Avinash on the definition of Enterprise Class analytics
Avinash Kaushik recently wrote an interesting response to my original post and request for comment from Google. I asked Avinash or Brett Crosby if they wanted to comment on the “Enterprise” nature of Google Analytics in one of the comments. Avinash didn’t want to answer that question, but he did offer some interesting thoughts on the definition of “Enterprise Class”.
In his post, Avinash says:
“Definition of an Enterprise Class vendor :1) The Vendor has been around for more than 18 months, the longer the duration the better but beyond 18 months you the client decide what you are comfortable with.2) The Vendor can scale its ASP infrastructure (or in house software solution) to A] capture the number of page views required by the client and B] process that data on a nightly basis.
3) They have a support infrastructure to assist the client in need at reasonable price. If you are willing to pay for support, you should have to pay a reasonable price and expect solid support from the Vendor or their Partners.
That’s it. Nothing else matters. You need to know it has been around and that it’ll be there. No other golden rules.”
While I like Avinash a lot, I think this definition is way off the mark for what most companies are looking for when they say “We need an Enterprise-class analytics solution.” I think what Avinash has described is the core qualities of every analytics vendor in the market today (at least when he includes “or their Partners” in item #3 which picks up Google Analytics and a few others.)
The problem with this definition is that it does nothing to differentiate hundreds of vendors from one another. Kind of like a vendor constellation where every company is stacked on top of one another … So I propose that Avinash’s definition of “Enterprise Class” is incorrect, and instead point to the definition of “Enterprise software” found in the Wikipedia. Some relevant excerpts:
- Enterprise software is software that solves an enterprise problem (rather than a departmental problem …
- Enterprise software is often available as a suite of programs that have attached development tools to modify the common programs for the specific enterprise.
- Mostly [enterprise software] development tools are complex programming tools that require specialist capabilities.
I personally can only think of one currently available web analytics solutions that would qualify as “Enterprise software” using the Wikipedia definition. Remember: Marketing is a department, not the entire business! This definition implies that the solution can be used throughout the organization to solve a variety of problems (for example, online and offline data analysis using the same suite of tools.)
Most interesting to this conversation are these criticisms of the use of the term enterprise (again from Wikipedia):
- Often the term is used to mean virtually anything, by virtue of it having become the latest corporate-speak buzzword.
- Some enterprise software vendors using the latter definition develop highly complex products that are often overkill for smaller organizations, and the application of these can be a very frustrating task.
- Sometimes “enterprise” might be used sarcastically to mean overly complex software.
Ah ha, now the truth comes out! Perhaps the use of the term “enterprise” in web analytics is just a marketing ploy, designed to sound good but not really say anything at all about the sophistication of the solution.
Avinash goes on to offer a “not so humble rant” (his words):
“The reason most of corporate America is saddled with billions of dollars of sub optimal software is that companies judge tools/vendors on this vague quality called “enterprise class”, while completely ignoring what they actually need.”
While not necessarily untrue, Avinash incorrectly assumes that most companies know what they actually need. If most companies were able to “look deeply within themselves and figure out exactly what they need and then go get it” (his words) there would be no need for the vendor constellations that Forrester, Gartner, JupiterResearch and others produce every year. But these vendor assessments are reportedly among the most valuable of all analyst documents; for good or ill, they simplify the problem of differentiating hundreds of vendors who largely all say they do exactly the same thing.
So maybe, just maybe, corporate America has been fooled into buying solutions that are good but aren’t really “Enterprise class software” after all. But maybe they were only doing what they thought was best? As someone commented in Avinash’s post: “Nobody was ever fired for buying Enterprise class software …”
And maybe when the analyst firms call something “Enterprise software”, at least in the web analytics market, they’re simply looking for something that will let them write about a reasonable number of companies, not the 100+ vendors that Sebastian documents at web analytics book? Having written a constellation in the past, I can attest to the complexity involved in covering even a dozen vendors, much less 100!
Perhaps the best possible outcome from this conversation would be that all of the vendors stop calling themselves “Enterprise-class” altogether and instead work to differentiate themselves along other, more substantial lines? I can think of dozens of other good points of differentiation … cost, support strategy, approach to data integration, etc.
In the end Avinash comes closest to the truth when he reminds us that:
“Smart people with crappy tools can move mountains, without smart people even the most expensive and expansive tools can’t help a company move beyond measuring Visits.”
Which I would modify to say:
“Smart people leveraging good business process, despite crappy tools, can move mountains, without smart people and good process, even the most expensive and expansive tools can’t help a company move beyond measuring visits.”
Anyway, with all this in mind I suppose I don’t care if Google believes that GA is “high-end” or “Enterprise class” or whatever. I’m just happy that they’ve raised the bar on the online visualization interface and are continuing to drive interest in web analytics in general. Again, thanks Google (and thanks Avinash for picking up the conversation!)
As always, I welcome your comments and criticism.