Thursday, 28th January 2021

How to break down siloes and unleash the power of AI

The biggest thing holding back AI, is people, says Jed Mole, CMO of Acxiom.

  • 05 Jan 2021 Posted in
We’re not talking about AI replacing jobs here, it’s more about people’s tendency to create siloes. We need to make sure we’ve got a patch of turf that we’re responsible for. One we can protect and ultimately, be seen as key to the delivery of good performance.


Data-driven insight is only as good as the meaning attached to it, and when customer data is sitting within different departments, no one has a true 360 view of the customer, and no one can address or anticipate their needs accurately.

A report by Deloitte at the end of last year argued that to become a truly AI-fuelled organisation, a company will need to fundamentally rethink the way humans and machines interact within working environments.

But where to start?

Where is the customer data?

We’re at a tipping point in the conversation around data.Businesses have gathered more than ever before but have yet to realise the true value it can bring to customers and business alike. This lack of clear value from data has led to a lack of true understanding when it comes to data and a dip in the trust of some customers and regulators. Looking forward, the challenge for brands is mastering the complexity that data brings to realise customer value.

Success will be achieved by those who are able to break down siloes and barriers by bringing marketing, data and tech together. This is easier said than done of course, our habit of creating siloes is hard to kick. It is easy to create data sets, databases, dart marts and more, it all sounds pretty innocuous, but if you cannot connect the data when you need to then you have a disconnected and incomplete view of your number one priority, your customer.

Connecting data may be necessary in a ‘slow data’ sense, for example for longer-range analytics or it may be necessary in a ‘fast data’ sense, real time connections of actions and insights to deliver relevance in the moment. Of course, this is just the data view, as we added telemarketing tech to direct mail tech, then overlaid an email platform, followed by a social media platform, DMP, CDP and so on, we solved one problem (the absence of a channel) by adding often disconnected siloes. It’s a challenge to avoid the temptation to silo.

When AI comes to town

Artificial intelligence is a wonderful technology that promises a lot for the future of customer interactions. It can analyse and predict what we want or need at rates that simply aren’t possible for human-led analytics. Whether it’s research, manufacturing or on a broader scale just helping at home via our smart devices, the potential and power of AI is massive.

To move from potential to reality, paradoxically means adding humanity. What I mean by that is we need to shape its remit, give it a chance to get it right and, central to that, is giving AI the data necessary to give the customer an interaction they’d really value. In having a complete picture of the customer, the first person to benefit is the customer themselves.

We see time and time again that customers are willing to share their data so long as they know it’ll be protected, and used to offer them convenience, a relevant recommendation or a tangible offer, such as money off. Achieving that customer satisfaction is gold dust, and it means the whole cycle keeps turning. The customer is more likely to engage with the brand, then that data can be used again to make their experience better again.

Change for the better

A huge change for the better, that most organisations would benefit from, is eradicating or at least reducing silos. AI is the shiny new thing that promises so much, but like previous holders of that title, connected customer data, that is as complete and accurate as possible, is the number one factor for success and the number one priority. The building blocks for that success include: 1. having a proper data strategy (that includes data privacy), 2. an identity management solution and 3. a unified data layer, physical or virtual, that enables data potential to become value for all.

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