Learnings from Adobe Summit 2012

This year, I was fortunate enough to not only get to attend Adobe Summit, but to get an “inside peak” as one of the Summit Insiders. Summit is always a good show (truly, “show” is a very accurate description) and this year was no exception. After heading home and reflecting, I wanted to share some of what I took away from the great breakouts, keynotes and panels.


Similarly to what we saw at eMetrics, there was a lot of focus on the evolution of digital, technology, marketing, analytics, social media and more. After all, there were 4,000 people in attendance, and titles in the room that didn’t exist five years ago. However, companies aren’t always evolving quickly enough – often we have departments and disciplines from fifty years ago that aren’t even relevant today.

While marketers and analysts are trying to keep up, data keeps getting bigger, but the details are getting smaller. Marketers are being judged by consumers 24-7 on how they are doing. (And when something goes wrong, it goes wrong fast and publicly.) The data we have has such great potential, but at the same time, great risk.

We all have a “digital self” and are sharing more and more on social networks. However, privacy is an ever-present concern, and striking the perfect balance between personalisation and respect for privacy is not easy. As Nancy Koons said: “Technology is most powerful when it does not intrude.” (Of course, easier said than done.) There’s a new generation out there demanding truly personalised experiences, for who their digital self is inextricably tied to their “real” self, but it continues to be a challenge for companies and users to find the right balance between “helpful sharing” and “harmful sharing.”

Brave New World

One of the best sessions (IMHO) was Arianna Huffington‘s keynote. The co-founder of the  Huffington Post spoke about the evolution of online maturity: we spent years in the “internet age of adolescence” – we stayed up too late and consumed too much junk. Now, we are moving from merely searching for information to searching for meaning. The things that we value in real life are becoming what we value online.

However, Huffington cautions. We live in a hyperconnected world, but need to acknowledge our own humanity and vulnerability, and disconnect. Just as it is tough to balance personalisation with privacy, it is becoming difficult for individuals to balance their connectedness with their need to recharge. Huffington spoke out against the traditional male view that you had to drive yourself into the ground (and wear your lack of sleep as if it were a badge of honour) to be successful. Proof? The Huffington Post has nap rooms!

Take risks

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, put it best: “To succeed spectacularly, you need to be willing to fail spectacularly.” In fact, Stone admittedly he himself is a fan (strange as that may sound) of mistakes, because, “what you do after you screw up defines who you are.”

Presentation matters

Analysts often get bogged down in the numbers, the data, the math or the implementation. While the details are necessary, it doesn’t mean executives want to hear about it. Biz Stone’s advice for building a business and a social network is just as applicable to analysts: How you present content is as important as the content itself. And despite a wealth of tools for digital marketers to have access to a vast array of data, even Brad Rencher from Adobe agreed – awesome data with poor presentation is far worse than mediocre data that is well used. In the end, it’s not about the data, but how you use it.

Quote of the day 

“It’s just not the same without Emer.” – Ben Gaines (TRUTH!)

“Knowing the tools will not ensure your success, but not knowing the tools will ensure you fail.” – Adam Greco

But don’t just listen to me!

As a “Summit Insider” I got to bug people, with the help of a video crew! Check out some of the conversations and insights from Summit attendees:


We’re off to see the Summit!

Adobe Summit, that is!

It has been a busy year of events so far – WAA LA Symposium, Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit and eMetrics San Francisco. But that has in no way diluted my excitement to head to Adobe Summit tomorrow, including stopping by Un-Summit for a little community catch up.

Things I’m looking forward to:

  • Great networking. Not only is Summit a great place to meet people in the digital analytics space, but with the new broadened event (aimed not only at analysts, but also marketers, advertisers, mobile, social and content strategists, and developers) it will be a great chance to meet smart folks in related areas.
  • Interesting keynotes. I’ve seen some great keynotes at Summit in years past (and unfortunately, missed some great ones, in years I couldn’t attend!) This year I’m looking forward to hearing from Arianna Huffington and Twitter’s Biz Stone, among many others. But one thing is for sure – Summit is always a great show and I leave excited to do more.
  • Being inspired by the work of others. I love getting a chance to hear about what others in the industry are doing – sometimes with very few resources. I’ve signed up to hear more about how the smart folks at NBC Universal, L.L. Bean, Vail Resorts and more are using analytics to drive their businesses.
  • Getting to “sneak into” some super cool analyst and press sessions. This year I’m fortunate enough to attend several closed panels and am really excited to get the inside scoop. Don’t worry, I’ll be tweeting from those sessions, too. (Shhhh!)
  • Hearing from Summit attendees. If you see me wandering around with a few folks and a video camera, come over and say hi, and tell us how you’re liking the event!
  • Sushi. ‘Nuff said. (Can I come? Pretty please?)
  • Not freezing my toes off. (Forecast is for 72 degrees on Friday! Sorry for all the skiers, but that makes this Southern Californian wimp very happy!)

Feel free to follow my Summit “Tweetapalooza”on Twitter at @MicheleJKiss, and check out the #AdobeSummit hashtag.

Mostly, I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends, and meeting new ones. See you all there!

