Data's ever evolving role in strategy and operations is driving operational innovation, and because of its relevancy, it happens to be the theme to Hanley Wood's next Housing Leadership Summit. This shift needs to have deep roots in the organization and in the culture, and should be demonstrated and celebrated in quantifiable ways.

As marketing technology becomes a standard part of managing a business, many companies have become comfortable enough with the concept to shift away from their initial focus on platforms, and to focus instead on data.

“The spotlight is on data because of customer expectations,” said eMarketer analyst Nicole Perrin, author of a new report on marketing technology. “Customers expect marketers to provide a personalized brand experience across channels.”

When marketers are surveyed about what they hope to gain from adopting marketing tech, “data” is one common response. This might seem like circular logic, but data—specifically, customer data—is the undisputed center of the marketing tech ecosystem.

Sean Brown, chief technology officer at agency Organic, noted that recognition of the importance of data goes hand in hand with successful use of marketing technology. “Those [marketers] that have already begun to put the effort in to put marketing technologies in place are the ones that recognize that the data that they have—about their customers, about their clients, about their own systems, where consumers are going—is a real asset,” he said. “They are the ones that have moved the furthest.”

“[Data is] the one area where we have the most work to do,” said Duane Schulz, vice president of digital and demand marketing and technology at Xerox. “If you think of these technologies as kind of a combination of content, technology engine and data, data is the weakest link for us.” He added that a high priority for 2017 is “putting together a whole new kind of marketing data model that will allow for the data to influence the customer’s experience instead of just teaching us things we want to know after the fact.”

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