Like many buzzwords, it loses meaning after years of abuse, but a "joined up" digital strategy - one which unifies disparate datasets - is essential to avoid the situation where your company's data management stays stuck in the days of filing cabinets and basement archives.
The real advantage of digital isn't in the fact that you can store vast amounts of data in a small place. It isn't even really in that you can access it more easily (although that's a great help and certainly one of the more obvious benefits). The advantage of digital is that in the hands of the right analyst, additional data have a multiplicative rather than additive impact on decision making.
Client management often falls over at the point where the client is handed from people tasked with dealing with one part of the lifecycle to those dealing with another - for example, from the sales team to the account management team. When mistakes happen, they're almost always the fault of a lack of communication, of important information not making the transition.
Breaking down the silos and joining up the data means that your teams can share the benefits of their work, can avoid repeating mistakes, and can make better informed decisions. This can range from the very basic (your sales team discovers that the client prefers to communicate via phone rather than email, the client manager can immediately take this on board) to the vastly more complex (data from technicians servicing a product after installation can be passed back to the design and manufacturing teams to iteratively improve the quality of the product).
When it comes to the web, analytics shouldn't be the sole purview of a few wonks in the marketing team trying to optimise the website. The insights they discover about customer behaviour and the information they gather about leads and clients should be shared to maximise its impact further down the chain, and integrated into the data available to other teams so that you can get the most out of each interaction.
When it comes to decision making, your gut can only take you so far; truly good decisions are backed up by insights drawn from data. Silos might have organisational benefits, but greatly restrict your worldview and the amount of available information. By contrast, a joined up approach to data means more of your people can make better decisions more of the time by sharing their insights and using their collective expertise.
Getting data out of physical files and onto file servers was a huge leap forward. But while we were doing that, we didn’t realise that we were recreating the digital equivalent. Our files may be online, but they sit by themselves in isolated silos. We have terabytes of data but in individual datasets scattered around the globe. Our customers don’t understand how hard it is to pull their information from all the different places it resides. They don’t appreciate that some of their files are in one department while the rest of it is in another. They have no clue of what a huge task it is to coordinate between different teams to respond to them or to customize a solution. And what’s more: they don’t care.