Why your data strategy is being held back by walled gardens

by Jan Borgwardt

Posted on 10-17-2018

Com­pa­nies have nev­er shied away from a hor­ti­cul­ture metaphor. Dozens of books have been writ­ten telling man­agers how they can “sow seeds” for growth or “cul­ti­vate” a cul­ture that bears fruit.

The par­al­lel is cer­tain­ly valid, but man­agers that have tak­en the gar­den­ing metaphor to heart have also bred an inward-look­ing cul­ture that is start­ing to show cracks. Mar­ket­ing, sales, and IT lead­ers have been con­di­tioned to focus on their own teams and a nar­row set of objec­tives, turn­ing the com­pa­nies they work for into a col­lec­tion of walled gar­dens, each with its own siloed approach to peo­ple and data.

What exact­ly is a walled garden?

If we think of a busi­ness as an assort­ment of teams, a walled gar­den is a team that acts as a black box. Infor­ma­tion goes in, it’s processed based on that team’s par­tic­u­lar exper­tise, and then the result of that team’s work is spit out in a stan­dard­ised for­mat. Oth­er depart­ments have no vis­i­bil­i­ty into what’s been done or of alter­na­tive ways to achieve these results because they’re com­plete­ly iso­lat­ed from the process.

Often, and espe­cial­ly in the case of Soft­ware Ser­vices, employ­ees work in walled gar­dens don’t even see a prob­lem with this approach because they can still do their job. An ana­lyst can eas­i­ly con­tin­ue to extract the same infor­ma­tion from a giv­en set of cus­tomer data. An SEA expert can always find ways to opti­mise a campaign’s AdWords spend.

Tak­ing a step back, how­ev­er, walled gar­dens make it dif­fi­cult to move cus­tomers flu­id­ly through the sales fun­nel. With­out the abil­i­ty to hand over cus­tomers and the data asso­ci­at­ed with them, how can mar­ket­ing depart­ments deliv­er a smooth jour­ney from depart­ment to anoth­er and pro­vide cus­tomers with the right mes­sage? How can CRM teams make informed deci­sions about what will earn a customer’s loy­al­ty if that data sits with­in anoth­er depart­ments walled gar­den system?

It’s up to man­agers across the entire busi­ness to leave the hor­ti­cul­ture metaphor behind and make walled gar­dens a thing of the past.

There are three steps to achiev­ing this:

  1. Make every­one appre­ci­ate the val­ue of data

Work­ing with data with a view to only achieve their own goals in the same way each day has led many prac­ti­tion­ers to take it for grant­ed. Like a black box, they know what to do with infor­ma­tion and how to tease insight from it, but their imag­i­na­tion is lim­it­ed by nar­row objec­tives. The fun­da­men­tal shift for brands will be to help every employ­ee under­stand the immense val­ue data has to the wider busi­ness and inspire them to think beyond the bounds of the data with­in their scope of responsibility.

  1. Adopt process­es that make inte­gra­tion feel natural

Brands also need to think of how they can com­bine data inter­nal­ly to improve their com­mu­ni­ca­tions, prod­uct designs and cus­tomer expe­ri­ences and devel­op process­es that bring these pos­si­bil­i­ties to life. With every touch point and ele­ment of the user jour­ney fac­tored into to the way they work with data, com­pa­nies can devel­op cam­paigns that reflect a com­plete under­stand­ing of their cus­tomers, while also improv­ing their own prod­ucts and services.

  1. Turn insight into action

With the right process­es in place, brands can then start to col­lect and struc­ture data in ways that will yield results. This will allow cre­ative and exe­cu­tion teams to cre­ate more accu­rate cus­tomer pro­files and feed off each oth­er when devel­op­ing cam­paigns, and allow mar­ket­ing, sales and IT to apply this insight to their cus­tomer strategies.

Car­ni­val Cor­po­ra­tion has done this, work­ing with Adobe and Sapi­ent Nitro to devel­op a cus­tomer intel­li­gence plat­form to bet­ter align its flag­ship brands. By democ­ra­tis­ing its cus­tomer rela­tion­ships in this way, Car­ni­val reduced inter­nal com­pe­ti­tion between brands, which has in turn led to an improved cus­tomer expe­ri­ence and a major increase in bookings.

Third-par­ty walled gardens

A recent­ly, anoth­er form of walled gar­den has come under the micro­scope recent­ly. Com­pa­nies like Face­book and Google have access to so much user data that every major brand relies on them to inform their adver­tis­ing. And under­stand­ably so.

But the black box issue still applies when work­ing these organ­i­sa­tions. Busi­ness­es hand over high­ly detailed infor­ma­tion on their cus­tomers only to receive aggre­gat­ed insight in return. For instance, a laun­dry deter­gent com­pa­ny might learn from aggre­gat­ed Face­book data that 12 out of every 100 peo­ple buy clean­ing prod­ucts online but won’t get any detail on who those peo­ple are. They can only use Facebook’s exist­ing adver­tis­ing solu­tions, which are not always the most effi­cient, option.

This is yet anoth­er rea­son com­pa­nies are re-exam­in­ing their inter­nal process­es and look­ing for ways to extract more val­ue from their own data. By tear­ing down the walled gar­dens in their process­es, they can look to bring mar­ket­ing, sales and IT teams clos­er togeth­er and engage cus­tomers with a tru­ly unique proposition.

Read more about how walled gar­dens are stop­ping brands from mak­ing the most of their data in this report.

Topics: Digital Transformation, analytics, CRM, customer data, customer insights, walled garden, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA