Does The Military Need Better Analytics?

January 11, 2010

 

Or does the Military need better data visualization?

There was a story published on the New York Times January 10th uncovering a deluge of information brought to the modern day military primarily via their drone programs. The article digs further into a handful of young analysts turning to techniques used by television to help them sift through the information.

Daniel A. Becker's Random Walk: Could a visualization like this be the key to understanding massive amounts of video data in Afghanistan?

Daniel A. Becker's Random Walk: Could a visualization like this be the key to understanding massive amounts of video data in Afghanistan?

I, for one, think the military is missing the boat here. Television and television broadcasting as an industry hasn’t shown an early adoption for many of the techniques more common in business intelligence and forget about data visualization. Wouldn’t the government be more likely catch important information from the data collected in programs like the one written about if they were visualizing the information more like a digg labs or the visualization of randomness? I think so.

What do you think?

 

The "Marketing Stack"

December 1, 2009

 

Have you sat down with your IT organization lately to discuss your company’s enterprise architecture framework? Did you know that having that discussion is crucial to your success as a marketer?

Our business as marketers has changed. We can attribute this change to data. Once a competitive advantage, data is now table stakes. It fuels our businesses. To be successful, it is a requirement to use this data to iterate, to continually adjust and improve. What has been traditionally referred to as the “IT stack” has made its way into marketing vernacular. Just as the IT stack enables an assortment of applications and software to work in concert to perform tasks, consider the ‘marketing stack’ as a combination of those same services and technologies needed to empower an effective iterative marketer and create game-changing marketing programs and campaigns.

A scalable, flexible marketing stack that enables iteration has three key components:

• Business Process (sales, marketing alignment, accountability, efficiency, etc.)
• Campaign Management (social listening, optimization, campaign efficiency, take rates, opens, etc.)
• Data Architecture (customer intelligence, CRM, etc.)

This is an oversimplified view for the purposes of this discussion, but it offers a framework within which to work. Here’s what we do at Webtrends….

Webtrends Marketing Stack

Business Process:

Iterative marketing thrives when we recognize that the goals of Sales and Marketing can and should exist harmoniously. Ultimately, this means that Sales and Marketing agree to co-own the sales funnel and accountability on how that will be executed against. Further, iterative marketing accepts the fact that failure is a way to learn and will be celebrated.

At Webtrends, we have built an organizational structure and operate against values that support the iterative model. We support the idea of the noble failure and celebrate both successes and failures equally. We’ve also recently rolled out a new model for accountability with the sales department, including a worldwide sales and marketing funnel defining suspects, leads, qualified leads, through to closed business.

Campaign & Asset Management:

We’ve adopted iterative marketing as an operational methodology. Test, Learn, Improve, Repeat across all campaigns and assets.

• The team meets for daily scrums to check in on progress against priorities
• We’ve added new members qualified to handle the rapid pace.
• We’ve moved more communications to a collaboration portal for faster and better communications (less synthesis required, improved version control, less organization of local files, etc.)
• We take advantage of technologies like Webtrends Optimize, Ad Director, and Social Measurement to facilitate this process in an automated fashion where available.

Data Architecture:

Your marketing stack must enable iterative marketing, not hinder it. This sounds simple but it’s something I’ve run into again and again when trying to execute. Some of the principles to consider:
• Include Social Media: Your customers interact with your brand and products off your site, and utilizing a tool like Webtrends Social Measurement that will integrate with your Webtrends Analytics 9 data is hugely important. The technology, along with supporting business processes, can make substantive and positive impacts on your business in groups broader than just marketing.
• Marketing automation is a must: Understand how your marketing campaigns align with your digital asset investments and further align to your sales funnel. We use Eloqua at Webtrends.
• Business process change powers your experimentation platform: One of the most important learned lessons with an experimentation platform is that you have to enable your Creative Director to be successful. Utilizing a service and platform that can help get your team up and running with the new business processes and then running it on your own is a great tactic to get value faster. We use Webtrends Optimize because we not only get the most advanced platform on the market but we have access to an amazing team of experts.
• Analytics are the mothership: We use Webtrends Analytics 9 and Marketing Warehouse at Webtrends. Possibly this goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway. Analytics are the mothership for  your Marketing stack and you have to have unfettered access to all your visitor level data. Webtrends is the only provider who can do that for you and we certainly take advantage of what Webtrends has to offer.
• Integrating online and offline data should be a goal if it’s applicable for your business: Solid analytics and customer intelligence tools that enable you to look at the data together and take action are hugely important for business that operate in multiple channels. There is a great webinar taking place on Dec 2 that you should check out if you want to learn more about this.

