The Demand for (and Difficulties of) Data Harmonization
Woman weaving a wool scarf on a floor loom.

Over the last decade, the sheer abundance of raw marketing data collected coupled with the wildly disparate array of sources from which it came had created an urgent need for unity and synthesis. This unity and synthesis are now suddenly achievable in the form of data harmonization, a phenomenon that weaves key data together and strives to create “a single source of truth”; a clean and comprehensive data picture capable of yielding businesses with clear, holistic, and actionable insights. Now, as businesses begin to realize the necessity of data harmonization, marketing service providers must have the answers and be capable of supplying them to their clients. Businesses will realize soon, if they haven’t already, that if they don’t have access to a composite, harmonized picture of their data they will soon be surpassed by competitors and left behind. The future of digital marketing rests upon the shoulders of data harmonization. Surely, marketing service providers know this to be true.


Optimization and Obstacle

Only through data harmonization can businesses finally optimize, fully, their hard-won data and make it pay its full dividends. The benefits of having a comprehensive, unified data picture; this “single source of truth” are immense and wide-ranging and are capable of impacting business success at almost any and every level. Yet, while it is integral and fundamental to the future of business and marketing, data harmonization is not easy to achieve. The process(es) required to transform raw data into harmonized data is highly complex and time-consuming, with data sometimes having to undergo up to 60 distinct operations before it is harmonized. Consider just a few of the most obvious of these operations: data sources must be selected, patterns must be set, data must be cleaned, and disparate data sources must be enabled to communicate and talk to each other. The list goes on, and marketing service providers are expected to know and be able to execute that list from top to bottom.


The Grooming Process(es)

There is, not yet, a magic machine that can instantly transform raw data into harmonized data. In fact, there can be no data harmonization until the rules of the game are set; until the desired data is selected and has patterns to adhere to. The overarching process through which data undergoes these and other operations is known as ETL (Extraction, Transformation, and Loading). In lieu of that “magic machine”, the approaches, methods, and solutions to ETL (and ultimately data harmonization) are almost as vast as the data it seeks to harmonize. While data extraction may be achieved manually by skilled (and devoted) marketing analysts, data transformation gets sticky, complex and requires countless time-consuming operations centered around refinement and organization. These are the nuts and bolts that demand specialization and expertise, as it is during this transformation phase that data is aggregated, cleansed, filtered, integrated, validated, and split. Note that even a single error occurring in any of these operations can lead to a compromised outcome; an inaccurate or misleading data picture that can wind up costing businesses severely. While ETL is the critical overarching process behind data harmonization, it must be enacted with attentiveness and grace. In 2023, businesses will expect their marketing service providers to have precisely these qualities.


The Longest Journey…

Starts with data preparation—an unpleasant, time-draining process that is the first precursor to data harmonization. Even if an ETL solution can automate some of the most routine processes, work is always going to remain for data analysts before that solution can be utilized. Put frankly, data harmonization is still filled with a lot of grunt work, and that’s before the real work can even begin.


Make the Call to Answer the Call

“Data Harmonization” has a nice ring to it. It’s a clean, neat term that belies the difficulty lying beneath it. Yet, that little term represents the future of digital marketing, and businesses will soon be clamoring for that “single source of truth”; for someone to organize their immense amounts of data into a clear and cohesive picture. Marketing service providers must be able to answer that call. To do that, they might consider first making one.


Finding Help

If you’re a marketing service provider looking for insight, increased efficiency, or instruction in order to deliver data harmonization to your clients, find a company that has made marketing data their primary business. The work required to harmonize marketing data that comes in tons of different forms from tons of different sources is complicated and time-consuming. But with the right partner, it can be less so. Making marketing data our business means a company like Aqfer has foreseen the demand for data harmonization and has created solutions to make it easier.