Technology is not a Silver Bullet

Silver bullet

If you use that exact search string in Google, you get 312,000 results.

That’s not as many as I thought there would be but could explain why we continue to meet organisations who tell us “Our data’s great because we use <insert here any software brand/company name>.”

I say “not as many as I thought” because it’s something people who work in any field of digital, data, or tech know to be true, and I would have expected more articles that reflect the level of frustration I feel whenever I’m told “our data’s great because we use…….

Never mind that data doesn’t just become great through one isolated piece of software, if we think the software alone is what makes “our data great” then we’re forgetting all the processes that enable the software to do its job properly. I say properly because it’s easy to use only a small percentage of a software’s functionality and forget (or neglect) to push further.

Here’s a simple example –

Take the simple use case of a landing page that acquires new marketing opt-ins. Your web developer has added one to your website– great – now what? 

1) Data Standards

You need to ensure the data standards the webform uses align with yours. And if they don’t, you need to be aware of the differences and how to address them. (NB: we recommend you always start with your data standards and expect the vendor to match them – this isn’t always achievable if you’re buying something off-the-shelf but it should be your starting point.)

2) Data Legislation

You need to ensure the form is compliant with the data legislation relevant to your activity specifically, that you’re using the correct consent wording (and tick boxes – these aren’t needed for a straight forward news sign up form though, they’re only needed when asking for marketing consent is the secondary function of a form, not the primary one.) For those countries who implement GDPR, best practice also suggests adding a link to your privacy policy or providing additional text at the point of data collection itself, not just relying on a footer in your website. (NB: we recommend this standard wording, or a version of it: YES I’d like to hear from you with news, information, and special offers you think will be of interest to me. (Privacy policy here <insert link to your privacy policy>.)

3) ETL Process

You need to know your ETL process (extract, transform, load) to get the collected data to its target destination.

That might sound like an obvious one, but you’ll be surprised at how many people hire a web developer to “build a form/website/competition page” that features a sign-up form and then give no thought whatsoever to how they get the data out and what they do with it next. Even a manual export from one platform, with a manual import to another, is an ETL process so don’t be fooled by my jargon – just remember to get your data out and use it. (NB: you’ll ideally automate theprocess but that’s not always an option or cost effective for a short-term project).  

This one’s ramps it up a bit –

But now let’s look at a more complex environment – you’re using a CDP (customer data platform), a different data warehouse, or even just an email marketing platform, and you need to get your ticketing data, provided by Ticketmaster, Advanced, Secutix, SeatGeek, etc. into that platform.

In addition to the three points above, which are still highly relevant, you’ve then got to ensure you’ve dealt with an even deeper level of data legislation within your contract negotiations.

4)  Data Controller

Are you the data controller or are they, or are you common data controllers?  This impacts whose privacy policy, cookie policy, and T&Cs are used, and could even involve the need for two sets. (NB: our recommendation is you’re always the data controller and they’re the processor.)

5) Data Type

They’ve promised you that you can have your customer data – but do they mean first party data that you can use for marcomms or aggregate transaction data only so you can review purchases?  (NB: you actually want both – and you want the transaction data to be at an individual user level, not aggregate: you want to know who purchased, what they purchased, how much they spent, and when they spent it. And you want to be able to email them.)

6) Customer Journey

And in both instances – a competition landing page or a third-party ticketing system – and indeed any instance where you’re collecting fan data, what do you do with it once you’ve got it in your target destination? What role does the application that generated this data play in the customer journey? Are they a “new fan” who needs to be onboarded or they already in your database and you need to identify the new data points to add to their record? If it’s the latter, what are the business rules you’ll apply for merging data?

So, if you do think your data’s great because you use <insert here any software brand/company name> but it’s actually because you take into account everything I’ve mentioned here and it’s BAU-for-you*, that’s fantastic news, CONGRATULATIONS! We do want our industry to move forward, and we don’t want people to be sold a silver bullet, but if you think that might have happened to you, get in touch, we can help you figure out what to do next.

* BAU – more jargon, it means “business as usual”, i.e. we do it without thinking, it’s a standard process, in the same way we use hashtags in our social posts, or add full stop the end of a sentence. Like this one.