Grand Designs: “The Warehouse to CDP conversion”

This week, former (solutions) architect Kelvin McCloud accompanies BigCorp's Jan and Joe, as they attempt to convert their derelict data warehouse into a thoroughly modern CDP.

Opening scene: A large meeting room at BigCorp. A systems architecture diagram with lots of boxes and arrows flowing from left to right fills a large whiteboard. Kelvin joins Jan (marketing director) and Joe (Head of Analytics and Insight) at the table, earnest expression, hands clasped in front of him.

Kelvin: So, Jan, Joe, tell me a bit about the history of the warehouse

Joe: Well, going way back, it was originally an on-prem system, which Flo and Fran – our predecessors – replaced back in 2019 with an Oracle data warehouse

Jan: It’s full of crap to be honest, haha. We have to go to IT to get anything done – and nobody uses it apart from this one dashboard

Joe: Somebody uses that??


They all laugh. Kelvin stands and walks to the whiteboard. Jan and Joe follow. Kelvin motions at the diagram with a flourish.

Kelvin:  So, who’s the mastermind behind all this? 

Jan: Joe’s architected it mostly himself – and actually plans to project manage it too, which should save us some money.

Joe: I’m treating Jan as if she’s my internal customer. And she’s certainly a demanding one! Haha

Jan: Seriously, we’re held back by our data right now. And everyone on the team seems to think a CDP is the answer. All this talk of orchestration, omni-channel, personalised customer experiences… I wouldn’t mind if they could tell me which of our channels are working!

Kelvin points to the boxes on the left hand side of the diagram on the whiteboard. 

Kelvin: I just love the ambition of this project – web and app data, ads data, social, search, CRM, SAP? Amazing! How did you go about getting consent to use all of this customer data?

Awkward silence. Joe and Jan look at each other.

Joe: I think Jan was taking care of all that with the privacy team.

Jan: I thought you were looking into it.

Kelvin: Ahem… Now every build has its crowning glory – what’s the feature you’re most excited about?

Joe: Well, we’re going to be creating custom connectors for all of these data sources

Jan: Haha, Joe and his connectors!

Joe: We looked at some off the shelf solutions but in my experience a bit of extra up-front effort could save us a lot of money in the long run

Kelvin: Of course you know what I’m going to ask next. What have you budgeted for the project? And when will you go live?

Jan: We absolutely have to have this in place before Christmas – it’s our busiest season.

Joe: We’ve had to go cap-in-hand and beg and borrow from a couple of other teams, but I’m confident we’ll be fine. Trust the process!

Kelvin: I have to take my hat off to you guys. This is incredibly brave.


Cut to Kelvin walking towards camera through the actual warehouse of BigCorp, fingers steepled in front of his chest..

Kelvin: For Joe and Jan this endeavour is akin to embroidering delicate, digital lace onto a well-worn, industrial fabric. Their artisan aspirations are commendable, but the threads of reality seem extraordinarily tenuous.

Nine months later 

Kelvin joins Jan and Joe back at the same BigCorp meeting table. Both are looking pale, drawn and exhausted. A crude drawing of male genitalia has appeared on top of the solution architecture diagram.

Kelvin: Jan, Joe, tell me: how’s it going?

Awkward silence before Jan and Joe start speaking simultaneously.

Jan: Well it took us three months to sort out the consent issue

Joe: Haha, yeah and by then of course Apple and Meta had changed their policies

Jan: Then when we started looking at the data we realised it was all a complete mess

Joe: To be fair, we really couldn’t have anticipated that – you just don’t know what you’re going to find until you “take up the floorboards”

Jan: The devs were pulled on to a big replatforming project, so getting any resource on this has been a nightmare to be honest

Joe: Then the startup we’d selected for the identity resolution piece went bust! 

Jan: And of course all Jeff asks about is AI – he’s obsessed, hahaha

Kelvin: So have you actually got any data in yet? 

Joe and Jan: Err, no.


Cut to Kelvin, Jan and Joe sat in front of a screen displaying BigCorp’s ecommerce store. It’s already dark outside. Snow can be seen softly falling through the window.

