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Building the NoSQL bridge between CMO and CIO

In this era of personalised, cross-channel customer experiences the relationship between CMOs and CIOs is changing. Companies have vast amounts of customer data but without a coherent, cohesive strategy between the CMO and CIO, organisations will struggle to maximise that data to become a truly customer focused business.

This shift in culture can be driven by technology itself – as the rapid adoption of NoSQL by companies such as Netflix, LinkedIn, Sailthru and Twitter reveals. As Ian White, CTO at Sailthru explains, shaking off the constraints of legacy database technology and embracing NoSQL can bridge the gap.

In 2015, both the CIO and the CMO share the same fundamental challenge - effective information management.

Whether engineering a big data strategy or seeking a single customer view, the objective is the same: making sense of the rapid increase in information, and managing the impact it is having on data storage, assets, and analysis.

Many older technologies, however, are no longer ideal for modern use cases. Most companies are still using SQL-based relational databases to store customer information. And relational databases, now entering their fifth decade, still remain useful for the transactional activities they were designed to support.

But the relational data model - fixed predefined columns joined across many tables - is showing its age, in the face of the explosion of big data and its ‘three Vs’: Volume, Velocity, and Variety.

  • Volume: There is far more information available than before. Activity on websites, in mobile devices, and in physical locations all tell the story of a customer.
  • Velocity: A single brand with a customer base in the tens of millions can easily be generating thousands of new datapoints per second.
  • Variety: Companies' needs are evolving more quickly than ever before, as new technologies and channels, like the Internet of Things, create new types of customer data.

It's especially that last ‘V’ where the SQL model really struggles. Often, faced with new requirements, rather than conduct a painful re-architecture of an existing relational database, the CIO is forced to create new databases that meet the new requirements: silos.

But silos create significant overhead in the form of lengthy ETL (extract/translate/load) processes that sync data - leading to delays that impose restrictions on what brands can do with customer information. More fundamentally, relational silos undermine the ability to form a single view of the customer.

The SQL model simply cannot respond to constant change, and places too many constraints on marketers. And in a digital world where customers expect to interact across a range of platforms and demand an instant response, this type of technology is no longer enough.

Both CMOs and CIOs need a solid foundation to work together. NoSQL databases do just that. Not having a pre-defined columnar schema allows for much more flexibility. It becomes possible to ingest new data from new sources without fundamentally refactoring the data model or creating additional tables.

For companies creating a multi-channel customer experience, this flexibility can be critical. CMOs gain the ability to access and analyse data, which they can instantly act upon, whether communicating to customers in real-time or forming the basis through which they can identify trends in customer behaviour in the long-term.

NoSQL databases were built for this purpose, so CIOs can store a truly huge amount of data and access it quickly. It also means they can share information across multiple locations, with the integrity of the data intact.

Building a user-centric data asset is critical to achieving customer engagement. Consumers' attention spans have diminished, and expectations for customer experience are higher. If a brand doesn’t engage with its audience, it will go somewhere else.

As more data is generated across a number of channels, the importance of gaining a single view of the customer and harnessing all available data across departments will only continue to grow.

Successful companies will be the ones who get the customer experience right. NoSQL provides the foundation for both technology and marketing, both now and in the future.