Talent Shortage, Organizational Silos Are Hurdles To Delivering On Data Potential

While marketers and agencies are committed to leveraging data throughout their businesses, the findings of a new whitepaper indicate that a lack of talent and pervasive functional silos are preventing them from making the most of data. The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) Data Center of Excellence and DMA (Direct Marketing Association) released findings on Wednesday that make it clear that organizations are unable to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by "big data.”

The IAB and DMA teamed up on the whitepaper, “The Data-Centric Organization,” that was researched and written by Winterberry Group. The team surveyed more than 200 advertisers, marketers, publishers, technology developers, and marketing service providers.

The paper reveals that one-third of those surveyed are “confident,” and just 5% are “extremely confident” that their internal teams have the right skills and experience to support their data-driven initiatives. In addition, more than half of those surveyed (59%) agreed that eliminating organizational silos would represent the most important step their businesses could take to derive more value from their use of audience data.

An overwhelming majority (96%) of media and marketing executives said they are deeply committed to leveraging audience data to transform their businesses into data-centric companies. More than half (59%) expect their organizations to be data-centric within the next two years. Less than a quarter (24%) describe their organizations as “extremely data-centric” today. 

“The impact of administrative and structural challenges on advancing the data agenda was more than I expected,” Patrick Dolan, executive vice president and COO, IAB, told Real-Time Daily. “The low-hanging fruit here is education and training. Only 5% of media and marketing leaders are extremely confident that they have the talent to deliver meaningful returns from their audience data. Investments in people not only will help deliver the talent needed to deliver returns it will also help with the structural problems in the long run.”  

“Among the imperatives for marketers identified by whitepaper, the most important is the ability to attract and engage the right talent,” Neil O’Keefe, DMA’s SVP of member Engagement and CRM, told Real-Time Daily via email.  “Talent fuels the other imperatives.”

Among the whitepaper’s key findings:

-- Panelists queried said that “data analytics,” more than anything else, represent the area where their organizations face the greatest need for enhanced resources (with 88.4% of panelists indicating such a need).

-- Analysts, alone, are unlikely to support organizations’ efforts with respect to expanded use of data. True “data- centric” organizations require experienced practitioners who bring strategic, analytical and real-world program execution skillsets and experience. Identifying these “unicorn” resources—talented marketers and data practitioners, and ideally professionals who offer a dash of both—is typically difficult, though panelists indicate that it’s easier and less expensive to train existing team members rather than hire entirely new teams in an intensely competitive market

-- Beyond training and skills development, nearly two-thirds (63.9%) of panelists also agreed that a data-driven organizational culture is essential to encourage audience-centric approaches and to spur accountability.

--  In addition, a majority of panelists (71.2%) said their company’s compensation structures aren’t optimized to promote the use of data, yet another common legacy of product- or media-oriented organizational structures where objectives aren’t well-aligned to business-wide goals.

Other takeaways:

-- Marketers and agencies are increasingly looking to third-party partners to increase their support for the strategic functions underlying data investment. They’re calling for a renewed focus on business case development, technology assessment, and holistic system alignment as elements of a comprehensive approach to “data- centricity.”

-- The paper found that 60% of panelists said that improving how they “build a credible business case for technology investments” and “formalize ongoing technology assessment” are key among the tactics their organizations could pursue to generate more value from their data-related technology investments.

-- Data users are looking to their supply chain partners to play a more active role in supporting their day-to-day marketing and media objectives. In particular, they’re looking for help in leveraging analytics to deliver strategic and campaign-level insights.

-- Very few panelists (just 5.2%) said their supply chain partners currently offer “substantial support” in their efforts to derive value from the use of data, nearly half (44.8%) said they would benefit from a deeper relationship with these partners.

-- Although panelists were varied in their viewpoints on which third-party technology functions best support their data-driven marketing and media efforts, 49.3% agreed that predictive analytics and audience segmentation represent the features they value most in supporting technology platforms.

In answer to the question: “How knowledgeable are you with respect to data and its various marketing, advertising and/or media applications?,” 44.3% of respondents said they were “extremely knowledgeable” (on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the most knowledgeable), 41.3% ranked themselves at 4, and 13.4% ranked themselves at 3.

Respondents seemed disappointed with their data support from their supply chain partners. For example, just 5.2% said their supply chain partners currently offer “substantial support” in their efforts to derive value from the use of data. However  nearly half, 44.8%, said they would benefit from a deeper relationship with their agencies, data providers, technology vendors and other supply-chain partners—with an eye, in particular, to the role those parties may play in supporting strategic development and other roles that may go beyond their traditional tactical role(s).

By and large, panelists said they look to their third-party suppliers to support gaps in expertise and provide executional bandwidth. Increasingly, though, more data users are turning to their supply chains as a source of inspiration with respect to the innovation of their own data-centered use cases and supporting business processes, according to the whitepaper.

The whitepaper recommended focusing on four operating pillars: people (as reflected in a focus onstaff development, training, and compensation); processes (organizational structures, resource sharing, and collaboration); platforms (marketing technologies and other toolsets used to manage audience data); and partners (third-party providers of strategic or executional support).

“While companies search for a way forward creating data-centric organizations, it became clear from our interviews that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution,” stated Jonathan Margulies, Managing Director, Winterberry Group.  

Throughout the rest of the year, the IAB and DMA plan to help members overcome challenges as they develop a data-centric culture and business model through educational webinars, in-person events, and more.

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