What does the coming year hold for the marketing and technology industry? Bench, a St Ives company, has launched an ‘Ask the Experts’ guide designed to help businesses identify and capitalise on the key marketing and data technology challenges for 2017 and beyond.
The guide also offers practical advice for organisations about the importance of balancing innovation and future gazing with getting the basics of technology selection, implementation and integration right.
Born out of the St Ives Group, Bench is a specialist network of proven experts in data, analytical and marketing technology. It offers high value consulting, software acquisition services and talent solutions that empowers organisations, helping them to rapidly drive value and accelerate change at every stage of their digital journey.
Daniel Telling, Managing Partner at Bench says: “From a marketing and data technology point of view, 2016 was a year of rapid change and innovation, coupled with multi-faceted challenges. Customer experience, digital transformation and data intelligence have continued to be dominating themes, while there has been much buzz (although not necessarily that much substance) around IoT, A.I. and cognitive computing.
“As a new year dawns, there is always a rush to predict the key trends and technologies. While constantly looking forward and innovating is of course hugely important, organisations need to be mindful that innovation does not simply mean chasing after the next big thing.
“Businesses need to ensure they have the basic building blocks in place in order to get real benefit from any technology they purchase. What is often overlooked is the hugely important role data plays. Nearly every new trend such as A.I, cognitive computing and IoT has data at its core. Sure, data is not as headline grabbing as the above-mentioned technologies, but none of them are possible without access to, and good integration between accurate and relevant data.
“Innovating and pushing the boundaries of what is possible are part of the very fabric of the technology industry. There will always be new and exciting technologies and trends to explore.
This is entirely as it should be. However, in order to gain value from groundbreaking technology and turn it in to something that will deliver significant improvement to their customers, it is vital that organisations strike the right balance.
“By all means follow the latest predictions and set aside time and budget to innovate, but make sure the basic building blocks are in place too".
The new guide from Bench details four key opportunities and challenges for 2017 and beyond, which are summarised here:
1. Real-time decision making finally gets real
While there was a huge amount of noise about real-time decision-making and real-time next best action marketing a few years ago, we haven’t as yet seen significant practical application of this technology.
This is set to change from 2017 onwards. Many organisations looked into or acquired technology to facilitate real-time when it first emerged as a leading trend, but it is only now that many are actually practically applying it.
2. Taking steps towards cognitive computing
The concept of cognitive computing and A.I. has been much discussed recently, in the same way that real time marketing was a few years ago. While there have been a limited amount of practical applications of this technology to date, there is no doubt that the concept is set to dominate the landscape for some time. All the big players such as Adobe, Salesforce and IBM are vying to take the lead here, with IBM’s Watson in particular making waves in the industry.
The next few years will see organisations start to get to grips with what cognitive computing can offer. While there is much fascination with the potential for cognitive, there is still an element of nervousness from many organisations, especially when it comes to A.I. This is not unfounded, as A.I. has not yet reached the point where it can run without careful human monitoring.
There are still fundamentals to be worked out to achieve true machine learning where the machine is fully responding and recalculating on changing inputs without any programming from a human party.
More fundamentally, though, businesses need to look beyond a ‘gimmick-led’ application of these technologies and instead investigate how it can be applied to actively improve personalised customer experience.
3. The growing need for data management and governance
Data management is a huge commodity. Proponents of data value management have long urged organisations to see data as a corporate asset and they are right.
Just like any asset organisations should attach cost and value to their data. Yet how many organisations are actually doing any of this? Only a small minority of market leaders.
The majority only considers data in this way when a specific requirement rears its head; this looks set to change in the coming years.
4. Getting your digital estate in order
Organisations are still failing to fully understand their digital estates and the systems they already have. Many are fairly digitally mature, with estates that have grown at a rapid pace. Due to the particularly high turn-over in senior marketing roles, coupled with increasing marketing technology spend, businesses are likely to have multiple systems in place, which are not being utilised or integrated properly.
These ‘Frankenstacks’ of disconnected technology have developed for a number of reasons, primarily due to the fact that organisations have been working in silos for years. Each area, line of business, division, etc. often acquires technology separately. This creates a monster of parts, all probably very good in their own area but as a combination stitched and patched together and not always serving the common good.