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Author's profile photo Stephen Hallinan

What is a Customer Data Platform?

Customer Data Platforms have been on the rise in the CRM market in terms of a set of capabilities to manage customer data. This article takes a look at this emerging customer need.

CDP as a sub-domain of CRM

To put it simply, the Customer Data Platform (CDP) is an emerging sub-domain of CRM. The need for a centralised set of services, KPI’s and decision support tooling for omni-channel customer operations has been on the rise for a few years, taking various forms, and sometimes demanding more than is currently available from existing customer data management toolsets in the Identity and Marketing domains. Given the changes in customer behaviour in terms of online brand engagement and transactions, and the resulting changes to the usage of the customer records in traditional CRM systems, the need for this defined product category has emerged as somewhere to bundle all these requirements and desired capabilities, at least in the short term.

Core Capabilities

So what are these capabilities ? If we look at the Forrester research group’s current take on the CDP, they state it should generally cater for:

  • identity resolution,
  • data hygiene,
  • cross-channel orchestration

The caveat is that this is an emerging domain, so there is a lot of flexibility in terms of what can be offered and how it is offered to meet the customer demand. We could expand this capability set to look like:

  • Identity management, trust and consent, identity exchange
  • Data quality management of the customer and associated records
  • Historical customer data to power omni-channel personalisation
  • Customer 360 dashboards and frameworks to build other decision support tooling
  • AI and ML powered insight, data lake integration, audience discovery/targeting
  • API integration for other applications in the customer landscape

These capabilities also map directly to announcements SAP CX competitors such as Adobe and Salesforce have made in this area, although reading between the lines of their announcements for the moment the focus is more on repurposing existing applications in Identity/authentication and Marketing insight rather than anything truly ground-breaking.

SAP CX Customer Data Platform Capabilities

So how does this translate to what is offered by SAP CX and its direction for Customer Data Platforms? For a start, we are not going to limit the requirements to Customer data, as we recognise what is needed is consistency right across the front-office for all key data types. Second, SAP CX is already positioned as a leader in the respective Identity and Marketing data management platforms with the solutions:

  • SAP Customer Data Cloud
  • SAP Marketing Cloud

Third, we have built a serverless extension platform, to further connect and extend these applications, as each customer will have different requirements in this emerging space. It is the SAP Cloud Platform Extension Factory and is freely available with any SAP CX cloud subscription. This will allow customer to build additional dashboards, API’s and call other Customer oriented services on the API hub, such as services for Data Quality Management. Overall the capability in this new space is strong and customers will be technically insured against the changing demands of managing customer data with SAP CX technology.


Updated : April 2021

As of Q4 2020 we have launched the SAP Customer Data Platform .

The SAP CDP covers all the core capabilities described above. In the next instalment of this series, I will discuss how SAP Customer Data Management as a whole enables customers to deploy a data-driven customer experience strategy, and deliver on a unified customer profile


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