/ HBR to marketers: “You’re spread too thin.”

In the Harvard Business Review’s article “The Ultimate Marketing Machine,” the authors remind marketers just how frustrating it is to have all the information they could possibly want and still get none of the information they need.

The conclusion to HBR’s (actually very helpful) article goes something like this:

At first blush, the Marketing2020 study reveals what you might expect: Marketers must leverage customer insight, imbue their brands with a brand purpose, and deliver a rich customer experience. They must connect, inspire, focus, organize, and build, as detailed here. The finding that’s striking—and should serve as both a warning and a call to arms—is that most organizations haven’t been able to put all those pieces together.

It is impossible to solve marketing’s new data jigsaw puzzle with old technologies (the subheadline to HBR’s article actually declares, “Most marketers are stuck in the last century”). Spreadsheets, data warehouses and desktop analytics are built for static consumption of marketing data—in other words, what you see is what you get. Most cloud solutions out there still require a significant build timeframe, plus significant IT effort to extract data, wash it in an ETL and load it into a database before the cloud platform can grab it and deliver it in a dashboard.

All of that is to say that marketers have more systems and more data than current solutions can handle. To be successful, marketers have to have direct access to real-time data. Domo set the bar for cloud-based platforms several years ago, and now the field is beginning to catch on, if not catch up.

But there’s still a problem with cloud computing—yes, it can directly access your data wherever it lives and deliver it to you on a single platform (at least, Domo can). Yes, it allows for real-time, interactive visualizations (which are pretty cool). And yes, it means you can ditch reports and get the information you need when you need it. But data is not the end goal. Allow me to repeat that: data is not the end goal. Even the cloud-based players are focused so much on your data that they completely miss out on the people using it.

In October 2013, IBM’s Center for Applied Insights published the report, “Under cloud cover: How leaders are accelerating competitive differentiation.” In it, IBM reveals stats that put companies heavily invested in cloud-based solutions head and shoulders above their more timid competitors in revenue gains, gross profits, strategic reinvention, and even collaboration.

HBR’s article demonstrates the problem that is (unfortunately) likely to persist for the next five years: marketers are just spread too thin. IBM highlights the significant gains organizations make when they can access their data through the cloud—it’s virtually limitless, both for the user and for the technology. And that’s the key. When you bring your people and your data together, then the data analysis becomes de facto and fades into the background where it belongs so that people can run a better business.

What has your experience been in implementing cloud-based solutions? How are you reconciling data from multiple sources right now? Leave a comment below.

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