• March 17, 2011
  • By J. David Lashar, associate partner, CRM practice, IBM Global Business Services

Marketing Beyond the Cloud

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Smart marketing organizations find that to engage with customers across channels and devices, marketers must collect interactions across channels, maintain data as a trustworthy asset, and leverage this information for insight.
These organizations are on the forefront of CRM, developing capabilities that yield competitive differentiation by exceeding the expectations of multichannel customers.

1. Arms and Legs: the Hybrid approach

To describe how technology is enabling smarter marketing, let’s adopt a metaphor (admittedly forced) in which the applications by which marketing professionals develop their plans and execute campaigns are the arms and legs of the organization. These are the applications that generate demand, handle responses, route leads, and manage budgets.

In recent years, those applications have found increasing uptake within large organizations. One reason has been the improving functionality of the leading packages. Another has been the appeal of cloud-based deployment models (software as a service, or SaaS), in which marketing organizations (typically small relative to the sales or service organizations) have obtained automation software without deploying and maintaining hardware in the company data center. This model has helped the economics work favorably for corporate marketing departments.

Typically, cloud-based applications must be integrated with those in the data center. The latter might include either back-office systems that manage customer orders or front-office systems that support sales and service organizations. Combining cloud-based and data center–based apps creates a hybrid architecture, which has become the leading-practice architecture in large organizations.

2. Circulatory System: Service-Oriented Architecture

For the hybrid CRM architecture to succeed, data must move quickly and reliably through the cloud and across the data center. This is accomplished through a middleware (MW) platform that supports a service-oriented architecture (SOA). In terms of our metaphor for a smarter marketing organization, the MW/SOA is the circulatory system that makes customer data available and keeps it refreshed. The more dynamic the business environment and the more diverse the interaction channels with the customer, the more critical the MW/SOA is. It binds marketing to sales to service to order management and financial payments. It does so across channels and devices and is the transport mechanism for the company’s lifeblood: customer information.

3. Backbone: Master Data Management

The master data management (MDM) system holds together the applications and data, enabling a given customer interaction to be put into the context of all previous interactions with the company. The MDM system (composed of governance structure and dedicated processes in addition to the technology platform) establishes and maintains the identity of the customer. Without it, the marketing organization cannot reliably determine status, segment, or value for the customer.

4. Brain: Business Intelligence

More so than elsewhere in CRM, the marketing organization needs business intelligence (BI) tools to create the insight to engage customers with relevant messages and compelling offers. BI is the brain that maintains segments, calculates profitability, and defines action clusters.


Marketing has always been information-intensive, but not necessarily technology-intensive. Today, smarter organizations recognize that they need a CRM strategy that enables them to operate seamlessly across channels, convert customer interactions into informational assets, and produce actionable insight. Marketing professionals no longer can reach customers with resonant messages and compelling offers if they do not have this body of capabilities. Those who are developing them are no longer CRM laggards; they have become the leaders in responding to the disruptive changes in the ways customers learn and buy in today’s marketplace.

David Lashar is an associate partner in the CRM practice of IBM Global Business Services. He can be reached at dlashar@us.ibm.com.

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