While the CMO is forecast to outspend the CIO on information technology by 2017, most senior marketers in the Asia Pacific region admit they’re yet to effectively use or even get their head around ‘big data’, according to the CMO Council.

The industry body, which represents more than 6000 senior marketers in around 110 countries, spoke to over 30 senior marketers from banks, insurance carriers, utilities, travel and hospitality companies and media and publishing groups, finding that marketers face a lot of work in getting up to speed with ‘big data’.

Marketers report being overwhelmed by growing volumes of customer data emanating from research, retail, internet, social media, financial, company help desks/call centers, and internal line of business sources. Executive director of the Council, Donovan Neale-May, puts the difficulties marketers are encountering down to the traditional product-centric focus and operationally driven nature of most corporate cultures: “Telcos and banks traditionally had access to a lot of data and have typically used it to optimise their operations,” Neale-May says. “The data is usually owned by billing, accounting and finance people who aren’t thinking about what they could do with the data from a customer-centric perspective.”

Neale-May urges marketers to take ownership of the organisation’s data streams and make a business case for how you can use analytics in order to justify spend on systems to make data manageable and usable for the business.

Supported by analytics software leader SAS the CMO Council conducted in-depth interviews with a number of Australia’s leading marketers.

The Commonwealth Bank’s head of analytics Geoffrey Kerry is revealed one of the key initiatives currently on the banks books is maximising response by delivering loan offers and financial service products to the right customer, at the right place, and at the right time. “Having quicker access to our analytics is going to require a lot of investment, some of which has now been approved,” Kerry says. “It’s underway in our technology and data processes, but being at the forefront of technology as the world evolves is a journey that we have embarked upon.”

Another participant in the interviews, Medibank Australia’s general manager of marketing and group brand, Chris Carroll, intends to use tighter customer segmentation to extract a clearer and more discrete picture of his member base than ever before. “Improving access to data, ensuring it is the right data, and correct timing will improve the time it takes to deliver insights to the business,” Carroll says. “I don’t know that I’ll be investing a whole lot more in the short term. My challenge now is making sure that the data and insights are being plugged together adequately and answering the business challenges – with the end result being a translation of raw data into actionable initiatives that we can clearly track and monitor.”

Australia Post, which sits in both in the B2B and B2C space, calls its level of customer centricity ‘a work in process’. Their goal is to map out the customer journey and better optimise marketing campaigns through improved data analytics, as the business transitions from a traditional to more digital model to capture customer data.

Another Australian business transitioning from legacy operations into new business models is Telstra. The telco is on a journey from a telecommunications company led by engineering and a network to an organisation led by marketing and sales, according to head of analytics Liz Moore. Telstra wants to predominantly use a one-to-one marketing strategy, shifting from large, above-the-line campaigns to more fully-integrated, through-the-line campaigns. “As we move closer to real-time data analytics and improve one-to-one marketing strategies, there are investments that need to be made along the value chain to make that work,” Moore says. “Some of it involved turning up the functionality, and some of it requires getting the data strategy and feeds right.”

“The Asia Pacific region is doing business on a massive scale, and our marketing members see real value in using high-performance data analytics to be more targeted, personal, and timely in their communications so they can not only more efficiently acquire, but also grow, customer relationships,” notes Neale-May of the Council, whose members control more than $300 billion in annual aggregated marketing spend.

With marketing teams purchasing significant technology and services from their own capital and expense budgets – both outside the control of the internal IT organisation and in conjunction with them – Gartner predicts that the discipline’s spend on technology will eclipse that of the IT department by 2017.