Thursday, July 30, 2009

Webtrends Acquires Widemile

Things are happening up in the Northwest these days as Portland, OR based Webtrends (recognized as a leader in the recent Forrester Wave: Wave Analytics, Q3 09) announced today its acquisition of Seattle based testing firm Widemile. Financial terms of the deal were undisclosed, but the technologies are a perfect match.

Widemile began its operations as a multivariate testing company in November 2005 and has been expanding on its capabilities; it’s proprietary Design of Experiments (DoE) algorithm; and client base ever since. The company delivers both self-service and managed service offerings that leverage its on demand testing and targeting platform. Widemile also maintains close ties with digital agencies that leverage the testing and targeting services on behalf of their clients. Primary competitors to Widemile include Omniture’s Test & Target (formerly Offermatica), Intervoven Optimost, SiteSpect and Google Website Optimizer among others. Watch for Forrester’s upcoming vendor landscape on testing companies for a complete list.

This acquisition adds momentum to the trend that Web analytics firms are augmenting their offerings by adding adjacent and complementary services. Testing is a logical progression for company’s that are maximizing their online opportunities with Web analytics data. Widemile’s technology falls under the realm of site optimization, which offers companies inherent benefits when delivered through a Web analytics platform. I see this as a very strong move for Webtrends who is steadily emerging from a position of transition to one of strength. Webtrends currently maintains a substantial client base that is ripe for testing and site optimization services.

Webtrends has had a busy summer thus far with a divisive social media campaign that sparked local outcry; a new product release due out next week; and now an acquisition. Congratulations to Alex, Jascha, Casey and the team at Webtrends for executing on their vision for strategic growth. And big congrats go out to Bob Bergquist, Bob Garcia and Dean Kimball of Widemile for growing a compelling offering worthy of integration into a Web analytics platform.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What Makes A Standard?

Something rather amazing happened yesterday in the Web Analytics realm that was enabled by social media. A longstanding conversation regarding all things Web analytics has been playing out in Twitter under the hashtag #wa. [If confused by this already, you may want to drop off here.]

Recently, Washington state has jumped on the Twitter bandwagon and was creating "noise" on #wa. Thus, a number of Tweets ensued to shift the conversation from #wa to something we Web Analytics wonks could call our own.

While @dustinwallace claims credit for conceiving the idea, the market was effectively moved by @ericpeterson. At the speed of a few Tweets, I watched this saga unfold via Tweetdeck yesterday. It went something like this:

    1) The idea for change was seeded

    2) @ericpeterson proposed new terminology (#measure)

    3) A few Tweets volleyed with alternative suggestions (including my own)

    4) @ericpeterson responded, acknowledged the resistance and declared his intentions

    5) A new standard was born (#measure is the new #wa)

    6) The results are flying around in Tweets all day today

Let’s put aside the fact that reading this preamble only a year ago would have sounded utterly ridiculous…and it still may read like jibberish to many…but this change and the speed with which it occurred is remarkable.

Thus, it got me thinking about standards, which is a topic I visit often. A standard on Twitter is something that a group can agree on collectively. In Web analytics, we’ll now use the hashtag #measure to discuss Web analytics. Similarly, #MVT is used when discussing multivariable testing, #waa is used for reference to the Web Analytics Association and #analytics is commonly associated with Google Analytics.

But how do standards evolve for more consequential matters? The WAA has been rallying for standards for years. They’ve gone to great lengths to establish standard definitions for Web Analytics and open their thoughts and process to public scrutiny for the greater good. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) also works towards developing standards for measuring Web site traffic to guide advertisers in their financial planning. There are numerous other examples of standards which exist. In fact, there’s so many to choose from that they lack effectiveness. Further, given that new standards can emerge in the flurry of a few tweets, what really constitutes a standard?

I have my ideas, and welcome your input. This topic is one that I’ve invested time and thought into. At the upcoming X Change conference in San Francisco on September 10th, I’ll be leading a discussion on Standards and welcome all interested parties to attend.

When moving at the speed of tweets, standards will become increasingly important. Don’t you want to be a part of the conversation?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Forrester Wave: Just the Facts Please

In my line of work, sometimes you strive for shock and awe, while other times, you just write the facts. In the case of the Forrester Wave™: Web Analytics that published today, I did the latter. While it felt somewhat anticlimactic because there was no sizzling scandal and no juicy uproar (at least not yet), I’m confident that the report is an accurate reflection of the state of the Web analytics market today. Somewhat ironically, Web analytics practitioners told us throughout this study that accuracy of information was atop the list of most important vendor selection criteria. As such, data accuracy is critical in all things analytics and I too aim to please in this regard.

This research was six months in the making and was an arduous (yet rewarding) process for me and hopefully for the vendors that participated as well. With excruciating detail I assessed eight vendors at the top of this field. I held strategy discussions with their executives; interviewed their clients by phone and via online survey; and validated their capabilities in exploratory demos. The end result revealed an extremely tight field of highly capable solutions. As much as I tried to push the evaluation criteria to the limits of analysis, vendors met the challenge with their standard offerings and ability to customize their tools to perform seemingly endless tasks. The result produced 5 leaders amid a field of 8 with nary a laggard in the bunch.

This research will help Customer Intelligence professionals understand the complex Web analytics landscape and determine which vendor is best suited to meet their needs. Key findings revealed:

    Web analytics is the decisive tool for measuring online customer intelligence. Our past research illustrates that 73% of organizations surveyed already have Web analytics tools in place. Readers here are probably on this train already – if not, it’s time to start worrying about the commitment to your online channel. I suggest bootstrapping some tags onto your site today using one of the highly capable free tools as a start.

    A highly competitive vendor race ends in a photo finish. I used this analogy because a photo finish requires that one look closely at the field of competitors to determine which one wins. While there is no single winner identified in any Forrester Wave, each vendor evaluated has capabilities that differentiate it from its peers.

Discerning the details of who provides the strongest social media measurement or which vendor excels at attribution measurement is critical. But these considerations also need to account for which vendor provides the best overall package for any organization. My evaluation of these vendors is meant to serve as a guide for Web analytics users. A little known fact about the Forrester Wave is that the weightings of categories, subcategories and criteria can be modified to suit individual business needs. While the scores remain constant, Forrester clients can adjust the weights applied to each area, which changes the placement of vendors on the graphic.

Thus, while I feel this reflects the state of the market, it’s presented in a way that applies to enterprise organizations on the whole and should be tweaked for individual use as a decisioning tool. Please feel free to reach out to me with comments or if you’d like a better understanding of how the competitive field stacks up. I’m happy to help.