storm trooper changing a lightbulb
Marketers continue to farm out data analysis duties to IT, which places limitations on their understanding of customers PHOTO: James Pond

Back in 2011, Gartner predicted CMOs would spend more on technology than CIOs by 2017. It even reaffirmed that projection last year.

In fact, the prediction seems accurate: CMOs are investing more in tech. However, marketers are still struggling to transition to more data-focused marketing. From our own survey of 200 US and UK marketers, we found that while most are aware that data management and analysis is a crucial skill, most lack the tools and training to process such data properly. 

Often, this means data duties are farmed out to IT — 27 percent of respondents reported handing over data analysis to the IT department.

You might think this solution makes sense: lighten the load of the already overburdened marketer. In truth, any distance between marketers and customer data places limitations on their understanding of customers and creates inefficiencies with campaign management. 

CMOs need to better use their tech investments to help their teams advance the use of data. 

Diagnosing the Data Skills Problem

First, let’s look at the extent of the problem. Our research shows that marketers feel the pressure to improve their data skills. 

Eighty percent of marketers at large enterprises said they consider data analysis to be a “vital” skill, while data segmentation and modeling are also highly sought-after.

Yet, while they say that they lack such in-house capabilities now, many are confident that they can become more adept in the near future. 

Some 72 percent of those surveyed said they hoped to acquire data analysis skills within the next two years, and 65 percent agreed that data management is more vital than other skills including web development, graphics design and search engine optimization.

The Data Scientist Shortage

A dearth in qualified data scientists is intensifying this perceived skills gap. As major corporations prioritize data management, unsurprisingly the demand for qualified data scientists has grown. Even with many proclaiming data science as America’s best job, there is still a significant talent shortage.

McKinsey has predicted that as of this year, the demand for data scientists will be 60 percent larger than the supply. Those lucky few who recruit a data scientist will soon find that they’re expensive and hard to keep on staff for long periods of time. 

The Rise of the Citizen Data Scientist

That’s a pretty dire scenario, right? The good news is that all this talk of data scientist shortages and marketing skills gaps overlooks the improvements made in technology which simplifies data processing and automates many of the data analysis tasks traditionally reserved for fully fledged data experts. 

Such technology will fuel the rise of what some are calling the “citizen data scientist.”

One example which takes a step in the right direction is the emergence of the Customer Data Platform (CDP). Unlike marketing clouds, which offer much of the functionality marketers need but leave customer database management solutions aside for other parties to fulfill, a CDP puts data at its core.

A CDP unifies data from an organization’s internal and external operational systems, creating a single record of truth about customers in a marketing-specific database. It processes this data in a way that executional marketing tools can easily interpret. 

With a CDP handling the "dirty work," marketers have the underpinnings for selection, segmentation, targeting, analytics, modeling and marketing automation.

Good Time to Be a Marketer

The future looks bright for marketers. Technology will inevitably advance, picking up many of the tasks that we humans do not like on the way. Don’t forget, it wasn't too long ago when it took specialized expertise to make a web page. Now, anyone can set up their own page in a few minutes using WYSIWIG tools.

Though data management is much more complex than web page design, the same progression is occurring in real time. In fact, the tools are out there today. For marketers who have been fretting about their lack of skills in a data-driven environment, this is a game-changer.