Here’s an analogy that I think can be helpful to illustrate the concept of marketing iteration in present-day organizations:

In most of Europe, it’s really easy to be energy-efficient because the societal infrastructure supports it. Everyone has low-flow showers and toilets, energy costs more so people make a tremendous effort to conserve it, mass transit is ubiquitous and awesome, pesticide and farming laws mean that food is more sustainably produced, etc. This entire supporting framework (a combination of laws and cultural norms that transcends individual behavior) makes it much easier for individuals to “do the right thing”, per se. America is, obviously, quite different. Even if you want to be more efficient as an individual, you’re constantly at odds with culture, laws and institutions that, in many cases, make it harder to live sustainably (our dependency on cars is one example). I think of iterative marketing the same way. You can have individuals in an organization who champion it or try to be iterative, but in order to really succeed across the organization, you need to have a company-wide culture, the right marketing stack and processes that support iterative marketing.

In summary, at Webtrends, our data architecture is comprised of social media data (via Webtrends Social Measurement) campaign performance data (via Eloqua), Multivariate experimentation data (via Webtrends Optimize) and visitor + trend data (via Webtrends Analytics & Marketing Warehouse) along with all the supporting cultural and business process changes that act as the glue between the components of the stack.

What is in your marketing stack?

 

Does the rise of Social Media make web analytics more important?

November 29, 2009

 

I recently had the opportunity to join Scott Hoffman, founder of CLIQOLOGY and a friend of mine from my days at Yahoo!, on his podcast. We discussed “Does the rise of Social Media make web analytics more important?” Short answer: Yes. It was a great discussion and Scott was kind enough to package it up and provide me a link to share which i’ve done below.

If you have any comments or questions please leave them below.

 

See Jascha Kaykas-Wolff @ Web 2.0 Expo In New York

November 15, 2009

 

webexny2009_logoI was fortunate enough to have been invited by Sean Power and Alistair Croll to participate in a panel during their Communilytics: Applied Community Analytics bootcamp at Web 2.0 Expo New York this Monday (November 16). I’ll be on the panel with Jennifer Zeszut of Scout Labs, Lenny Rachitsky of Webmetrics, and Jonathan Straus the founder of awe.sm. The bootcamp is sold out, Sean and Alistair don’t mess around, and I hear it will be quite the audience of attendees…all the ingredients for a great event!


 

Social Capital: Who drank my Tweet Juice?

October 30, 2009

 

twitter_pimpcupThe Industrial Revolution gave rise to the middle class’s social equality becoming comparable (albeit within the often harrowing conditions of the then modern-day workplace) with the then ‘noble’ class. In the same way that the technological advancements led by textile manufacturers, metalurgy, and mining distributed the financial juices for social mobility to a greater number of people, we find ourselves in an oddly similar pattern of revolution empowered by social networks like Twitter, Facebook and their peers.

The information revolution lead by Google, Yahoo!, & Microsoft has made a limited number of sources king by defining social equity largely through the empowerment of ‘link juice’, aka SEO. When we want to find something we ‘Google it.’

Social networks have introduced a new source for social equity, and what is arising from that equity is social equality. They empower the middle classes to communicate with the masses, so to speak. Last week’s news of the paid inclusion of Twitter feeds on Google and Bing searches could change the effect of the kings of information on social relationships for good. Just as we now talk about the importance of link juice (and often complain about the tactics people use to pursue it), will we soon speak of “Tweet juice”?

Will this force us to question the authenticity of our social relationships? There is an organic quality to the growth of social networks, but the lure of Tweet juice injects an unprecedented level of self-interest into the social web. How will the nature of our online social interactions change when we must wonder whether someone is following us earnestly or whether they’re using us for our Tweet juice? Will Tweets become a commodity, with hash tags and handles bought and sold in the social media marketplace?

Will this, in other words, mark the rise of social capital?

 

Who’s paying for my information?

October 26, 2009

 

twootersoftLast week at the Web 2.0 summit, Microsoft and Google announced the integration of Twitter’s search results into their search streams, effectively pushing their customer experiences closer to real time. While on the surface this seems to be a benefit for users of their services, the preceding weeks surfaced some confounding positions by the two software juggernauts, namely the submission to pay Twitter for access to their information and, therefore, mine (and yours if you use a non-protected Twitter account).

