Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Connecting with Coremetrics

Here in Fort Worth, Texas at Coremetrics’ “How the Web Was Won” client summit, the theme is all Western. The keynote featured some Cowboy fun along with classic Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford video clips. But yesterday, the company was all business, announcing the introduction of their new technology integration platform, called Coremetrics Connect. While some may view this as playing catch-up to Omniture’s Genesis program and WebTrends’ Open Exchange, data integration is not something to rush into.

The platform was built on four tenets of closed loop marketing, which include: Extensible data delivery, Core APIs, Flexible reporting and Integration Wizards. Perhaps the most novel concept of the integration partnerships are the clearly defined documentation processes, integration briefs, best practice examples and full disclosure on what the integrations entail. This level of detailed explanation will be available for all technologies included in Coremetrics Connect, making the qualification process stringent, with hopes that this will pay off for ease of integration for clients. There are currently 25 qualified participants in the program, and more on the way. The Integration wizards (available in the Spring 2008 release) will allow marketers to simply select certified technologies from a list within the user interface and walk through the set-up process.

Coremetrics is careful to point out that Connect is not just another partner program, but a process for marketers to acquire behavioral data from adjacent technology applications, analyze the data and make actionable decisions. However, the differentiators between Connect, Genesis and Open Exchange are subtle, and they are not likely to cause clients to jump ship for another web analytics vendor. Yet, there’s quite enough going on within the Web analytics market to cause anxiety among clients. Coremetrics just Cowboy’d up to the Optimization table with their own integrated Digital Marketing solution.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Oh Just Quit Twittering About....!

I just don’t get it. I’ve tried to understand, but the whole Twitter concept escapes me. Why anyone would spend time updating their every move for all to see is beyond me. I acknowledge that the Internet is increasingly becoming a "lifestyle accessory" and escalating connectivity, which in turn fosters communication...but, please...I still don’t get it.

Long Live Independent Analytics!

Ian Thomas of Microsoft posted a forward looking piece called Web Analytics is dead. Long live Web Analytics, on Web Analytics Demystified that I responded to. While I can agree with some of his prognostications, I find the bulk of them preposterous.

Check out the blog posting and subsequent comments for some food for thought.

Monday, February 11, 2008

New Web Analytics Playah?

Web analytics may have a new kid on the block with the recent $3M in funding from WPP Group, that places NuConomy in the limelight. The company is a part of the Israeli Web Tour and has offices in Tel Aviv and San Francisco. Although their product is still in beta, the start-up is attempting to tackle some challenging analytics issues such as new media measurement and behavioral correlation. The reported killer feature is a two-way API enabling site operators to make changes automatically based on data generated by the tool.

Stay tuned for more on NuConomy…

Web Content Lifecycle On Demand

Clickability is an On Demand Web Content Management (WCM) platform that announced today new services delivered via the SaaS model. Infrastructure, Innovation and Support delivered as a service. Hmmmm…maybe I missed something, but isn’t support always delivered as a service? Infrastructure as a service (i.e., hosting, security, storage) and innovation on demand (i.e., best practices, open API’s and benchmarking) are not new concepts, yet Clickability is the first to wrap these key components of site management into one complete package and deliver on demand. One of the company goals is to empower marketers to do more with their content management solutions, while minimizing involvement from IT – and this solution is a strong move toward accomplishing that objective.

The merits of SaaS, often viewed as a small-market solution, are working their way up-stream. JupiterResearch data from our recent report, Web Content Management: Maintaining Process amid Change, shows that 12 percent of the market is currently using WCM solutions delivered as SaaS. Clickability offers Express, Professional and Enterprise editions, and is demonstrating its SaaS appeal with big-brand sites like USA Today, Wall Street Journal, PGA.com, and Gray Television on their client roster. The competitive field of WCM on demand vendors is small with only CrownPeak, Clickability and Omniture Publish offering pure WCM as SaaS solutions. Other vendors (e.g., PaperThin, Hot Banana) currently offer hybrid solutions allowing customers to choose from hosted or licensed versions of their solutions.

In addition to forging ahead with its SaaS initiatives for productivity, Clickability is also tuned into the environment benefits of hosted solutions as well. The company produced a Green Manifesto, detailing ways to reduce an organizations’ carbon footprint by adopting SaaS. While some may argue the finer points of this manifesto, I applaud Clickability for its commitment to their SaaS platform and for promoting green initiatives within big business.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Aberdeen Group Under Fire from WSJ Reporter

As a former Aberdeen Group employee and an industry analyst, I feel compelled to comment on the recent WSJ article by Lee Gomes criticizing Aberdeen’s integrity. The reporter challenged Aberdeen’s purported reformation from “pay-for-praise” to “sponsored research”, as relatively unchanged. While I don’t entirely disagree with Gomes’ claims, I take issue with the fact that his shortsighted article has the blogosphere questioning the merits of the entire technology research industry.

