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Microsoft Industry Blogs - United Kingdom

Across every conversation and every idea, AI dominated this year’s Future Decoded. From partner sessions to the unveiling of our exclusive report, ‘Accelerating competitive advantage with AI’, no-one could escape the technology and how it’s enabling businesses to do more.

Never was that more apparent than when I sat down with Michael Plimsoll, senior industry strategist at Adobe to discuss the future of AI. AI-driven customer experiences that are personalised, scalable, and compelling: that’s the goal as, together, Microsoft and Adobe are set to launch a joint pitch to increase collaboration.

‘Great AI needs great data,’ I told ouraudience. ‘One of the biggest pieces of work that we’ve undertaken at Microsoft in the UK has been around getting that single source of truth, that single source of customer data on which we can start to overlay some amazing tools and technology, some of those from Adobe.’


Changing how you collaborate

But, as I said, this ‘single source of truth’ is only attainable through collaboration. It demands teamwork between the marketing and IT teams – a fact highlighted in research undertaken by IDG for both our companies. The report showed that, in supporting future technology needs, a third of CIOs plan to team-up with the CMO.

I explained: ‘Actually to do that requires a great deal of collaboration across the business, not just in terms of clearly working with the IT team, and ensuring that the technology roadmap, the processes, the stack, the usage all works beautifully, but then ensuring that’s infused and integrated into the way our sellers work, and our product team work. Really what that needs is amazing collaboration.’

As you’d expect with us working so closely together, Michael agreed, adding: ‘Technology now just underpins everything we do and this is a fundamental shift Adobe made when we shifted from boxed products to cloud products.’

We no longer live in a world where products are launched every few years. Today, businesses must be agile, ready to adapt to a constantly changing marketplace.

‘[It’s] more about the value proposition and getting closer to the customer,’ Michael said. ‘As businesses adapt to that subscription model that consumers are asking for, the whole organisation has to change.’

In short: ‘This is why the coming together of the CIO and CMO, and even the CFO, is so important. To be part of this journey, as it is ubiquitous now across business.’


Data-driven landscape

This need for greater collaboration across disciplines is having a knock-on effect: your business, like many others, is no doubt witnessing a change in the demography of your marketing teams.

That’s not to say all marketers are transforming into data scientists. However, the team’s skillsets are evolving.

Gazing over the audience, I said, ‘There’s no doubt we’ve seen a big shift in the demographics in the make-up of marketing teams, in terms of data and operational prowess embedded in the heart of the way a marketing organisation works.’

I continued: ‘That doesn’t mean that marketing is no longer a creative force. It’s now underpinned with data. It’s now underpinned with a different mix of skill sets.’

On the subject of GDPR, Michael has been consistently bullish about its transformative effects. ‘It’s highlighted to the marketers the value and importance of the data,’ I said. ‘It’s no longer just IT’s responsibility to treat data responsibility, but everyone in the organisation. Everyone has to approach things with privacy by design. In that way I believe it has brought those teams together.’


Creating a true customer experience

However, this has led to a greater issue for many businesses – the problem of data silos. Information is independently created by several teams, leading to unnecessary and repeated data. That has a major impact of the customer experience when seamlessness should be the goal.

They aren’t talking to each other and that drives frustration for a customer. It’s a hugely competitive market today, irrespective of your industry, so I would encourage anyone to break down those silos. The need for businesses to collaborate and feel their collective responsibility to drive these outcomes is a prerequisite, not an option.

Customers feel data silos. We’ve all experienced them as consumers, having to answer the same questions as you move between departments, such as sales to customer service. These silos show up in many ways, they are all presenting unnecessary challenges to your customers, and eroding their brand experience with you.

Technologies mean, more so than ever, marketing’s ability to reach customers, to drive great experience, to acquire new customers, to maximise the customer’s lifetime value, at scale, done incredibly well based on data.

And that brings us right back to the start – because ‘great AI needs great data.’


About the author

Paul BoltPaul has over 20-years’ experience in the technology sector across a variety of VP and GM roles. Most recently, Paul was appointed as CMO at Microsoft UK after running their UK SMB business and sits as a NED on the board of a SaaS start-up. His passions lie in building engaging workplace cultures, understanding how technology drives transformation, collaboration and creates compelling customer experiences.