Top takeaways from the Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit

I work in Digital Analytics. We are a relatively new field (or at least, a relatively new application of analytics) and one where I sometimes feel we don’t leverage enough of what’s been done before. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I headed off to the Predictive Analytics Innovation Summit in San Diego, to learn from a wider variety of industries, and see what they were doing with predictive analytics.

Here were a few of my key takeaways:

It’s not about the tools

I honestly thought this was just an affliction of the digital analytics industry, but it turns out, this is an issue in all area of analytics.

It’s not about the tools, it’s about two things –

1. The talent. Talent matters more than the tool. The “best tool” is one that you can hire great people to use. People are what will make analytics successful, not the tool.

2. Your needs. The “best tool” is the one that suits your business needs – not the most popular, the most expensive, or even the one with the most features. (If you don’t need those features, what’s the point?)

It is about strategy and culture …

Success with analytics isn’t driven by the tools you buy, the process you implement, or the technology you have – it’s about culture.

The creation and hoarding of data is not what will make you successful with analytics. What matters is the consumption of analytics by the organization, and allowing data to challenge beliefs and theories. It’s not about big data – it’s about using it to make big decisions. 

Case in point? Improving the efficiency of a predictive model is only worth a few percentage points in your model’s accuracy. But nailing your fundamental strategy? That’s where success comes from.

… and about communication …

 Analytics is also destined to fail if it’s not communicated well. This is often where hiring for analytics fails: too often, analysts are hired who can’t communicate with others in the organization. If anyone walks out of a meeting after an analytics presentation and doesn’t know the outcome or the next steps, that’s not their fault – it’s our fault.

Businesses today are in a difficult situation – we have too much data, yet too little knowledge. Analytics is critical to helping to understand what’s important, draw insight out of volumes of data, but without the right people and the right communication, you’ll never see that value.

Top Takeaways from eMetrics SF 2012

I was lucky enough to attend eMetrics San Francisco last week, and I have to say, it was one of the best eMetrics I’ve been to.

Typically, these events end up somehow converging around a common theme or couple of themes (without any collusion amongst the presenters!) and this year was no different.

Here are the top things I took home:

1. “Big Data”
Surprise, surprise, talk of “big data” was everywhere. However, data alone is worthless – no matter how much of it you have. In the end, what matters is the insight you draw from it, and the action you take. It’s not about big data – it’s about big action.

Art from Lord Lovett's Social Media session

2. The Art of Analytics
It’s not unusual to hear about the art and science of analytics, or the importance of visual storytelling. What is unusual is having artists on hand to sketch the key themes from a presentation. This unique feature of eMetrics SF 2012 was not only fun and interesting, but showed just how persuasive the “art” of analytics can be.

This message did not end there. Bob Page stressed the importance of combining creativity with data, and Stephen Few applied the key tenents of information architecture and visual presentation of data to dashboards.

3. Integration
“Data needs to be integrated for a 360 degree view of the customer, blah blah blah, buzz word, buzz word, buzz word.” However, I’m not just talking about data integration, but the integration of different channels into the holistic business goals, and leveraging complementary methodology such as user testing and keyword analytics to enhance analytic insights. The focus this year was on so much more than just the integration of data – it was about the cohesion of all elements of the business.

4.  Evolution
Not only has the Web Analytics Association evolved into the Digital Analytics Association, but our field is clearly evolving to include a more holistic understanding of data from all parts of the business. In addition, client-side stories made it clear that companies are evolving in their own capabilities. This is a long term process with no magic tools, but this evolution is what we need to drive our organisations, our industry, and our own skills and impact forward.

5. Analytics is everywhere
So why are we evolving? Because, in Bob Page’s words, “Data is everything.” Ryan Zander from Sportvision made for a fascinating keynote at the WAA Awards Gala. (And this is coming from someone who could not care less about sports.) Yeah, yeah – Moneyball made analytics all cool and popular. But the data that Sportvision are using (how one inch can affect a baseball pitch!) and the amazing visualisation of that data, showed that analytics isn’t just something that nerds are doing in their dark basements – it is becoming critical to success in almost every industry, and is being put to amazing use.

What were your key takeaways? Did I miss any? 

Related post: eMetrics Tweet Activity

eMetrics Tweet Activity

Tweet stats:

3,241 total tweets during the conference time
59 tweets per hour
38% of conference tweets were retweets
622 unique contributors to the #eMetrics hashtag

Top tweet topics:

Top tweeters:

Most Retweeted Tweets

This year, eMetrics had a competition for the most retweeted tweet. The winner received a blue bird (and fame and glory, of course.) The competition was judged by the lovely folks at TweetReach and announced on the last day of the event.

In order, the most retweeted tweets were:


Twitalyzer “Impact” Score

I also found it interesting to compare and contrast my Twitalyzer “Impact” score historically at different events. eMetrics SF 2012 led to my highest Impact score to date (but note that Followers is a consideration in Impact scores, so later conferences are likely to have a higher score.)

Definition of “Impact”:

Impact, as defined by Twitalyzer, is a combination of the following factors:

  • The number of followers a user has
  • The number of references and citations of the user
  • How often the user is retweeted
  • How often the user is retweeting other people
  • The relative frequency at which the user posts updates

Related post: Top Takeaways from eMetrics SF 2012