Clearly there are multiple angles one could take in response to this movement. I for one am still on the fence as to my position…so let’s review some of the gestating ideas:

  • Google has fought copyright lawsuits in the past for indexing content. Now they’ve set a precedent and demonstrated that they’re willing to pay to index content. This could potentially be leveraged against them in future or ongoing lawsuits.
  • Microsoft, on the other hand, has paid to index content in the past. Is this another sign of Google chasing the tail lights of Microsoft, which seems to be more prevalent these days?
  • Conspiracy theory angle: Google wants to digitize and tag all the world’s information. This is another step down that path. Should we expect to see Google pay to index Facebook, MySpace, etc.? What are the implications of having the world’s social data at your disposal? Also, does indexing social content devalue the ‘closed’ social network over time?
  • What will including paid content do to the integrity of search rankings? If you’re paying to index content, you’d want to make sure it was delivered enough to justify the purchase, right?
  • As Twitter data makes its way into direct search results and also starts influencing ranking signals, SEO success will become inextricably linked to Twitter success (a practice that Justin calls SSO). Should we expect that Ashton Kutcher will become the king of SEO as he current sits atop the largest twitter following? If so, what impact will that have on his relationships?

As we each grow our own social influence through creating content on our blogs, Facebook, Twitter and creating a following within those channels; are we seeing the growth of social capital as a new means of wealth in modern day marketing? What are your thoughts?

 

Web Analytics Is Not Hard.

October 20, 2009

 

Running a business is hard.

The business ecosystem is complex, a web of data.

"Analytics...form the connective tissue."

The ecosystem surrounding a business – developing IP, building a brand, motivating people, managing operations – often appears disjointed. We employ separate technologies, have separate (often competing) departments, separate sets of processes, even separate offices. Thus it’s easy to forget that business does indeed operate within an ecosystem, that all these seemingly separate entities must work together to make business flourish. Managing your business ecosystem is hard, but truly successful business – that is, to understand the problems we’re solving and take care of our customers:

1) They understand the business problem they are solving.
2) They take care of their customers.
3) They innovate.

All of our businesses have problems, whether they’re related to internal processes or those of our customers, and we face an ever-widening array of tools we can use to address them within the business ecosystem. Analytics are one of the most basic parts of that ecosystem. They form the connective tissue that intertwines with marketing automation, multivariate testing, business intelligence and a bevy of maturing technologies that make it easier for us to run a successful business that understands the problem they are solving and takes care of their customers.

Yet all too often there is an expectation that analytics are removed from your business. That they are a business within your business. That only from identifying separate processes and separate resources can analytics be successful. I’ve heard businesses say more times that I care to share in the last year that they need to “make analytics successful.” We’ve got it wrong.

Technology can’t be beneficial to your business if it operates in a vacuum of resources and expertise. Maybe your business can be stronger with the newer tools (or maybe the new tools get in your way), but they can’t replace a good recipe and a skilled cook.

Success happens because of people and process supported by technology, not technology in and of itself. Web Analytics is not hard, running your business is. I think you’ll agree, however, that when operating within the context of a well-run business ecosystem, analytics can help you solve your business problems better, take better care of your customers and support innovation. Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be exploring how marketing plays a role in a successful business. How the practice of marketing iteration is practiced and how it is supported by a recipe of analytics, mvt, a myriad of emerging technologies and, most importantly, skilled cooks.

In the meantime, I’d love to know what makes your business hard, what challenges you are facing, and how you use process and technology (like analytics) to make your business better.

 

Driving further adoption of e-Government with Analytics

September 23, 2009

 

We focus a good deal of our time talking about the lessons learned in the public sector and how they apply to e-Government. I was fortunate to have had an opportunity to contribute some of our views to Business and Technology recently and I’m re-posting the article on my blog as well. Please feel free to share your opinions and thoughts.

The original article can be found here: Business & Technology

Citizens cast a vote every time they visit a government web site – but not for a candidate or ballot measure. Rather, they are indicating what they need from their government and how well the government is meeting their needs. While these votes may not be as purposeful or explicit as a check mark on an election ballot, they do offer a directive that can be quantified and used to improve government services.

With interaction in a Government domain, four main activities take place; information is shared across the internet, a two-way communication between the agency and the citizen is established, online transactions and online governance is conducted.

When citizens can’t find what they need on a government web site, they often end up calling help lines or visiting government offices, increasing agency service costs and the frustration of these citizens.

Mass adoption of e-Government

As many government agencies have discovered, e-government services are not a field of dreams that once built, people will come to and embrace. Even when several federal government web sites have managed to gain awareness, online registration begins to dwindle after years of growth and web developers are unable to uncover the reason for the decline.

Web analytics are a crucial tool in helping organization and government agencies gather additional insight that help identify online communications opportunities and goals.

