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What is data orchestration?

Published Dec 1 2023 6 minute read Last updated May 9 2024
data orchestration
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  • Sean Dougherty
    Written by Sean Dougherty

    A copywriter at Funnel, Sean has more than 15 years of experience working in branding and advertising (both agency and client side). He's also a professional voice actor.

Watch an orchestra, and you'll notice the conductor waving a wand around, pointing it at sections, and encouraging the musicians to either restrain themselves or go full tilt for a bombastic sound. They're likely pouring sweat. This is the musician's equivalent of running an ultramarathon!

The conductor has a lot more responsibilities than you probably know. Their work goes much beyond throwing their arms around like they've lost their minds. While the untrained eye might not see it, they're keeping the beat for everyone in the orchestra, communicating the composer's intention to the players, and queueing different sections to add their sounds at precise moments.

Exactly what does any of this have to do with data orchestration? A lot!

With data orchestration in marketing, you're the conductor controlling information flowing through data pipelines from sources to destinations. When done correctly, you reap data orchestration benefits that:

  • Eliminate data silos
  • Make data governance and data access easier for your marketing and data team members
  • Bring together disparate data sources into the data platform you prefer
  • Improve data management and visibility
  • Enable efficient machine learning for big data
  • Reduce human error that interferes with data analysis and business intelligence

And that's just where the benefits of data orchestration start!

Now, grab your digital conductor's wand and prepare to learn how you can use data orchestration to make your marketing campaigns more effective than ever.


What data orchestration means

In practice, data orchestration can mean slightly different things depending on how you plan to use data to improve your marketing campaigns. Just like orchestra conductors who adapt their approach according to the composition, marketing campaigns often rely on slightly different approaches to data orchestration.

In a broad sense, data orchestration means taking advantage of tools available to the modern data stack so you can collect, standardize, store, and analyze data without relying on a lot of manual processes. It's like the conductor deciding whether it makes sense to queue the string instruments or woodwinds to make the music come to life.

Read more: What is the modern data stack?


For example, you might use data pipelines to collect information from multiple sources, standardize the data into a single format, place the reformatted data in a warehouse, and load it to your favorite business intelligence tools.

Most of this would happen automatically to save you time and give you deeper insights into how you can adapt your marketing strategy to get better results.

Note that, while data orchestration often includes automated processes, it shouldn't take control away from you or your team. No matter what tools you recruit, you are the conductor. If an application doesn't give you significant control, it probably doesn't belong in your data stack. That would be like having a first-chair violinist who doesn't follow the conductor's lead. It just doesn't work out for anyone.


Why businesses need data orchestration

Today's businesses only thrive when they know how to use data to their advantage. A successful data orchestration strategy should give businesses the following:

  • A single source of truth everyone from sales professionals to marketers can access
  • Improved operational efficiency that saves time and money
  • Better data literacy and democratization that helps everyone understand what the data means
  • Improved security that protects customer data and proprietary information
  • More successful collaborations between teams, including sales and marketing teams

What, you don't think sales and marketing professionals can bridge the gap that often separates them? Learn how to avoid that issue and get better results by reading How marketing and sales can work better together.


Data orchestration tools

Data orchestration tools can give you control over data collection, formatting, storage, and analysis. What types of data orchestration tools should you add to your modern data stack? Make sure you spend some time exploring products and services that fall within these four categories.

1) Data pipelines

Data pipelines can connect diverse data sources to a centralized repository, such as a data warehouse or data lake. For example, you might use data pipelines to collect information from your:

  • Social media channels
  • Pay-per-click ad campaigns
  • Landing pages
  • E-commerce accounts

Flexible data collection pipelines help you avoid siloed data that can interfere with data integration and analytics. Scattered and siloed data makes it nearly impossible for marketing teams to base decisions on accurate information. Breaking down data silos, however, improves democratization and access. Pipelines put you in control instead of forcing you to wait for an IT team to grant access to the marketing and business data you need.

Your data pipelines can also contribute to automated data orchestration. Instead of following manual processes to collect information from each source, you can set automated tasks that pull data from select sources with little to no oversight. It saves you time and helps you avoid human error.

Further reading: Top marketing data sources for a data & insights drive strategy

2) Tools for data transformation

Effective data orchestration often depends on putting all of your information into a standard format. Your data pipelines can pull all kinds of data from different sources. It doesn't help much, though, when you can't use analysis tools to compare the data correctly.

Imagine you're conducting an orchestra, but all of the instruments are tuned to different notes. As the musicians play, they make nothing but noise. You'll only get chaos until you take the time to tune all of the instruments to work in harmony with each other.