Kelvin: I know you wanted to be in before Christmas. What’s driving your marketing right now? And how are you doing for budget?

Jan: We’re making do with a Looker Studio dashboard that Joe’s connected to a Google sheet. We call it the Pile of Sheet – haha – but it’s actually pretty good – once it actually loads!

Joe: Fair to say we’re eating into our contingency budget, properly chomping actually, but it’s all so exciting. We’re very excited.

Kelvin smiles smugly, then turns to Jan and gives her a slightly creepy once-over. As the camera pans away, we notice for the first time she has a visible bump.

Kelvin: And you’ve had some other exciting news, Jan? When’s the new arrival due?

Jan: Around Easter, about a month before we hope to go live. But I’m planning to keep working right up till then.

Kelvin: Amazing.


Cut to Kelvin, in an uncomfortably deep squat next to a BigCorp sign on a grassy mound near the car park. 

Kelvin: This Customer Data Platform is emerging as a kaleidoscope, where each fragment of the old structure refracts into a spectrum of modern possibilities. Jan and  Joe are painting a futuristic mural on an ancient, flaking wall. Their artistic ambition is admirable, but one can’t help but wonder if the paint will hold.

Another 9 months elapse

Kelvin presses the entry buzzer at BigCorp. Joe and Jan welcome him into the foyer. Both are visibly older. Joe has grown a silver-streaked beard. Jan wears glasses. The three share an uncomfortable embrace.

Kelvin: Joe, Jan, tell me about life with your new CDP

Jan: Well, it’s still a bit of a work in progress, but by the time summer came around we really felt we really had to get out of that damn sheet and start using it

Joe: Yeah, right now we’ve got three data sets in using this great off-the-shelf tool we found. Unfortunately it doesn’t support the other 13

Kelvin: Marvellous. And what are you actually doing with it? 

Jan: Well, there’s loads of exciting stuff planned. We’re really excited about it

Joe: For now we just have this Looker Studio dashboard

They proudly show Kelvin the dashboard, which features some filters and a very colourful plot chart.

Kelvin: Unbelievable. So, you’re finally able to understand what’s working and what’s not and you’re making the big decisions you always dreamed of.

Jan and Joe exchange a look. Silence.

Kelvin: You started out with a budget of £200,000. How much did you actually end up spending?

Joe: It’s fair to say the project has expanded in scope along the way so it’s very difficult to say – there’s some new AI features and bolt-ons Jan’s really excited to be trialling next year

Jan: About double that so far

Kelvin: And big news for you personally, I believe Joe?

Joe: Yes – I’ve actually taken up the offer of a new job at BiggerCorp. I learnt so much through this project – mostly about what not to do, hahaha!

Kelvin: So Jan, it’s all on you now, what’s next on the roadmap?

Jan: Well, the coffers are empty and there’s a headcount freeze, so we’re going to have to wait until next financial year to free up funds. Plus we just found out this morning that Jeff has signed a multi-million dollar contract with Accenture for a big data transformation initiative. They’re actually kicking off their six month discovery phase next week. 187 stakeholder interviews! It’s really exciting.


Cut to Kelvin walking away from the BigCorp office, a drone shot pulls away to reveal a panoramic view of the building with Joe and Jan waving from the front entrance. Kelvin holds his arms out wide.

Kelvin: Transforming a dull, lifeless data warehouse into a living, breathing customer data platform has been like a pair of alchemists turning lead into gold. The CDP a time capsule burst open, its contents – once static and forgotten – are now sparkling with the future promise of rich insights and dazzling activations.

Closing credits

Make sure you join Kelvin again in next week’s Grand Designs as he follows Bo and Ben as they roll out their data democratisation initiative across 17 European markets, arming 1300 every-day users with actionable insights.

And if you’d like to know how things might have worked out differently for Jan and Joe if they’d worked with Measurelab, take a look at our iterative approach to building CDPs here. 

Written by

Steve is Measurelab's Managing Director and self-styled growth guru. When he's not out riding his bike, he's mostly busy plotting how we can take over the analytics world.

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