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How to build infrastructure that supports data connectivity and collaboration

Technology & Data

How to build infrastructure that supports data connectivity and collaboration


You need data to build a truly great customer experience, but managing data within an organisation, and externally, is a collaborative team effort. Deb O’Sullivan uncovers how to build the right infrastructure to support data collaboration.

On the heels of a losing quarter, few expected Nike to post an 11 percent increase in profits in its fiscal year Q1. With sporting events either canceled or significantly scaled back, analysts predicted flat revenue growth for the marketing icon. They were wrong. Nike’s decision to double down on digital proved to be a winning one with Nike membership increasing 60 percent, usage of the brand’s training app up 50 percent and an incredible 200 percent jump in demand for its commerce app.

These numbers don’t just happen overnight. They require a united front amongst executives to agree on a long-term, global data and technology strategy to power lucrative, diversified new business opportunities and build a stronger, more complete, single view of the customer.

Why is Nike’s view of customers so powerful and accurate? One possibility is Nike’s rich heritage of embracing collaborations. Starting from a supply-chain focus in the 1960s, Nike’s data expanded from engagements in diverse sports, driving new levels of sponsorship dollars in long-term collaboration with top athletes. With Nike’s later moves into retail, technology development, and social channels, continuous data generation and feedback have created the brand guidance to market authentically and boldly. 

Increasingly, chief information officers (CIOs) understand that a collaborative business is a smart business and the challenge is to support a flexible infrastructure to deliver partner insights and data connectivity. 

What does data connectivity mean today?

Data connectivity is a phrase that seems simple on the surface but has been augmented over the years. As a concept, it grew from simply plugging into data feeds through application programming interfaces (APIs) to advanced use cases where companies can safely and securely collaborate with external partners. 

Many brands that spend significant amounts on digital advertising experiment with this type of data collaboration in clean rooms managed by publishers. However, the insights offered in these environments are channel specific and don’t unlock the full scope of customer intelligence you can achieve if you operate your own infrastructure for collaboration.

This is a key opportunity for brands, as most organisations still struggle to unify, control and activate customer data internally, let alone with others on a global scale. 

Run your platforms on premium fuel, drive better business results

While orchestrating data partnerships is traditionally the purview of chief data officers (CDOs), the most successful ones involve a tight integration between CMOs, CIOs, and CDOs. Think of your platforms and technology as a car and data as gas. You made the case for investing in a vehicle with the best brakes, steering and safety features to drive your business forward. Your company bought your vision. Now your stakeholders and their teams should only use the best fuel. 

This is why a strong CMO-CIO-CDO connection is imperative for companies that strive for market differentiation and allows for the potential to break away from the pack the way Nike has. One place to get started is by partnering on the intricate task of facilitating external data collaboration.

The technical building blocks of successful data partnerships

Whether you choose to build your own infrastructure or engage a vendor to support data partnerships, the building blocks of a safe, secure data infrastructure remain the same.

  • Privacy-conscious data connectivity: The environment in which you choose to collaborate with others must connect data in a privacy-conscious manner. Look for solutions that can remove personally identifiable information (PII) to protect consumers’ sensitive data and preserve data fidelity to render it usable for approved use cases.
  • Configurable privacy controls: Just as with internal data that’s accessed by multiple teams, every external data set comes with an airtight set of approved use cases that only you can allow. Ensure that the platforms you use for internal data collaboration can handle external data as well, with tailorable controls to match your and your partners’ requirements.
  • Continuous control of data: With tailorable controls comes confidence over how data is used both by your internal team and partners. This is where automation comes into play, enabling quick auditing, management of consumer opt-outs and more.
  • Interoperable and neutral: Finally, with all the mission-critical platform investments you’ve already made, you want to be sure that your new infrastructure plugs in seamlessly and is interoperable with other technologies you’re evaluating.

Managing data partnerships is a complex team effort and building the right infrastructure to support advanced data strategies is just one piece of the puzzle. Like all intricate endeavors, however, the payoffs can be tremendous and accelerated if you work with more partners that help you enhance and solidify your guidelines and guardrails. The time you spend creating a single source of truth that you own and continually enrich will prove invaluable to you and your trusted partners, driving business growth in ways that were previously unimaginable.


Deb O’Sullivan is the vice president of enterprise sales ANZ at LiveRamp.

Photo by iMattSmart on Unsplash.


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