IT professionals have been dealing with ETL for decades but what does it have to do with marketing? One of Marketing’s fundamental responsibilities is to listen to the voice of the customer, and that voice comes in the form of data which is scattered across as many as a dozen data sources and systems.

Before data can begin to provide marketing intel it must be collected, combined, updated as new data is generated and analyzed. These steps represent 80% of the success or failure in data intelligence projects.

So what does ETL have to do with any of this? ETL stands for extract, transform & load, three database functions that are sometimes combined into one tool to pull data out of one data source and place it into another.

Extracting data involves moving data from the source system(s) and in many cases this represents the most important aspect of ETL because it sets the stage for future success.

During the data Transformation phase a series of rules or functions are applied to the data in order to prepare it for loading into an end target. Data not requiring any transformation is known as a “direct move” or “pass through” data.

The Loading phase loads data into the end-target and which may be a data warehouse or data mart. Data mart’s are a subset of the data warehouse and usually oriented to a specific business line or team. The loading process varies widely depending on project demands.

ETL can involve considerable complexity, and significant operational problems can occur with poorly executed processes. Taking the time to ensure that data is properly gathered and managed will ensure that your business is making the best decisions possible and not led astray by a poorly designed or executed ETL process.