How do you implement a customer data platform?

Eight implementation path origins, two main ingredients

In “Why are customer data platforms frustrating to buyers, strategists, and consultants?”, I posited that there may be some eight or so implementation path origins for customer data platforms.

These paths arise because there are various states of readiness and various priorities that create the perceived need for software in the first place.

The paths result in different speeds to market. Decentralized side projects are generally the quickest to implement, and are not always a bad idea. It depends on the situation. That said, these projects are certainly nowhere near the perfect CDP implementation. No ma’am. For that, you need two main ingredients to start:

1. The ever important data strategy (read: centralization)

At a simple level, this means that organizational time has been spent understanding, architecting, and activating data. Plans for progress exist. The customer data platform is part of these plans, or is becoming part of these plans.

2. Internal implementation support team

For a customer data platform implementation to be wildly successful, designate a cross-functional team to support the implementation. Not just strategists and star technologists. Include stakeholders who will ultimately be sharing in the benefits of the CDP, who understand their own data points and data needs. The level of involvement day-to-day will vary across the team, but all will be needed for phase-by-phase planning, reviews and sanity checks.


These are the main ingredients for just about any data technology implementation. Strategy and support. CDP are no different.

Ready to start sprinkling in a dash of this and a pinch of that?

How about some people, process, and technology? I promise, no matrices or triangles. Just three little points:



You might need an outsider (people)

Having an internal implementation support team as mentioned above is great. Unless the implementation support team has a mediator project manager and technology subject matter expert on board, these roles need to be filled. Depending on the size of the implementation, this could be an individual/team assigned by the vendor, or external services consultants (hi!) teamed up with internal project management.

Phase away (process)

The implementation paths may differ, but there is a universal framework to implementing a CDP, which is by way of a phased implementation. Sorry, the work is essentially never done. The initial phases are the heaviest, but as data sources, communication channels, and knowledge gaps change, so will the implementation.

In order to get the initial, critical phases right, consider the current availability of data and resources. Consider known and potential changes to data and resources. This will help to eliminate waste, such as tying in a system which will be removed next quarter. 

Have a first-party data program.

Be sure that near- and long-term goals are considered from the start, and that these goals and related data are reviewed regularly. These cross-functional points are exactly what project management / internal mediation is needed for.

We'll have more time to talk about phases in the upcoming weeks.

Keep it friendly (technology)

By virtue of centralizing the implementation effort, as opposed to firing away all alone, access to various technology should come easier (not out of left field). It's all part of the plan. And hopefully, the stack that the customer data platform is joining will play nice. If not, consider friendlier technologies -- if a true CDP is having trouble connecting with another system, there might also be requests that can be made against your existing technology that would make the integration stronger in the long run. Don't keep those to yourself!

The perfect technology for this imperfect martech world

Around every martech corner there's a new gap to fill, a new silo to break down, and a new opportunity to drive value. It's great to be a problem solver -- have fun in CDP land!

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