A cartoon marketer examining PC with customer data on it. The background is a path of the customer's interaction with the brand.
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This article is part of a 4 part series on customer data paltforms sponsored by Jahia.

You have done some solid due diligence on customer data platforms (CDPs) and you are ready to take the next step. You’ve gathered a crack team of marketing, business and IT stakeholders, researched CDPs to understand the value they can bring to your company, and helped to convince your CIO and executive management team to give you the budget you need to bring in a CDP to serve as the hub for your martech stack.

Now it’s time to research the right CDP for your particular business and customer needs, and think about what questions you should be asking yourself about setting up a CDP, integrating it into the rest of your martech stack, and supporting it in an ongoing basis.

As you begin the evaluation and planning process for CDP deployment and operations, there are a few key tenants to keep in mind.

Part of what makes a CDP a CDP is that they are defined as marketer-managed systems. By design they are supposed to be funded and operated by a marketing department with limited IT technical support beyond the initial installation and integration. This makes sense, given the fact that marketers need real-time, self-service access to all that customer data in a centralized location so it can be pushed out to tailor personalization campaigns.

The fact that CDPs are marketer-managed systems does not eliminate the need for internal IT support, external vendor support, and some smart planning and open collaboration on your part. If your company is more traditionally structured, aka organized in silos, you may need to think about how your marketing and IT teams will work together on this type of highly collaborative project.

Let’s examine some good tips, best practices, and questions you should be asking yourself, and your CDP vendor, that will assist you in the evaluation, set up, management and support of your new martech hub.

Related Story: Why a CDP is a Must-Have for a Unified Customer Experience

Evaluating CDP Delivery Models and Setting Up Your CDP

According to the Customer Data Platform Institute, a vendor-neutral org founded by David Raab that defined the category of CDPs in 2013, there are several key questions you need to ask yourself when you are deploying and managing your CDP.

What kind of delivery model do I need? In general you’ll find that most CDPs are delivered on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model which typically is hosted by a vendor. SaaS models are popular with companies and orgs that want to reduce overall in-house technical, staffing and financial commitment to a platform. Deploying a SaaS platform will make it easier to switch down the line when business or customer needs changes, plus you won’t need to build out all the internal infrastructure and staffing to get it set up and running.

What are my organization's staffing and technical needs? Since CDPs are marketer-managed, they are designed to be relatively easy to deploy. You will want to work with your vendor to do an in-house technical and related skill sets and resource assessment that will be needed for proper deployment. In order to help determine what skills and processes and are needed internally, find out from your vendor what services and skills they will bring to the table for deployment, how their team and your marketing and IT staffs will split up work, and how you will both align on process, timelines and deliverables.

What does marketer-managed mean to my company? Marketer-managed for your company could mean that the marketing department just pays for the platform and owns it from a business POV, or it can mean that the marketing department physically operates and manages the platform on a daily basis. You need to be asking yourself how maintenance responsibilities will get divided between marketing, IT and vendor support teams, and if your marketing team is taking on overall maintenance, how much can they do alone vs. needing technical support to get basic daily tasks done like generating reports and adding in new data feeds?

However you decide to split up work between marketing and IT from a operations and management standpoint, you’ll want to ensure your internal IT team is involved in (and should own internally) security backups, data privacy concerns and GDPR compliance as well as interoperability with other company systems.

Related Story: What a Customer Data Platform Can Do For Your Company

CDP Integration Considerations

Since they are intended to function as the hub of your martech stack bringing in data from a variety of channels and sources, CDPs are designed to be easy to integrate into the rest of your digital experience (DX) environment. Expect to do some integration with your web site or mobile apps to hoover up all that juicy web user data, either directly or through marketing tag management software. All this owned, collected data should be exported into a portable format, and then checked to see if you can expose it to third-party software bi-directionally using an open and standard-based API. Also it’s important to remember that before using any of this data for personalization or outbound marketing purposes, organizations need to ensure they actually own the data.

Outbound marketing tech like SMS or email is another common integration scenario with CDPs, as is integration with DMPs and website personalization tools. Marketers should ensure they understand the scope and cost for each integration use case they want to pursue with the CDP.

CDP Training and Support

With any CDP installation, whether it is hybrid, on-premise, or 100% vendor hosted, making sure you understand what support the vendor offers, and what you will need to support internally, is a top priority. Some support levels may be included in the base price of the CDP, while more expansive levels of support may be offered in a tiered pricing model, pending on the vendor you decide to go with.

You are going to need to train your marketing team to use the CDP, and you may need training for your internal tech team for integration and installation concerns. Find out from your vendor what training programs they provide in terms of documentation, in-person tutorials, and online courses, plus what topics will they cover in training, including operational, data-oriented or technical issues.

After your CDP is installed, you are going to need ongoing product support from the vendor. Check on whether they offer 24 hour or business hour support, what are their response times for critical issues and what the process is for escalation of significant issues that may be impacting performance and uptime. You also want to ask the vendor if they measure customer success and provide resources to assist you in optimizing and tuning the CDP for your individual process and business requirements.

Moving Forward

The evaluation, set up, integration and management of your CDP is not something you want to go into without a significant amount of pre-planning on your part. After you have evaluated the right platform and model for your business case, your next step is a comprehensive discussion with your vendor to find out what they provide on their side in terms of resources and technical support, and then work with them and your internal tech staff to discover what you will need to support the CDP internally from both a marketing and IT perspective.

After resources, skills and staffing have been evaluated, and timelines and processes have been agreed upon between you and the vendor, deciding what departments and groups will be responsible for what workflows and tasks internally is the next step. Ensuring you have detailed use cases for integration into your various martech apps and outbound marketing efforts will assist you in planning for more complex integration exercises.

Finally, once all the processes, resources, integration use cases, staffing and technical issues have been addressed, make sure your staff gets the training and support it needs to keep the CDP running, optimized and delivering maximum value for your business.