When every company was rushing to get online during the dot-com boom, the focus was on getting there as quickly and easily as possible.tumblr_n56n95EEVT1sfie3io1_1280

There wasn’t much consideration for future-proofing, or even how to scale. Get there, the thinking went, and figure out the rest later. But when that “figure out the rest later” stage hit, companies outsourced technology and talent to scale faster. (Again, that “need for speed” thing.)

The limitations were there, of course – if you went with a vendor, you were locked into their technology, their enhancement schedules, and their talent pools.

In a lot of ways, the maturation process from the dot-com knee-jerk is still continuing.

This time, though, it’s not about the technology or talent. It’s about the data.

We’re now seeing a trend among companies to take back their data. And, in doing so, they’re also taking back their marketing strategies.

Those teams that built out in-house teams and in-house technologies (like CMS, CRM, and analytics), but relied on partners to analyze their data have struggled to get a better pulse on who their customers are and what they need. And that’s because outsourcing pieces of the marketing strategy puzzle returns you a result that’s equally as piecemeal.

So, what’s the answer?

Don’t go fire your partners and have the fire hose of data hit your office. That’s not necessarily the answer. Instead, start by becoming a peer in the process and evaluating your partners in the context of these three aspects: Do they mentor you? Do they coach you? Do they enable you to take control of your data?

By conducting this audit, you can learn whether your partnerships are empowering you – or if you’re simply relying on outside help to drive an integral part of your marketing strategy.

Spend time evaluating your data, too.

You likely have data in your ecosystem that you didn’t know you were collecting, and the same is likely able to be said for your partners. So, don’t be surprised if you feel overwhelmed. Try to not let that happen.

As you take these steps, you want to be asking yourself whether the data is valuable to you, and whether you can use it going forward. If you don’t want it, don’t worry about it.

In my last article for ClickZ, I wrote about first- and third-party data sources and their places in real-time data access and immediate marketing impact. This message isn’t any different. Find the data that’s valuable to you, ensure you have access to it, and use it to build a strategy. Your brand depends on it.

Editor’s Note: This blog post originally appeared in ClickZ, where Nathan is a guest columnist.

Tug of war photo courtesy of New Old Stock.