Eric T. Peterson is the founder of Web Analytics Demystified, Inc. and the author of Web Analytics Demystified, Web Site Measurement Hacks, and The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators. Mr. Peterson frequently presents on web analytics, is often cited in articles about digital measurement, and has been blogging on the subject since 2004.
What you may not know is that I’m also a huge fan of basketball.
This time of the year, when the NBA playoffs are in full swing, is my favorite time of the year. Spring is coming in Oregon, summer vacation is approaching for my kids, and some of the greatest athletes in the world are hammer the boards and performing acts of acrobatic magic, all in an effort to get to the next round.
During last year’s playoffs I started thinking about how similar digital analytics is to basketball and running a championship NBA franchise. Both require great owners, leaders, and coaches. Both depend heavily on star talent. And both have the potential to become transformative for businesses, shareholders, and customers.
A few months back I went with that theme and put together a short presentation. I had the pleasure of giving that presentation at our recent ACCELERATE conference, and I have embedded it below for your viewing pleasure. It’s only about 20 minutes long, so just in case you’re not a fan of the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan, well, you only have to listen to me extol their greatness for 20 minutes …
If you agree with me and think that analytics is a lot like basketball, but if you struggle in your company to meet some of the criteria I outlined, go ahead and give me a call. I’m always happy to talk about analytics and basketball, and who knows, maybe my company can help yours!
On Tuesday at the Emetrics Summit the Web Analytics Association membership awarded Web Analytics Demystified a 2012 Award for Excellence and dubbed us the “Most Influential Agency” in the digital measurement sector. We are incredibly honored by the award but there are a few folks I forgot to thank at the event that Adam, Brian, John, and I wanted to recognize:
Our wives and families, without whom we would not be able to do the work we do
Our clients, whose continued support keeps us participating in some amazing analytics around the world
Our partners, including Keystone Solutions, IQ Workforce, and eClerx, whose own leadership makes our work better
Our sponsors for Web Analytics Wednesday, Analysis Exchange, and ACCELERATE allow us to expand our footprint
Our friends throughout the digital measurement, analysis, and optimization community around the world, especially April Wilson who wrote a really nice nomination letter for us
While Web Analytics Demystified can be a facilitator and catalyst for great events, experiences, and engagements, we are only successful because we get such incredible help and support from the community. From each of us to all of you, thank you!
A lot of the conversations I have been having with my peers lately have been about change in our industry. In a nutshell, things seem to be heating up dramatically, especially in the past twelve months. Perhaps due to economic recovery, maybe because of the current hype cycle around “big data”, or possibly because companies are really starting to wake up to the power and value of digital measurement, analysis, and optimization. Regardless of why, it’s delightful to be smack in the middle of what I suspect will in retrospect be a Golden Age for analytical practitioners, technologies, and consultants.
Some tangible evidence of the increased interest in analytics can be found in our efforts at The Analysis Exchange. Just three months ago I blogged about the effort’s momentum, noting that we had “nearly 1,700 members and nearly 200 completed projects.” As of this morning Wendy reported that our membership had grown to over 2,000 members worldwide!
What’s more, after announcing our Analysis Exchange Scholarship Fund back in January, we have decided that everyone who participates in Analysis Exchange in January, February, and March of this year who earns a great score for their effort is eligible to apply for the Scholarship money. You can use it to go to Emetrics, ACCELERATE, join the WAA, pay for UBC classes, buy books, … pretty much anything related to digital measurement, analysis, and optimization!
So we need your help. If you want some “hand’s on” experience with web analytics, or if you want to help some great non-profits while giving back to your own analytics community, lend a hand and join the over 2,000 people worldwide who are members of the Analysis Exchange!
Back in 2007, on the subject of the evolution of the web analytics industry, I proffered that “If Web Analytics 1.0 was all about measuring page views to generate reports and define key performance indicators, and if Web Analytics 2.0 is about measuring events and integrating qualitative and quantitative data, then Web Analytics 3.0 is about measuring real people and optimizing the flow of information to individuals as they interact with the world around them.”
At the time I was thinking about the onset of digital ubiquity — an “always on” Internet that followed us everywhere we went and more or less knew where we were. Given the explosion of mobile devices and our near universal dependence on smartphones, location-based services, and digital personal assistants, the following comment seems almost quaint:
“Just think for a minute about how your browsing experience might change if the web sites you visited remembered you and delivered a tailored experience based on your demographic profile (theoretically available via your phone number), your browsing history (accurate because you’re not deleting your phone number) and your specific geographic location when you make the request?”
