Garbage In, Garbage Out? Or something more fundamental?

An old friend happens to be the COO of a global logistics company. To keep it simple, he’s in the business of commercial shipping. I was passively considering that, recently, and it led me to ponder a scenario…

For the sake of simplicity imagine a shipping “flow” to consist of these steps below (disclaimer: I am no expert on intercontinental shipping):

  1. Various goods are manufactured
  2. Said goods are gathered at a defined locus or hub – the port
  3. Said goods are loaded onto an activation mechanism – the ship – and a bill of lading, declaring the composition of the shipment in exacting detail, is generated
  4. The ship embarks on a journey or transit
  5. The ship arrives at a destination hub / port
  6. The goods are offloaded from the ship
  7. The outcome of the activation and journey is assessed
  8. Problems are identified
    1. 10% of the goods have simply vanished (null)
    2. Another 20% + cannot be recognized / interpreted (unclassified)
    3. Yet another 20% is not where it is supposed to be
    4. Mapping what has arrived at the destination to the origin bill of lading is a nightmare and many hours are spent trying to make sense of the insensate

Sound familiar?

Global shipping is an enormous business that commands exacting precision at and between every single hop in the process. The tolerances for incidents of failure are extremely low because the stakes are so high. Just ask Lloyd’s of London. Mistakes, naturally, occur. As do unforeseeable objective disruptions such as mid-Atlantic storms, and the like. Even modern-day piracy, for that matter.

So, imagine, in the scenario above at the point where “problems are identified,” if the two most common responses were:

  1. We need to spend heavy cash on new technologies at the point of destination / outcome assessment to see if that paints a better success picture
  2. We need to get comfortable spinning this and treat it as BAU (Business as Usual)

Again – sound familiar?
MarTech / AdTech, in many ways, emulates these hypothetical behaviors. For the better part of two decades now marketers have tolerated a shamefully high and regular degree of data and data practice sloppiness, to put it bluntly. But is it the data itself that is corrupted (GIGO?) and/or are there tech inadequacies downstream where the post-hoc data is analyzed? These are two common bogeymen, just as in our shipping scenario. The Head of (fill in the blank) that gets a glimpse of the steady-state of “spillage” going on within the multi-million dollar marketing org declaims, “Clean the data up!”, and / or, “Buy yet another multi-million dollar enterprise software to make sense and use of the reporting!”

But this posture represents the persistent neglect of a fundamental and critical piece of a complex puzzle: How the data is handled. What if the issue is not the data itself at point of origin? Nor the experience and measurement technologies downstream. What if there is something missing in between – a purpose-built system / software that safeguards the consistent application of data and data standards across teams / regions / technologies? This is the structured practice of data discipline. This is Data Integrity.

Global shipping is a challenging and sophisticated, carefully orchestrated dance across regions, teams, people, and technologies. As digital marketing should be. But the continued reality is that this vital area of attention gets short-changed by marketers and their representatives as a second or third order focal opportunity. That myopia needs to be remedied which presents an opportunity for technology vendors, systems integrators, and media agencies. These bodies are uniquely positioned to bring their clients and prospects forward by espousing certain fundamental principles around the overlap of data quality, governance, activation, and analysis. This is the unification of Data, Ops, and Technology which is at the heart of Data Integrity.

How is your organization formally and deliberately attacking this systemic weakness on behalf of clients today? I want to hear from you and would open up future installments of this newsletter to evangelize your org’s belief systems and practices consistent with this theme.

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