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Twelve years ago, Gartner wrote about the benefits of a unified data set, which included cost reduction, the ability to handle risk, a revenue and profitability upside, and a better customer experience. In 2016, the promised outcomes remain unchanged—apparently along with anyone's ability to create a 360-degree customer view

Here's the dirty little secret of customer data and marketing technology… You're never going to create a 360-degree view.

The very tools that contribute to the elusive single view of the customer will prevent you from ever having it. This goal is impractical any way you slice it; the evolution of technology results in a never-ending stream of more new-customer data.

Permit me an analogy... LEGOs are one of the most popular kids' toys of all time because they allow infinite creativity and feature a remarkable structure. But as soon as you finish one set, there's a new one out that doesn't fit with what you just built. You must begin again or at least take pieces apart to make them work together.

The same is true for marketing technology. Any marketer worth his or her salt is going to continue to evaluate and change the tech stack as new solutions become available and consumer behaviors change. So the goal of a "fully formed" customer view is flawed, and achieving it means something else has gone wrong because you're stuck.

"Art is never finished, only abandoned," Leonardo da Vinci said, and that describes almost every marketing technology project I've heard of or witnessed firsthand. Abandonment can happen in a lot of phases—early on after a beta or well into the project once resources have to be rerouted to newer, shinier initiatives.

Even the most well-funded, strategically focused, empirically accountable marketing technology projects reach a logical end and, once released into the wild, lose their luster.

For example, take a global fashion manufacturer with multiple brands, which paid tens of thousands of dollars for an exhaustive evaluation of its technology initiatives and investments, including recommendations on how to unify all that tech into one source of customer data. As soon as that phase of the undertaking was complete, momentum waned, and no one followed up on the recommendations the company had paid for dearly.

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image of Cory Munchbach

Cory Munchbach is VP of marketing at BlueConic, a customer data platform.

LinkedIn: Cory (Madigan) Munchbach

Twitter: @corinnejames