Essentially I envisioned a future where anonymous log files gave way to massive data stores that, given much of the data would be flowing from mobile devices that we kept on us at all times, would form a far more complete picture of each of us individually than Web Analytics 1.0 or 2.0 could ever hope to support. What’s more, when subject to enough processing power and computational wizardry, this data would support previously unimaginable levels of micro-targeting and content personalization, possibly knowing more about us than our own loved ones.
At the time I recall having conversations with one particularly smart individual who argued that this would never happen — that phone manufacturers and phone and Internet service providers would never allow this type of information to be used, much less in a commercial context. His argument was that this would be such an egregious violation of consumer privacy that, were this to happen, the government would inevitably step in and, fearing ham-fisted meddling by “luddite politicians” (his words, not mine), industry leaders would come together and attempt to offer at least some level of consumer protection, even if it would negatively impact their business models.
Turns out we were both right.
What I referred to as “Web Analytics 3.0″ is clearly the collection, analysis, and use of what is more commonly referred to as “Big Data” — an incredibly powerful source of information about consumers that can be used in an almost endless number of ways to power our new data economy. And, thanks to some spectacular mis-steps on the part of organizations, groups, and companies who should know better, “Big Data” is increasingly subject to regulation.
Still there are unknowns and subsequently risk coming down the pipe through the President’s “Bill of Rights.” Some things that I am particularly interested in knowing include:
Who decides which technologies will be subjected to browser-based “Do Not Track” directives?
Will “blocked” technologies be universally blocked? Or, like in P3P, is their a continuum of requirements?
Will “blocked” technologies be blocked across all participating browsers? Or will browser vendors decide individually?
Will “blocked” sessions be identified as such? And if so, will some minimal data still be available?
How will the Bill of Rights “guarantee” data security, transparency, respect for context, etc. as outlined by the President?
I suspect the answers to most of these questions are still being discussed. Still, the ramifications are important and there is an awful lot of conflict of interest inherent in the browser vendor’s participation. For example, if you’re Google and have made a pretty significant investment into Google Analytics, what is your motivation to block analytics tracking in your Chrome browser? Or perhaps you’re Microsoft and you have multiple initiatives to improve the quality of search and display advertising — all of which depend on some level of data collected via the browser — are you willing to prevent all of that in Internet Explorer?
It will be interesting to watch this play out.
For what it’s worth, at Web Analytics Demystified we have been thinking about the explosion in digital data collection and consumer privacy for a pretty long time. Going all the way back to that 2007 post on Web 3.0, and rolling forward to our work on the Web Analyst’s Code of Ethics and more recently our GUARDS Audit (with BPA Worldwide), Web Analytics Demystified strongly believes that consumer data is a valuable asset, one that needs to be treated with the upmost respect.
To that end, if your legal team or senior leadership are asking you about the data you collect and how you might be exposed based on how that data is being secured and used, you might be interested in Web Analytics Demystified GUARDS. In a nutshell, GUARDS is a comprehensive audit of your digital data collection landscape performed by auditors from BPA Worldwide designed to help leadership understand what data is collected, where, why, and how that data is being secured and ultimately used.
Either way, my partners and I at Web Analytics Demystified will be keeping a careful eye on this Bill of Rights, changes in the mobile data collection landscape, and the application of Do Not Track across modern browsers. I welcome your comments and feedback.
Adam, John, and I are incredibly excited to announce that industry veteran Brian Hawkins is joining Web Analytics Demystified to help us expand our offerings around testing, optimization, and personalization of all forms of digital communication. Brian is the most widely recognized expert in the field when it comes to Enterprise-class optimization and personalization technology, integration, and strategy. He comes to us from Offermatica by way of Omniture and Adobe, and we are delighted to build on our support for Adobe’s solutions, adding Brian’s expertise on Test&Target to Adam’s SiteCatalyst-related offerings.
Brian’s offerings at Demystified will look a lot like Adam’s — audits of current implementations, strategic planning for testing and optimization readiness, systems integration architecture and support, and planning support for the entire end-to-end process of site and application optimization in the Enterprise. While Brian’s technology expertise is strongest on Test&Target, his knowledge of what it takes from a teams, governance, and process perspective to be successful transcends platforms and I believe will incredibly valuable to any large business trying to become agile in their optimization efforts.
Brian is taking a little time off before getting started mid-month but I will be adding his blog, a description of his offerings, and more about him to the site very soon. Clients are welcome to contact us directly to set up time to meet Brian (and if you’re not a client you can call too, that is if you have any interest in testing, optimization, or personalization.)
Brian will be with us at Emetrics, Adobe’s Summit in Salt Lake City, and of course he will be presenting at our own ACCELERATE event in Chicago on April 4th. If you’re at any of these events and would like to meet or connect with Brian, please drop me a note.
We hope you will join us in welcoming Brian to the team.