You may have heard we’re in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution. It’s a new chapter in which technology redefines the way we live, work and relate to one another. As with any revolution, there are lessons to be learned and new approaches that allow us—as people and as businesses—to do better.
The last industrial revolution at the turn of the previous century caught many people off guard. Back then, being “electric” as a company went from being a novelty, to a specialty, to an advantage and ultimately to a ubiquitous way of doing business. The standardization that electricity provided led to the proliferation of diverse applications. That’s where we are about to be with cloud.
Cloud is changing how software works as a business—and how every business works. Just as with electricity when it began, no one could have predicted what cloud meant for the world. The cloud has had a major impact on the software industry. Whatever software providers are selling, you can now build your own customized, technology-independent version because of the cloud.
This advantage is highly applicable to businesses building a customer data platform (CDP). A CDP unites known and unknown customer data into one view, connecting information across systems. Just like anything else that involves software, the cloud makes all of it easier.
Cloud services are intangible offerings that create tangible results. A cloud infrastructure enables greater flexibility, it can reduce costs and it allows you to adapt your CDP as your business needs change. Let’s look at what else it can do.
1. It allows you to become a tech company (without having to build a tech company)
Your business can create a cloud version of the software you are paying others to provide. In the last two decades you had to buy or build software, choosing between the tradeoffs of customization or standardization. Then you had to run your own hardware and data center. The cloud strips away that burden, finessing those opposites.
The cloud offers a foundation on which to customize and add exactly the software features and functionality you need—and it works within your existing IT infrastructure. When you have the tech tools you need at the ready, you can innovate just like tech companies do.
2. It allows you to create a cloud operating system that can be uniquely yours
Your business is unique. The way you represent your brand and serve customers differentiates your business and makes you competitive. However, the technology you’re using can make you look very similar to competitors and consequently dull your edge.
Using technology as a competitive advantage means building for yourself. Take advantage of your existing software investments, but embrace the cloud to integrate new services that, together, can differentiate your business. Standardize what doesn’t have to be specific, customize what should be. Find out what pieces of the stack you can own so that you own the data within those systems (and the metadata those systems create). This data—especially the data about customers—is essential to your differentiation and long-term success.
3. It allows you to develop a cloud strategy to attract the right talent
Techies want a cool gig—at the likes of Google, Facebook, and Apple. It’s become harder than ever for non-tech companies to attract top tech talent. The cloud is standardizing engineering skill sets. Chief technology officers today will tell you an Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform cloud certification is worth more to the market than an undergrad degree now. Colleges are even starting to recognize cloud certifications for academic credit. So how do enterprises access this hard-to-find talent?
To attract tech talent to your company, you need a good cloud strategy. You need a cloud environment that allows each developer to contribute in a major language, and not have to sit learning your idiosyncratic (and often undocumented) from the original (and now essential) system administrator. Cloud is a catalyst for multiple teams with multiple developers to be able to get into the same environment and feel familiarity.
A cloud environment allows engineers and data professionals to get better over time, improving skills and keeping your business on the edge of tech capability. Engineers’ expectations are easier to meet when you can predict them ahead of time, and they may be willing to overlook aspects of your business that look like they come from the brass age of computing, if they think they can still do some of the best work of their careers.
4. It allows you to live and breathe customer data
Customer data is the air in your business’s lungs. Owning your own customer data systems allows you to understand your customer better than your competitors, and take action on that information faster. With the cloud, customer data can “breathe,” easily activating through your experiences or your partners, then coming back into the company enriched. Activities with your customers adds new data with every inhale. When it comes back into the business, it can feed a variety of areas such as product design, customer service and marketing.
A customer data platform enables the sharing of this data across systems and allows you to quickly figure out what is working—or what’s not working at all. If this data were siloed, merchandising couldn’t feed off of inventory systems, sales couldn’t feed off of merchandising, and so forth.
5. It allows you to never stop
A customer data platform ditches the silos and stitches the data so your business can get more value from data sets. But once the silos are gone, the work is not over. Your business must prevent new silos from popping up because they represent roadblocks to value. In this spirit, the CDP becomes more than a platform. It’s a mindset. A method and a way of working that is essential to your organization. It keeps evolving as new datasets are added, more intelligence mined, and more metadata answering other questions entirely is generated.
When we deliver CDPs, we often find that system requirements change as we discover new use cases. You can iterate new use cases as they become possibilities better when you use cloud for your CDP because you can keep pace with the edge of technology and exploit its advantages. It’s no surprise the best tech companies in the world are using the cloud, because it’s much easier to make changes and adapt to the new.
Plug into cloud
As mentioned, the cloud is about as transformative as electricity—we’re just in the midst of a different revolution. The cloud is like having access to the entire power grid, and opens up the same world of possibility. Plug in so your business can capture all of its benefits into your CDP, and never stop iterating.