Data transformation does that work for you by taking complex data and standardizing it to meet your current needs.

Most data transformation tools standardize the information before loading it into data warehouses or other repositories. This helps ensure you have clean, organized data you can easily move from storage to your data analysis tools. It's like making sure every instrument in the orchestra is tuned to the right notes.

Popular data transformation tools include:

  • Funnel – our favorite because it automatically and quickly standardizes data without asking you to write any code (and, you know, because we made it!)
  • dbt – a powerful tool that scales easily but requires quite a bit of technical know-how
  • Matillion – a strong data orchestration and transformation tool that works well for mid-sized marketing teams

Further reading: Which data transformation tools are best for digital marketers?

3) Data analysis tools

Companies collect massive amounts of data. So much so that you could never analyze it correctly without the data analysis tools that use machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to drill down into the information and find meaningful insights.

Our favorite data analysis tools do more than crunch numbers. They visualize data so you can understand it at a glance. 

Data analytics tools with excellent visualization features include:

  • Google Sheets – a simple application that easily connects with other Google products
  • Looker Studio – a free, no-code tool also made by Google
  • Tableau – a powerful visualization tool that can generate interactive reports

Further reading: The best data visualization tools – according to Funnel

4) Data storage systems

Just like a conductor needs sheet music, you need a reliable place to store information pertinent to your marketing campaigns. 

Cloud computing makes it much easier to store data today than in the past. You don't need to use an on-site database that could malfunction and lose all of your critical information. You just create a data pipeline that connects your data sources to your preferred destination.

A modern data stack might include data storage systems options like:

Marketers can benefit from Funnel's data storage solution because it:

  • Lets them import up to two years of historical data
  • Automatically updates data as it becomes available
  • Meets or exceeds today's data governance and security standards
  • Complies with GDPR and CCPA regulations to protect customer data

Further reading: What is a data warehouse?


Data orchestration platforms for specific use cases

Businesses typically struggle when they don't have reliable, efficient data orchestration tools. Choosing the right data orchestration platforms can make a huge difference by streamlining processes and giving you deeper insights into your marketing campaigns.

Plenty of companies rely on Funnel as their go-to data orchestration platform because it was built to match the needs of marketing professionals.

We have ample case studies to prove it!

Mediaschneider boosts efficiency and satisfies clients

Before Mediaschneider added Funnel to its data stack and took control of its data orchestration, it struggled to move data from a broad range of sources to three destinations. It's an understandable frustration, especially considering how many companies must collect data from Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Search Ads 360... The list of essential sources seems to get longer every year.

Even when Mediaschneider managed to keep up with data collection, human error made it impossible for them to trust their analytics. It's like they could hear someone in the orchestra playing the wrong note. But how do you pinpoint the out-of-tune instrument?

Funnel solved these problems almost immediately. Aarketers can take deep dives into even more advanced analytics and clients are happier than ever. 

As a bonus, the company now saves more than 7,500 man-hours per year. 

FREE NOW lowered its costs by €1.2 million

FREE NOW is one of Europe's top mobility platforms. People use it to get rides and rent e-scooters. It's like a super version of Uber.

Things were going great for FREE NOW. The company had expanded into 16 markets and served people in over 150 cities. Then, that success started creating challenges.

Once marketers had to manage campaigns in 10 markets, they realized they were spending a ton of money collecting and analyzing data. Running that many campaigns in Europe means contending with different languages, cultures, and currencies (there's no chance Britain will adopt the Euro anytime soon). 

They also had to deal with different regulations from country to country. You can't expect Barcelona to set the same expectations as Dublin. They're just two very different places with unique needs.

After partnering with Funnel, FREE NOW saw their expenses start to fall. The company became more agile and spent less money on manual data processes. 

Within three years, Funnel helped FREE NOW cut its costs by €1.2 million.

That's the power of effective data orchestration!



What are the stages of data orchestration?

Data orchestration is a flexible concept, so users might adapt their approach to match their unique needs. Typically, though, you can expect data orchestration to include three stages:

  • Collection
  • Transformation
  • Analysis

Some data engineers and other professionals consider storage a fourth stage of data orchestration.

How does data orchestration benefit marketers?

Marketers who embrace reliable data orchestration tools often benefit from:

  • Cleaner data integration data that collects information from diverse sources
  • Automated processes that save time and reduce human error
  • Fewer data bottlenecks that prevent them from seeing the big picture
  • Clearer analytics they can use to make campaigns more effective
  • Easy-to-understand reports that impress managers, even when they don't have many data skills

Are you ready to see how Funnel can improve your data orchestration process? 

Sign up for free to experience the benefits that have helped so many marketers reach their goals!


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