The Project Every Retailer Needs And No One Wants: Big Data Marketing Automation

Written by Todd L. Michaud
March 29th, 2012

Todd Michaud runs Power Thinking Media, which helps retailers and restaurants tackle the convergence of social, mobile and retail technologies. He spent nine years delivering technology solutions to more than 10,000 retail locations as VP of IT for Focus and Director of Retail Technology for Dunkin’ Brands.

Retailers everywhere are finding themselves being hit upside the head with big data. This data is generated by their internal systems, external systems and end customers, and it’s growing at exponential rates. Quietly, this trend is going to add a new player to the corporate ranks: the Chief Data Scientist.

Organizationally, these functional experts will challenge the traditional organizational structure. Data scientists will likely enter an organization through the IT group, because that department is most likely to engage their services to help drive value from information mining projects. The challenge comes in the fact that, today, many organizations group IT with finance and accounting teams (likely to utilize the CFO as a buffer between the CEO and CIO).

But keeping the data scientist under the CFO is problematic, simply due to the front-office nature of the role versus the back-office slant to finance and accounting and, in many facets, IT. Over time, I see the data scientists eventually becoming a unique functional area that is broken out from the IT group. Although this may go against the grain of “keeping the geeks together” philosophy of many current organizational structures, I see the data scientists pushing for their own independence. Their work is much different in nature from IT (versus deploying managing systems), so it doesn’t truly align there, but it is threatening to the marketing team and the art versus science debate. So with no clear alignment with IT, finance and marketing, it’s only logical for data science to become a separate and unique function.

Furthermore, once the executive team realizes the value this role is delivering to the organization and how they own the “secret sauce” of their business operations, it is likely that the CEO will want to keep data scientists in close company. This could eventually lead to a similar relationship to the one they have with the CFO.

The next generation of business process automation will be the operationalization of big data in the form of Marketing Automation. Retailers will focus on implementing tools that consume this information, not for the purpose of generating reports or dashboards but with the intent of taking action.


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