Reflections from the Google Analytics Partner Summit
Having recently become a Google Analytics Certified Partner, we got to participate in our first Partner Summit out in Mountainview, California, last week. It was unfortunate that the conference conflicted with Semphonic’s XChange conference (There really aren’t that many digital analytics conferences, are there? Maybe I should publish a proposed schedule for 2013 for a non-conflicting master schedule?), but I’m looking forward to reading through the reflections from huddlers who were down in San Diego on the blogosphere in the coming weeks!
Onto my shareable takeaways from the Google Analytics summit…
CRAZY Coolness Is on the Way
<sigh> This is the stuff where I can’t provide any real detail. But, essentially, the first two hours of the summit were one live demo after another of very nifty enhancements to the platform, some of which are coming in the next few weeks, and some of which won’t be out until 2012. Some of the enhancements fall in the “well…the Sitecatalyst sales folk won’t be able to use that as a Google Analytics shortcoming when they’re a-bashing it” category, and some fall in the “where on earth did they come up with that — no one else is even talking about doing that” category.
Very cool stuff, and with a continuing emphasis on ease of implementation, ease of management, and a clean and usable UI. Clearly, when v5 rolled out and Google emphasized that the release was more about positioning the under-the-hood mechanics for more, better, and faster improvements in the future, they meant it. Agility and a constant stream of worthwhile enhancements are the order of the day.
I Don’t Know My Googlers
Two presenters — both spoke a couple of times, either formally or when called upon from the stage — really stood out. Maybe I’ve just been living in an oblivious world, but I wasn’t familiar with either one:
- Phil Mui, Group Product Manager — Phil is apparently a regular favorite at the summit, and he got to run through a lot of the upcoming features; he’s a very engaging speaker, and he’s both excited about the platform while also in tune (for the most part) with how and where the upcoming enhancements will be able to be put to good use by users
- Sagnik Nandy, Engineering Lead, Google Analytics Backend and Infrastructure — it was a pleasure to listen to Sagnik walk through all manners of how the platform works and what’s coming in the future; the backend is in good hands!
Both of these guys (all of the Googlers, actually) are genuine and excited about the platform. Avinash Kaushik’s passion and thoughtfulness (and healthy impatience with the industry) is alive and well…and entertaining as all get out!
Google Analytics Competitive Advantage
I owe Justin Cutroni for this one, but it was one of the more memorable epiphanies for me. As we chatted about GA relative to the other major web analytics players, he pointed out a fundamental difference (which I’m expanding/elaborating on here):
- Adobe/Omniture, Webtrends, and IBM (Coremetrics and Unica) are all largely fighting on the same playing field — striving to develop products that have a better feature set at a better price than their competition. This is pretty basic stuff, but it requires pretty careful P&L management — R&D investment that, ultimately, pays a sufficient return through product revenue
- Google is playing a different game — their products are geared towards driving revenue from their other products (Google Adwords, the Google Display Network, etc.). That actually makes for a very different model for them — much less of a need to manage their R&D investment against direct Google Analytics income (obviously), as well as a totally different marketing and selling model.
There is a certain inherent degree of commoditization of the web analytics space. With a relatively small number of players, R&D teams are focused as much on closing feature gaps that their competitors offer as they are on developing new and differentiating features. In a sense, Google is more focused on “making the web better” — raising the water level in the ocean — while the paid players are geared solely towards making their boats bigger and faster.
I fervently hope that Adobe, Webtrends, and IBM are able to remain relevant over the long term. Competition is good. But, it may very well be a very steep uphill battle for structural reasons.
Silly Me — I thought Tag Management Was a 2-Player Field
The most impressive of these tools that I saw was Satellite from Search Discovery, which Evan LaPointe presented during Wednesday night’s blitz “app integration” session, and which he showed me in more depth on Thursday morning. In his Wednesday night presentation, Evan made a pretty forceful point that, if we’re talking about “tag management,” we’re already admitting defeat. Rather, we should be thinking about data management — the data we need to support analyses — rather than about “the tag.”
Subtle semantic framing? Perhaps. But, it falls along the same lines of the “web analytics tools are fundamentally broken” post I wrote last month that set off a vigorous discussion, and which wound up being timed such that Evan’s post about web analytics douchiness had a nice tie-in.
In short, Analytics Engine is impressive for its rich feature set and polished UI. Equally, if not more, exciting is the mindset behind what the platform is trying to do — get analysts and marketers thinking about the data and information they need rather than the tags that will get it for them.
In Short, Not a Bad Couple of Days!
The nature of any conference is that there will be sessions and conversations that are either not informative or not relevant to the attendee. That’s just the way things go. If I walk away with a small handful of new ideas, a couple of newly established or deepened personal relationships with peers, and validation of some of my own recent thinking, I count the conference a success. The Partner Summit delivered against those criteria — there were a few sessions I could have lived without, at least one session that wildly under-delivered on its potential, and some looseness with the Day 2 schedule that made it difficult to bounce between tracks effectively. But, overall, it was a #winning event.