Architecture is petrified music. -- Felix E. Schelling
If you set out to create a customer database, dont build a Tower of Pisa.
The Middle Ages saw the creation of spectacular Christian cathedrals throughout Europe, massive multi-generational projects that kept a community fixated heart, mind and body upon a common vision. Reminders of this vision were kept alive daily with every ton of bronze that pealed from arresting bell towers.
In Italy one such elaborate church of sheer white marble rises majestically out of the Field Of Miracles (Campo dei Miracoli), adjacent to which stands or, more descriptively, leans the sinking Tower of Pisa.
Back in the 12th-Century, no sooner had 3 of its 8 stories been completed than the foundation of this beautiful Romanesque campanile began to sink into a sandy and water-saturated subsoil.
From that point forward its destiny was sealed for centuries to come. By 1990 the tower was 15 feet out of plumb, threatening a collapse. Its doors closed. The bells were silenced.
Envisioning The Grand Edifice
Building a B2B customer database for a large business resembles in no small degree the construction of a classical edifice. The project calls for the establishment of a clear vision that will unify those who will come to depend upon this innovation, and requires also that the architect secure the most reliable conditions upon which to lay out the right type of foundation to erect this new "building."
The conditions must be right, otherwise the foundation will sink with the weight of the project. Eventually the whole work will come tumbling down.
Much has been written about building corporate visions, and I wont develop the point here beyond repeating what Jonathan Swift once said "Vision is the art of seeing the invisible."
Its the leaders responsibility to envision what the company could become, if it could systematically come to know its customers better. Likewise, the leader must communicate this vision effectively across the organization, and rally individual support to "build the cathedral" one brick at a time.
I've said before that REACH 4 POLARIS is my rallying cry for many of my clients, who have needed a vision for building a marketing operations environment centered around a powerful marketing database.
Were you to create a customer database, what could it look like?
The video below illustrates this idea. Ive shared it with several of my clients and employers to rouse them toward visionary creativity, because each customer database project sponsor needs to produce a clear vision to garner the necessary support to build or lease a holistic marketing database system.
Avoid the pitfall of lacking in vision. If you struggle with visualizing the right thing to do, then I suggest you do as Peter Marshall said, and ask for help, "that [you] may know where to stand and what to stand for, because unless [you] stand for something, [you] shall fall for anything," particularly for SaaS vendor dribble.
Between The Edifice And The Database: A Blueprint
With the vision in place, you must begin the arduous yet crucial task of setting down a foundation to your initiative. This is time-consuming work, because it means that you will be outlining the new process that your business must adopt to bring that vision to reality. Don't skimp on this effort! There is great temptation to hurry past these "abstractions."
But if you wouldnt allow a construction crew to knock down walls and pour concrete down your yard to build a new wing to your house unless they had an approved blueprint in hand, then why would you allow a CRM team to do the equivalent to your existing business process?
Every door, every window, every walk-in closet should be diagrammed in the blueprint. Depending on the complexity of the project, it would be appropriate to expect elevation drawings, dimensional specs, miniature prototypes, computer animated walk-thrus as deliverables from an architect before paying for delivery of one single sack of cement or expecting the arrival of one single laborer to the construction site.
Yet all too often the same common sense forsakes project sponsors at the office, where they should require from software project managers the delivery of a blueprint equivalent: business requirements summary, process flow diagrams, conceptual database diagrams (e.g. entity-relationship or star- schemas), business rules definitions and project success criteria that define the scope of work to be done to create this customer database system, before signing off on a budget estimate.
Whether you're building a cathedral or a small town chapel, success comes to the diligent. Once you know what you want to build and why, planning and patience become as much a part of your strategy as timing and execution.
When you set out to know your customer, the goal is not to wait for a miracle. Dont break ground on a soggy Campo dei Miracoli. Why hurry to spend your money only to end up off- center and risking ruin? Think ahead. Get the blueprints done in advance. Then get moving on that building that customer database cathedral.