Integration, Conspiracies and ROI: Getting Real About Business Goals

Loraine Lawson

Pssst. Hey, you, in IT-I've got a message for you. You listening?


Watch your back-the marketing people are plotting against you.


How do I know? Well, for one, I found where one of them - Marc Munier, the commercial director (i.e., he oversees sales and marketing) of e-marketing consulting company, Pure360 - blogged about it.


Munier is writing about the reasons for integrating e-mail marketing software with the customer database. In particular, he's taking to task those who want integration just for the sake of integration. "Yes, you will be able to cut your email marketing data in a 100 different ways, but what are the effects on the business going to be?" he writes. "And I mean measurable effects, by what factor would you expect conversions to increase by if you were able to query at this level? And when you apply this factor how much more money would sales generate?"


He advises readers to identify clearly defined business objectives for the integration and prioritize those objectives. He also offers a particularly useful approach for finding quick wins.


All sound advice-but what amused me was his discussion of prioritizing your data integration goals, because this is where the piece takes a decidedly anti-IT tone:


"I personally would keep this priority to yourself, in my experience technical people, no matter how brilliant, will always want to minimise the scope, so get an estimate for everything then knock a few bits off to get what you really want within the timeline you need it in."


What's really funny to me is that Munier-who works for an e-mail marketing consultancy, mind you-positions himself as helping market departments "overcome IT." Witness his reference to an upcoming "help you slay the IT crowd" post. And yet, the actual substance is exactly the type of thing good IT leaders look for and talk about all the time.


Of course, I can't really blame him because he's not all wrong. The fact is, this is how many marketing people do view IT, and with good reason-as evidenced by one reader's comment:


"Once you got around the politics the hardest part as a marketer is trying to understand what the data guys are telling you and make decisions for the future of the system based on what you have understood them to say as most of the time we are speaking different languages!"


Munier's piece is a useful, quick read if you're looking at a marketing software/customer database integration-and given the rise of MDM, I suspect these types of data integration projects aren't unusual. But if you'd like a broader look at how to build a business case for data integration, you'll want to check out David Linthicum's recent post, "Defining the ROI for Data Integration," on Informatica's Perspectives blog.


Linthicum explains that building a business case-and figuring an ROI-for data integration can be tricky, because you have to calculate and compare two scenarios:


  • The situation as it is, without data integration
  • The situation as it will be, after the data integration project-including what business advantages the project will bring and how to translate those advantages into dollars.


Linthicum seems confident that the ROI will support moving forward with the data integration, noting that, in his experience, the ROI from data integration is 500-1000 percent over a five-year period of time. Wow.


But as Neil Ward-Dutton, research director at the UK-based Macehiter Ward-Dutton Advisors, pointed out, ROI is easy to type, but in practice, it's a minority sport for IT. IT tends to view ROI as a sort of sport, indeed - and I can't help but think that last step - translating the business advantages into dollars - is where IT can go amiss with ROI. It's easy to "imagine" what an ROI might be, but to really take ROI seriously, you'll need to drill down on the business value.


This might be where a little of Munier's skeptism could actually be helpful:


"All too often the concept gets ahead of the reality. I recently got called into an internal meeting with the technical director, the financial controller, two sales managers and the support manager. A large meeting on the billing of just three clients, now each client is important to us but the resource we had pointed at the problem was completely disproportionate to the potential return.


Of course, it's going to be hard to have an earnest discussion about ROI if one side is trying to scale back the project willy-nilly and the other side is holding back on its true objectives and priorities.


Still, both these pieces offer much of the same advice, and - shockingly - in much of the same language. So, there may be hope for IT/business relations yet-if we can set aside the conspiracies and intrigue.

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