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Three Crucial Questions Every CMO Should Ask Before Starting a Big Data Project

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Many forecasts about 2016 trends and developments center on two words: Big Data. The concept is everywhere, and companies in all industries know that Big Data analysis can change the ways they operate—especially in terms of marketing. Moreover, some 69% of companies will base all their marketing decisions on data by 2017, according to Gartner.

That focus is great news for chief marketing officers (CMOs) and the companies they support. Marketers are the ideal group to develop best-practices and strategies for applying Big Data analytics to other parts of a company.

Advancing those strategies requires input from several members of a team, however. Also, software, hardware, processes and budget need to be considered.

Moreover, to turn data analytics into business results, you need to act quickly and with a clear approach.

Below are three questions to help every CMO outline a course of action and prove the return on investment (ROI) for creating a Big Data project for marketing purposes.

1. What's the big picture?

It's impossible for you to provide the analytics that team members need without your understanding the questions they're trying to answer. What problems does your company want to solve? How can analytics help employees work toward a solution?

Consider your end game as you apply analytics to your work. Reevaluate your direction and resources frequently to ensure you're contribute to the company's ultimate goals.

Big Data initiatives put CMOs in a valuable position to link business objectives with a wide range of projects and individuals. Once you outline a clear path from launching your strategy to reaching your objective, you can proceed with defining processes and securing technologies that support your journey.

2. Where is the information we need, and how can we collect it?

Members of your company's C-suite likely have valuable information that can improve your marketing strategies.

For example, when inventory and supply-chain data aligns with customer feedback and social media sentiments, you can uncover connections previously obscured. By working closely with your executive teammates and proactively requesting their input, you can better inform marketing campaigns.

Sharing data among team leaders can also have overarching benefits for the company, as you'll enable each department to integrate data-driven decision-making into operations.

If you don't have the internal resources needed to build and manage a Big Data project, consider how other teams in your organization can help.

Work with your IT team to understand what kind of internal infrastructure resources you may need. How many team members will you require? What's the cost associated with the project? How much will it affect the internal network? How long will it take? Those kinds of questions should be discussed during this phase of development.

Determining the best appropriation of resources is a critical step in ultimately isolating and applying specific data insights.

3. How can we move and use data?

All the sources that contribute to your data-driven project need to work together. Determining how to integrate, migrate, and compile various types of data sets is crucial to understanding and executing your strategy. If the technology at your disposal can't sufficiently collect and aggregate data, consider what needs to happen to make that goal feasible. If even one kind of data set can't be worked into the Big Data analysis process, it's impossible to determine whether that information is usable, much less whether it can provide you with the ROI you want.

Managing and applying data is also a matter of understanding who owns the intel in question.

Having a full picture of where your company's data resides means you can quickly access it as needed, whether a workload is handled internally or otherwise. Getting a handle on the location of data in your system is a joint process between marketing and IT. Even if a project is managed externally, working with your IT team can highlight what information you need and which vendors can provide it.

Together, IT teams and CMOs can identify the best way to scale a project, which is helpful if you need to address seasonal requirements or shift work between third-party partners. Knowing how to scale a project from its outset can prevent an unnecessary waste of time or money later.

Technology and data are evolving constantly. Many CMOs have already learned the dangers of avoiding data-driven marketing, especially if they've worked with teams that hesitated to integrate social media or search into a campaign. There's no reason for your Big Data strategies to fall behind the times or fail to prove ROI. Instead, by seeking new data sources and data-driven technologies, you can help keep your business on the cutting edge of Big Data trends.

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Mark Laughlin is director of enterprise technology at Key Information Systems, a regional systems integrator with computer, storage, and networking solutions and professional services for the most advanced software-defined data centers.

LinkedIn: Mark Laughlin

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