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Discoveries: “X” Marks The Data Model

The definition of “discovery” commonly reads along the lines of “didn’t know before,” or “not known previously,” or sometimes, “for the first time.” 

In the marketing technology space, we go through the discovery process with all of our prospective customers to better understand what existing data they have and what their true end goals are with their Salesforce solutions. And oftentimes for us, the things that we “discover” often fall under the “for the first time” definition of “discovery.”

One of Lev’s Solution Architects compares the discovery process to his imaginary adventures as a kid. “In my younger years, these adventures were exciting. The possibility of going off someplace I had never been before, like a deep-sea adventure for hidden treasure, or like Indiana Jones on an archaeological expedition. I can remember the vast worlds that our imaginations vividly designed for us, and the story-line plots that played out.”

Fast forward to today, and he now sees endless possibilities as he explores customer data and goes through discoveries to uncover what potential treasures (or obstacles) await.

Like the detailed treasure maps that often accompanied his play as a child, he remembers  “scrolls” with burned edges that contained the names of artifacts to be found. These were the key tools of an adventurer, outside of the occasional “pretend” whip or spear. To bridge the gap to his role now as a Solution Architect, he compares his technical skill set to his tools that became essential in this treasure hunting process.

Maps, in the marketing technology space, are now visual diagrams of any data flow process. All teams should have a sketch, diagram, or official flow chart representation of their current state of data flow. Having a “map” of data flows can help any “outsider” or non-data person quickly understand how information flows within an organization. Even if it’s only comprised of dots and arrows, a visual representation of a data flow is necessary to successfully communicate the path to “X” on the map.

Secondly, any good treasure hunt needs a scroll. Think of scrolls as lists. How can any archaeological expedition be a success unless you have a list of what you’re looking for, or what you found? Scrolls should be used in conjunction with a map. Every source of data should be held within a list somewhere, with its respective description. 

Something fun about a list is that you don’t have to remember what’s on it. What if you forgot what you were looking for on your expedition? What if the storyline is interrupted because your parents told you it was dinner time? The adventure always continues when everyone knows the objectives and sources. 

This may sound silly to associate digital data, integrated systems, and business requirements to childhood fantasy playtimes. However, if you know your data model, how much time has been spent verbally describing it? How much would you save if you presented a map and scroll to someone who’s a new hire or a consultant? 

If time equals money, what amount can you place on a more efficient, data-driven conversation with the Sales, Marketing, and/or Executive team? 

Sometimes, the simplest things make the most sense, because “if you take care of the cents, the dollars will take care of themselves.”