The idea of a Customer Data Platform (CDP) has been around since 2013, when David Raab originally coined the term. Fast forward five years to today and industry pundits are predicting that 2018 will be the year of the CDP RFP.\nSo, how is it possible that we still don\u2019t have a standard definition for what a CDP is and what it isn\u2019t?\nThe evolution of the term and its ongoing ambiguity created the perfect storm of confusion (beyond the acronym alphabet soup).\nEarly definitions resembled that of a traditional Data Management Platform (DMP). The only true difference was that a CDP had the technical chops to appropriately handle Personally Identifiable Information (PII). As a result, many DMPs pivoted to a CDP-like model to stay ahead of the trend. Couple that with a number of data vendors entering the market with Frankensteined solutions and you can start to understand what\u2019s made it so hard to discern the difference between a native CDP and a copycat.\nHere are five questions you need to ask to cut through the confusion and ensure that the CDP you\u2019re considering is really a CDP.\n1. Can the technology ingest both streaming and batch data regardless of speed, type, volume, format and variety?\nIt must capture all of this all the time\u2026no excuses.\n2. Can it manage PII in real-time through the construction and management of a Customer Golden Record?\nA customer Golden Record is comprised of two parts:\n\nThe contact graph. This graph maintains every touchpoint or proxy identity that a customer has presented to a brand as himself\/herself. It links and keys the information in a persistent and evolutionary way. A graph can include a customer\u2019s phone number, email address, cookies, social handles, machine ID\u2019s (for IoT) and home address. What exactly is needed in a contact graph will vary from brand to brand.\nThe transactional record. This is all the relevant behavioral or enhancement data, predictive models, RFM (recency, frequency and monetary) analyses and lifetime value scores associated with a customer. In other words, it\u2019s anything that describes a customer in a useful manner that will help the brand.\n\n3. Can the Golden Record be updated in minutes, seconds or on demand?\nAll data must be available immediately to all systems, both internal and external, via web service and APIs.\n4. Is it deployable on any type of data technology or engine, SQL, No-SQL or hybrid environments?\nThis capability is optional but preferable.\n5. Does it have complete Agile Master Data Management (MDM) capabilities so the user can truly curate the data as needed for the business?\nThis is also an optional capability, but it\u2019s important to ask.\nPut simply, a CDP is a new data machine and its requirements are largely defined by digital engagements, typically executed in real time. What do I mean by digital engagement? I adhere to Rusty Warner\u2019s (Principal Analyst at Forrester) definition which says that a digital engagement is \u201cThe ability to identify and capture context.\u201d If enterprises want to turn these digital engagements into something intelligent, they must employ analytics. This means their data machine must contain everything that is known about a customer\u2014every previous engagement, every immediate update, and all streaming data. The machine must keep up with the real-time cadence of a customer and have sufficient detail for the use of predictive analytics.\nWhen you consider what I\u2019ve described above, one thing is certain, there is nothing traditional that fits the bill perfectly except a CDP. A CDP represents the \u2018New Data Order\u2019 that will serve as the foundation for enterprise\u2019s digital transformation by creating transformative digital experiences that are guided by real-time and technology-mediated interactions. If you answered \u2018No\u2019 to any of the questions posed above, it\u2019s not a true CDP. Plain and simple.