The Stuff of CIO Nightmares: Study Shows Many Marketers Very Bad with Data

    They’re data hoarders: Some of them have 10-plus years of transactional data stored or several months of cookies.

    And that data is in a poor state. More than half of them do not do data quality control on the recommended weekly or monthly schedule; 26 percent of them can’t even recall the last time they did any data hygiene on the data.

    But 83 percent of them are ready to move to real-time data collection and 80 percent plan to use more social media data. Given the percentages, it’s inevitable that this group has some overlap with the “I have no idea when I did any data hygiene work” group.

    Who are these people? They’re 700 of the country’s top marketers, who were surveyed at the DMA2012 and Forrester eBusiness Forum.

    A recent report on the survey findings — tellingly called “Data-Rich and Insight-Poor: Marketers Planning to Turn Information into Intelligence in 2013,”   — was released last week. Quite frankly, the results are the stuff of a CIOs nightmare, especially if you wonder — as I do — whether they might possible reflect what happens in internal marketing divisions.

    Here’s a group of people that collects incredible amounts of data on … well, all of us. And they don’t know how to use it. More than half of the group admitted that analyzing and using the data is their biggest data-related challenge in 2013.

    I’d say that’s more than a data-related challenge. When your job is persuading people and you don’t know how to use the data you’ve collected about them, that’s a serious business issue.

    Obviously, a number of problems are at play here, and many of these firms will spend this year playing catch-up on data quality, data purging, and even data integration. Only 14 percent say they’ve managed to integrate data analytics across the channels, according to a finding from DMA Statistical Fact Book 2012, which is referenced in the report.

    The good news is that 68 percent of companies are planning to invest more in data management to address these very problems. Also, 56 percent say they’ll be hiring new employees, most of whom will be data analysts or data strategists.

    A larger percentage expects to put real-time and social data to greater use in 2013. That’s going to translate into even new, bigger data challenges.

    Why does the survey matter to those who aren’t in the marketing business? Well, there may be no correlation, and certainly it’s a logical fallacy to draw one. That said, I can’t help but think internal marketing divisions may have similar expectations and similar data problems, particularly since the cloud has allowed marketing to “rent” its own solutions and bypass IT.

    It’s certainly worth a read, regardless. For one thing, if marketing companies are planning on spending more on data, then maybe marketing divisions are, as well. I know that’s a logical fallacy, too, but it never hurts to check, right? There may be a way you can work with them to co-fund data projects so the whole company can benefit.

    Also, it’s well written, so you can gain a few ideas about how to talk to those outside IT about these issues. For instance, I loved that the report used the term “data hygiene” instead of data quality and data governance, because it’s immediately clear what they mean.

    And then there’s this: It will make you either laugh with joy or cry with despair, depending on how familiar these data issues seem.

    The report is available for free download, but if you don’t have time, at least check out the infograph. You can also find it and similar infographs on my Data About Data Pinterest group.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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