An experienced web analytics partner, dedicated to e-government solutions, will be able to provide invaluable analytics insight and consultative guidance to better understand and serve diverse audiences online with the efficiency, transparency and interactive engagement that is increasingly expected.

Key to good web analytics is a system which provides short-term and ongoing assistance, in compliance with privacy policies, facilitate agencies in understanding citizens’ changing needs, and provide a simplified view of analyzing sophisticated data.

Adapting to Citizens’ needs

As the Gen Y, a term coined for people born in the late 1980s, enters the workforce and attain voting rights, e-Government portals will witness a surge in usage from this “online savvy” population. Being well-versed in the workings of the internet, this generation of adults will demand faster, well-tailored and interactive mobile and websites from the government.

Web Analytics help drive site optimization and precise segmentation by offering the most accurate and current visitor information, enabling agencies to continuously adapt their web sites to the evolving needs and preferences of their audience. It helps identify and determine the needs of different citizen groups, including differences in the online services or assistance sought by people in different districts.

Individualized tracking also helps web analytics to determine and advice on tailored usage of the website. Each unique visitor is identified and determined by the click-level on any number of links, promotions or content, and this result is used to help determine which web site pages and elements are attracting most attention and driving traffic most efficiently.

Citizen-driven site optimization can save visitors time and encourages increased use of online services. It can also reduce follow-up calls to telephone support or in-person requests at government offices.

Privacy policy compliance

While it is ideal to be able to freely attain and store visitors’ information for web analytics, government agencies face extreme pressure to maintain the privacy and security of the citizen data online. Government agencies should maintain complete control and ownership of all customer data, and be able to tailor information gathering according to the needs and privacy expectations of their visitors.

A on-premise software or On Demand software as a service (SaaS) has been shown to be viable method which enables agencies to secure the data collected using user IDs and passwords, and even biometric security appliances. Agencies should also ensure that its Web Analytics provider undergoes a third-party security audit on a frequent basis.

Another issue on eGovernment web analytics which has gained some media attention is the proper use of cookies in government web sites, allegedly some of which has been reported as a violation of regulations. Cookies are small text files containing a long unique string of characters given to web browser by the web server. This file is sent back to the server each time the browser requests a page from the server, identifying users as unique and tying together their actions. There are procedures to follow to gain exception to technology guidelines and agencies are encouraged to gain a thorough understanding of the documents with their assigned governing body.

Web analytics solution providers offer customers a broad range of alternatives ranging from using no cookies, using session-based cookies, using session parameters or using persistent cookies. Unique first-party cookies are the most accurate and privacy-conscious method of visitor identification for both software and hosted solutions. In place of a third-party cookie, which is served to the visitor’s browser by a web analytics vendor, a first-party cookie is served to the visitor’s browser directly from the web site’s domain.

Third-party cookies are increasingly blocked from being set on user’s machines due to settings in web browsers and other applications, so by utilizing a first-party cookie, the server can ensure more accurate metrics and minimize privacy concerns.

Making sophisticated analytics manageable

Being able to measure and quantify site traffic requires certain computational techniques and IT tools, but the ability to simplify and analyse the data obtained in a context relevant to government agencies demands a dedicated team of consultants who work exclusively with government agencies and organizations. Being versed in the analytics and communications challenges that governments face today, they can provide short-term and ongoing assistance in the essential areas.

With the current advancement in the web analytics industry, government agencies should expect the following from their vendor.

* Governance: Best practices for capturing and maintaining data consistently and producing accurate analysis
* Key Performance Indicator (KPI): Metrics that help align web site investments with agency goals, and provide objective measures of web site success
* Scorecards: Combined performance data from online and offline sources to get a more holistic view of web site visitors
* Reports: Customized overviews of the data and services trends which allow every member of an organization to dynamically filter, drill into and query their reports in an interactive reporting console.
* Dashboards: Keep up to date on important performance data and metrics in one single vie
* Analytics adoption: Training and guidance for individuals throughout the organization on how to access analytics data and create reports
* Independent analytics: Advanced training and guidance on how to access data and create reports without assistance from technicians or analysts

* Link: businesstechnology.in//2009/09/22/Web-Analytics-to-drive-further-adoption-of-e-Government.1.html

 

5 Ground rules for marketing campaigns

September 8, 2009

 

A few weeks into any campaign it’s natural to start to ask questions.

  • What kind of successes are we seeing?
  • Are there failures?
  • Any surprises?
  • What should we change?
  • Should we keep going?

