Big data is set to transform the way companies manage their relationships with their customers and CIOs need to start planning now, claims analyst group Gartner.
But CIOs will need to start thinking now how to integrate big data into their customer relationship management (CRM) systems, if they are going to reap strategic rather than tactical benefits.
“In many ways there is a huge opportunity," Collins said.
"But if CIOs and business leaders don’t work together and put their arms around it, they will see a lot of renegade, tactical efforts in their organisation.”
CRM technology has benefited from a wave of new technologies. Cloud computing has made CRM less expensive, social media has radically changed customer services and marketing and mobile devices have opened up new sales and marketing channels.
In the near future, big data analytics will offer businesses powerful new tools, capable of identifying sales opportunities or analysing customers’ responses to a products, by combining internal data with comments made on social media.
Exclusive Gartner article on big data and CRM
Click on the link below to download an in-depth article from Kimberly Collins’s on big data and CRM.
But unless its use is carefully managed, companies risk alienating customers by invading their privacy, said Collins.
For example, sending a message to a customer offering them deals on ski equipment, just after they have posted an update on Facebook announcing they are going on a ski-trip is probably a step too far.
“You have got to put some governance mechanisms in place for big data,” she said.
Developing a strategy
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Collins advises CIOs start high-level discussions with the heads of sales, marketing, customer service and e-commerce to develop a future strategy for big data and CRM.
“It's really about trying to get them to realise there is a huge opportunity here, before we spiral out of control and wreak havoc with our customers and create a lot of privacy issues for our organisation,” she said.
One of the biggest challenges is recruiting people who have the right skills to make big data and CRM work together.
Creating expert teams
In practice, companies will need experts who understand the business problem, the psychology of consumers and specialists in data protection and privacy, in addition to technology experts.
No one person is likely to have all the skills companies need, so in practice, business leaders will need to create teams of people to oversee big data and CRM and it may be necessary to recruit externally, said Collins.
“A good place to look is the next generation of marketers coming out of the business world, who have a lot more experience in social and mobile,” she said.
People with strong data and analytical skills who can understand structured and unstructured data will be essential.
“Big data and CRM has the potential to deliver business value for an organisation. It is also high risk,” she said.
“The sooner people get out in front of it, the more successful their organisations will be.”