Aberdeen’s “fact-based” research is a thinly veiled ruse to provide vendors with third-party marketing collateral that supports their technology road maps and hidden sales agendas. This is no big secret, it's their business model! No vendor sponsors have direct input into the final documents and their names are not mentioned in the benchmark reports. Vendors do have an opportunity to weigh in on survey creation to potentially shape the direction of the findings, albeit subtle. Vendors are also encouraged to distribute the surveys to their customers to glean insight from their use of vendor technologies, which in turn serves to validate use of that technology. Yet, Aberdeen makes it abundantly clear that their research is distributed free of charge to all interested parties. The nothing-comes-for-free catch is fulfilled in the form of captured email address and a “lead” passed onto each vendor sponsor. While Aberdeen typically delivers nearly 1000 leads to each sponsor, the quality of these lists is dubious. Students, researchers, analysts and reporters consume research all day and would never be considered qualified prospects for any vendor sponsor. Numerous other consumers of this research may find value in the educational aspects, yet have no interest in a technology purchase. Aberdeen subjects recipients of its free research to email messages with near spam-like frequency. This is a fair-value trade for some, and minor annoyance for others. However, the lead generation aspects of the Aberdeen sponsorship programs are clearly and emphatically articulated to all prospects. This distinction separates Aberdeen’s model from all other subscription-based research firms.

So why did I leave the Aberdeen Group? I was conflicted by the sales emphasis placed on the research, which the company did not attempt to hide. An inter-office mantra was “What are you selling today?”, which applied equally to sales associates and analysts. This is one area where I took offense and felt compromised as an industry analyst. So much so, that I expressed my displeasure in the form of a resignation. As any analyst worth their salt will tell you, there is generally a separation between sales and research that is akin to church and state. This distinction did not exist at the Aberdeen Group during my tenure. In fact, analysts were encouraged to “sell” sponsorships and were accountable for sales numbers. Sales pressure was spread throughout the office on a constant basis extending beyond quarterly milestones, to monthly publication deadlines placed on the benchmark reports. If sponsors were not secured for reports they did not publish and quotas were missed, which held financial repercussions for sales and analysts alike. The sales tactics at Aberdeen were strong to say the least. As an analyst I was often embarrassed by the high pressure sales techniques. While not all sales executives practiced questionable tactics, my experience soured me.

To Aberdeen’s credit, they do have a robust methodology founded on strict Best-in-Class qualification criteria that was grilled into analysts by Aberdeen’s former CEO, Jamie Bedard. Unfortunately for them, 2006 and 2007 produced a revolving door of analyst departures due to sales pressures and strong-arm tactics. Since his appointment to President of the Aberdeen Group in June 2007, Steve Gold has made great strides to change the internal structure within Aberdeen. His retort to Lee Gomes was poignant and accurate. While I maintain a great deal of respect for the leaders and analysts at the Aberdeen Group, they do walk the fine line between white paper for hire company and industry analyst firm. Lee Gomes, however, appears to have discrediting Aberdeen on his agenda. While his own reputation as an instigator was established by criticizing the Long Tail theory, I won't hold my breath for an Aberdeen retraction.

This brings me to the degradation of industry analysts as a whole. While I do not purport to know more than many experts in their respective technology fields, I am diligent about the research I conduct and publish. This was true during my time at the Aberdeen Group and even more so now at JupiterResearch. From my vantage point as an industry analyst I have the good fortune to preview and evaluate many vendor technologies that enable me to identify industry trends. I take this responsibility very seriously. I also conduct formal consumer and executive surveys and talk to a wide variety of technology experts, users and developers. The research, both qualitative and quantitative, shapes my opinions and informs my writing. My internal publishing procedures are subject to critical data review, editorial fact-checking and rigorous peer review. Some may perceive industry analyst research as subjective. While I do not claim to produce empirical evidence of technology merits, I do help companies make informed decisions based on my deep understanding of technology producers and consumers. Research is created to inform and educate and these goals align with my own. So before damning the value of technology research consider the exertion required to collect, synthesize and articulately enlighten you with facts about technology that you seek to understand.