Because of the sheer volume of participants in digital campaigns it can sometimes be hard to nail down the details. It’s no small task to get an objective view; marketing managers may have a different view of the progress than the creative director, and so forth. How do you make sense of it all? Each business we work with and those that we study do it slightly differently, however, we’ve found ground rules that work well for our business at Webtrends:

  • Accountability – Yin & Yang
  • Empowerment – Swift, bold, responsible
  • Iteration – Make many mistakes, just never the same one twice
  • Communication – Find the right vehicles, pick a cadence, do it one better
  • Optimization – Let the customers and data guide you

Create the yin and yang of accountability

Balance is key and should be anchored with singular owner of the campaign (for our Open Campaign that is Mylissa) and a singular owner for the utilization of data for experimentation (for us that is Elizabeth). Collaboration is incredibly important in multiple phases of the campaign but a single owner needs to have accountability for it’s overall success and/or failure. This functional leads on the team set direction, takes feedback and give advice to the campaign owner who is responsible for making decisions on what to keep and what to change. Their senior counsel, the campaign’s left brain, work together harmoniously to make decision making possible.

Empowerment is an often overlooked aspect of campaign management

Senior management must unshackle the campaign owner from traditional operational processes of conditional approvals to conditional approvals. With the speed of change and availability of data so typically in digital marketing campaign the campaign manager must be able to quickly make decisions, and fail, until ultimately success is achieved. Remove the HIPPO from the equation is one way we describe it internally. That isn’t to say management should be involved and directive, they should. They shouldn’t, however, inhibit the campaign owner from acting swiftly, making bold decisions and, of course, being responsible.

Never be afraid to fail

Just don’t fail the same way twice. The foundational requirement to iterate changes the way a campaign runs. The creative services team (and most likely your web development team) are truly never done. Another interesting, and important shift, is that the creative services number one partner and advocate is the campaign’s left brain, the owner of data utilization. Find a pace that is manageable for the team….more of a jog than a sprint…and try more and different options.

Don’t ever underestimate the vacuum that is created when communications don’t happen frequently enough

The campaign owner should prescribe an internal communications plan with similar detail to anything done outbound. The baseline communications plan created will almost never be adequate. Plan on communicating more than what you planned and use all the vehicles at your disposal (email, in person, dashboards, etc.).

Rely on your data

We collect data to use it, so be confident in it. Even (especially) when it tells you something you didn’t want to hear. Let tools like Optimize and Analytics represent what they are, the voice of your customer through their recorded actions.

Feedback

How are we doing with our own ground rules?

Ok.

We are excelling in most areas as a marketing team but we haven’t been as strong as we need to be with internal communications. I’m looking forward to doing a deep dive on what we’ve learned about the Open Campaign to date and how that will play a role in the coming weeks.

 

Celebrating progress and innovation

 
What would the Sistine Chapel look like if it was evolved, real-time, with patron's feedback?

What would the Sistine Chapel look like if it was evolved, real-time, with patron's feedback?

For Webtrends, it has indeed been a busy summer. As we enter these last few days of August, a period when all the excitement and activity that has occurred over the past few months could take a waning toll on enthusiasm, Webtrends is not winding down and simply reflecting on the launch of Analytics 9 as the “release that was.” Having fully embraced the agile development model, we continue to focus our energy on collecting feedback from our customers and innovating with our products ahead of the next release.

Phil Kemelor recently posted his thoughts on Analytics 9, appropriately titled “Webtrends: A Busy Summer for Analytics.” It was a nicely written and balanced piece. Phil’s post made note that he was waiting for more from Analytics 9 and Webtrends. As we’ve done over the last year, we are happy to take the ball from him here and continue to drive forward.

With Analytics 9, the foundation has been laid on a canvas from which we’ll continue to paint. This phased approach to our product is a conscience decision and I want to reinforce that. It’s been great to see the positive feedback from folks within the industry and our customers. It’s motivating to have encouragement to introduce more powerful, more elegant, and more open products. We have heard you, we are listening now, and we will continue to deliver.

Last April, during our annual customer event, Webtrends Engage, we broadcasted the view we all had of Webtrends, within Webtrends, to the industry. More importantly we made a promise to change the way people and organizations view and make sense of their data. As the first web analytics company, it makes sense for us to take on this initiative, and since those few days with our valued customers and partners in Las Vegas back in early spring, Webtrends has announced the availability of Webtrends Social Measurement, provided a benchmark for measuring the effectiveness of a digital marketing campaign, introduced The Open Campaign, acquired a leading multivariate testing and site optimization company – Widemile, and yes, released Analytics 9.

As we roll into the fall coming off one of the busiest and most exciting periods we’ve experienced as a company, we’re looking forward to delivering more on our promise.

 


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