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The data planner is dead, long live the data planner

Updated: May 30, 2023

Whilst doing a search on Data Planning in google, an article I wrote in 2010 popped up on the death of the traditional data planner and how much change I had seen after 11 years in the industry.

So roll on to 2020 and another 10 years under my belt and the industry and landscape in which we operate has unsurprisingly changed further.

The concept of a data planner is still largely within the domain of CRM agencies, the role has never infiltrated businesses to a significant degree - and in CRM agencies the role tends to be focussed on the campaigning remit, not necessarily using data for business change which is arguably where it can have the biggest impact. Maybe the job title is wrong, but across my career, I have always felt that businesses could really benefit from bringing the data planning skill in house. We carry a war cry for the need of a CDO in many organisations to lead this charge, but they are regularly not practitioners of data which doesn’t fully plug the gap.

A significant change is the seismic shift to databases being in-house, with skilled resources employed to both understand and manage the database management and the application of data across the business through various platforms. Whilst the data planner, therefore, doesn’t need to be as close to the nuts and bolts of the database as they would have been historically, they still need to understand the relationship between data assets and its impact on the business. Without the experience of working with databases, this is often lost. I wonder how many data planners in agencies today can understand the impact of dedupe hierarchies on the data.

It is nothing new nor surprising that the data sources and asset have simply grown faster than you can blink. The stats on data produced by the minute increase by the minute that there is simply no need to track this - the trajectory is unchanged. But with this continued expansion, the potential job roles and skills set in data has grown and proliferated. There are so many speciality areas within data that people are focussing on - data quality, cleanliness, unstructured data, social data, campaign expert, data storyteller etc. as stand-alone roles (never mind the wealth of data scientist and analytics focussed roles). Back in the day, we used to do all of this and more. But that has been lost as the specialities grow, and the benefits of that cohesive understanding and translation to business application weakens.

So what do I think the data planner of today needs to be?

A translator across the data landscape, with an understanding of the components that make data impactful for businesses from quality and processing, to insight and its application. And it is not only about the marketing application of data, but the business application of data from the top down - elevating to using data to drive decision making and change is what is needed for businesses to see value from their data and use it to realise their ambitions.



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