's time for the business data industry to adapt to today's marketing needs. By removing the traditional data-island burdens, marketing can focus on what matters most: creating and closing leads.
Tricia Gellman is the senior director of product marketing for Data.com.
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