Tearing Down The Silos That Cloud Apps Create

The Cloud is a wonderful thing.  For companies, departments, teams and employees it means freedom and, to a degree, self-determination. They can quickly find and start using applications that empower them to be more creative, efficient, collaborative, and competitive.

Free to tap into virtually any SaaS application without IT involvement, the era of the Cloud has unleashed waves of productivity and innovation.  Because of the Cloud, businesses run on mobile devices with employees, customers and partners easily collaborating, data securely stored and accessible from anywhere in the world all without a worry about the infrastructure.  That’s someone else’s problem.   With low monthly prices, who wouldn’t sign up and embrace a SaaS app that makes your life easier.

All the convenience comes at a price.

That price is a sea information silos.     Instead of tearing down silos, SaaS applications build the walls around functions and data higher and stronger. Not traditional big silos but lots of little silos within and in between departments and teams. Instead of bringing teams into alignment, they are separated into fiefdoms of data without a single source of truth.

I consulted a $250 Million mobile technology vendor to tear down their SaaS silos.  The CEO asked me to find out why getting business done was just so damn hard in his company.  His goal was to align the company to customers’ lifecycle expectations and he was tired of being told “we can’t do that”.

Sales started out with the best of intentions and adopted Xactly, Salesforce and host of other applications.  Marketing did the same in the name of optimizing ROI.  Just about every department had a host of cloud applications, teams even had their own SaaS applications; very few were integrated or shared data. There were over 15 SaaS applications that weren’t and couldn’t be connected.  It was the root cause of the incessant squabbling between Sales, Marketing, Operations and Finance which slowed the company’s growth in a red hot market.

There wasn’t a single source of truth, an automated way to share data, or a consistent, holistic understanding of customer behavior and expectations across all departments.  The company was spending more headcount and time on rationalizing the silos than they gained in efficiency.   The answer was a complete re-think of the application ecosystem that took six months and over $1 Million dollars to redefine and re-implement most of SaaS systems to operate in an integrated framework.

The problem is out-of-the-box integration of SaaS applications is damn hard. Despite vendor claims of APIs galore, in the end the issue is where is the single source of truth.  There has to be a better way to integrate cloud applications into a common framework other than data marts, MDM (master data management) system, etc.

Topping the list of marketing objectives for 2015 is to get rid of the silos and manual work around and re-assign intelligent staff to more high-value activities. Fed up with the inefficiencies and telling the CEO that they can’t provide answers to routine business questions, CMOs are partnering with CIOs to find new solutions.

Integrate, the first closed-loop marketing software and media services provider, is an interesting platform solution.  Part cloud middleware, part application suite, Integrate standardizes and automates demand generation from campaign set up and initial prospect engagement to measuring campaign performance and attributing outcomes to specific data sources and tactics. Unlike other solutions that plug individual holes in outdated processes, Integrate enables marketers to connect all aspects of demand generate to automate the entire customer acquisition funnel.

That’s key because predictable pipeline conversion is the only marketing metric that matters. What makes Integrate interesting is that it enables marketers to plug their various SaaS applications into an end-to-end connected framework designed to provide revenue line of sight from programmatic buys through closed-loop analytics that measure and optimize outcomes.   The platform handles the data rationalization and quality to ensure there is one single source of truth as well as providing processes and functionality to fill the gaps between the sea of SaaS silos.

By integrating demand generation investment, tactics and the resulting data with marketing automation and/or CRM systems into a common cloud framework, some interesting benefits can be realized:

  • Improved lead velocity for accelerated sales cycles.
  • Bad lead data can be governed before it is injected into marketing /sales systems.
  •  Revenue line of sight can be credibly reported on.
  • Media ROI can be measured and optimized.

Granted the approach of this four year old start-up is different, but, frankly, cloud silos need to be torn down for companies to scale efficiently.   Additionally, CMOs need to step up the skills of their team; there’s no getting around retooling marketing’s competencies.  According to Scott Vaughan, Chief Marketing Officer of Integrate, “companies need to hire talent with a data DNA and mindset across all functions.”

CMOs also need to step up their own skills in order to add new levels of value to the boardroom conversation. “Marketers need to let go of doing things good enough to keep the lights on and embrace new ways to innovate and move the needle where it matters – creating happy customers,” shared Vaughan.

Being able to share a full and accurate view of their customers and prospects enables marketers to lead their organization’s customer-alignment transformation, which pays off in more predictable revenue growth.   With this approach, 2015 can be the year that marketers reap the advantage of the cloud, rather than get lost in its silos.

 

First published in Forbes

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