18 August 2021

7 keys to connecting disparate systems

Perhaps the most important thing a marketer can do for their organization is work with the key stakeholders to do a better job connecting data from disparate systems so that future measurement of campaign performance provides better insights to help you make your marketing better. Going with your gut will not always get the results you are looking for. It’s important to structure the data in a way that makes measurement and tracking more effective.

Now, let’s have a look at 7 steps to consider when connecting multiple data sources to a marketing automation platform:

1. Map out your disparate systems

Take a step back and have a look outside of your marketing automation platform. Make a list of every disparate system you have within your sales and marketing departments. Systems could include your POS, your CRM, your data warehouse, your e-commerce platform and/or any business intelligence tools you have in place. Map out a high-level view of your data systems so that you can now understand where everything resides and how the data currently flows.

2. Combine and create a list of data points that you need for future reporting

Now that you understand what data systems you have in place, it is time for you to determine what data points you have available in each platform. In this step, you will most likely have to ask your IT team to provide you with this information. Ask them for a sample report that includes all of the data fields available. If your data team is really organized they will be able to provide you a data dictionary of all fields or data points that are included in each system.

3. Review all of your data dictionaries and ensure table field names are consistent

This step is honestly easier said than done but it is an extremely important step in getting your data synced and organized between platforms. The concept here is quite simple… Go through all of your data field types and make sure each description is exact. For example, you do not want your CRM to refer to a company name as “Organization” while all the other systems use “Company Name.” In a perfect world, systems that you want to sync or map to should share exact filed descriptions. This will make the sync of the information and the management of the data less of headache in the future.

4. Don’t be afraid to add more data fields to your data dictionary

Your existing IT team has probably done a great job building what you already have in place. It is now important for you to add more data fields if you think this information would be of value to you in the measurement of future marketing campaigns. Since you are integrating systems to your marketing automation instance, it may be a good idea for you to make sure you have included every online behavior you are able to track. Online behaviors and website interaction will help you build better marketing automation campaigns in the future.

5. Build your relational tables and sync your data systems through an intermediary database

You should now have a consistent data dictionary for each system. This is where the true data work comes into play. If you are planning to bring together multiple disparate systems, most likely you will have to leverage an intermediary database that will be used to normalize, sync, and transform the data structure between the different systems. If you are lucky enough to have a flat data structure, you could use an API to sync and share data but in most cases we have seen, the data you have now will require a relational table structure. For example, you may have one contact that has specific fields with a one to many, many to many, or many to one relationship within the data structure. All of this information and these relationships must be built within relational tables for your data to remain coherent within the systems.

6. Don’t forget to build a solid reporting infrastructure

If you have completed all the previous steps, you now deserve a raise and a vacation! Before you take any break, make sure you have a solid reporting infrastructure in place. You may need a BI tool to help you slice and dice multidimensional data (inputs from your relational tables) in a way that gives you visibility into campaign performance, and hopefully revenue attribution.

7. Test, measure and adapt

If you have completed anything close to what is outlined above, you are most likely one of only a few marketer automation experts with a multi-platform view of what is happening within your marketing automation campaigns! Let go of what you think may work and now focus on looking at the data to provide you the insights you need to make your marketing automation better.

Connecting disparate systems to a marketing automation platform isn’t always an easy endeavor but it will be beneficial to everything within your organization. Happy Marketing!