DMA 2012: These are a few of my favourite themes

Big data

“Big data” is the buzz word of the year. But sadly, most companies aren’t doing enough with their “small data” to even think of tackling “big data”. It’s easy to think that big data is just “more data”, but in truth, it will fundamentally change the way we need to look at data, the tools we need and the skillsets we need to hire. We are already facing a huge talent shortage, and this will only continue to grow.

But more than that, the future is not just about big data, but also new data. The proliferation of channels and data streams is not slowing. This data can be actionable, but first, we need to get it all in one place. This is easier said than done!

Focus on action

I would argue that most companies are fairly well sold on the need for, and value of, data. However, in the end, the best data doesn’t necessarily win – the first person to act on it does.

Something that struck me was Chris Anderson’s comment, “Correlation is not causation, but it is something.” He cautioned against getting so bogged down in understanding exactly what caused something. Instead, get comfortable with not knowing, and taking action on what you have. After all, Bayesian statistics tells us to focus on probability, not certainty, as there is no “right”, there is only “right-er.”

Andrew Edwards discussed the data driven organisation. Some of the critical factors setting apart data driven organisations are that they understand and measure against their business goals (rather than measuring what is easy!), are organized around the intelligence they get from the data, know how to say no to what is ineffective, and iteratively analyse and learn from what they do.

The power of the consumer

Historically, what happened if someone was unhappy with a company? They wrote a letter, maybe told their family over dinner. Now, consumers can take to social media and their message can become quickly amplified. Take the customer who called out Papa John’s on Twitter – she only had 30 followers, yet this was quickly picked up and spread by Scott Stratten, who had tens of thousands.

The average customer is reachable on 7+ channels, and has high expectations! Not only are we active on multiple channels, but we expect companies to recognise us as we move between them. This isn’t going away – technology will continue to increase this fragmentation.

Marketing today is not about defining your brand, or pushing out a message. You no longer define your brand – your customer’s perceptions, how they share those with others, truly define you. Now, everything needs to be viewed as marketing, including hiring. Your employees are the ones who represent your brand every day, and they deliver the message about who you are. (Not your expensive ad campaign!)

The reality is, while businesses have the data, consumers now have the power. However, when companies try to seize the upper hand by exploiting data, it leads to trouble … Namely, the privacy debate.


Not surprisingly, privacy was a key topic at this year’s DMA. Bryan Pearson ran a fantastic session, which still has me thinking.

Some sobering stats:

  • Only 42% of consumers trust companies with their personal info.
  • Only 22% of consumers believe they are getting any benefit for sharing personal information.

Privacy is goes hand in hand with trust. Consumers tend to be more concerned about data and privacy with companies that they don’t have an existing relationship with. Pearson recommends working within what he calls the “virtuous cycle”: Get permission, Build trust and Develop relationship. Then repeat. You want more data? Back to Get permission. Giving customers a choice of whether to share or not will actually build trust, and makes that sharing more likely.

“You don’t know me. You know some things about me.”
-Lester Wunderman

The reality is, data use and privacy has been something of a “wild wild west.” There’s a need for governance around this, and if companies can not or will not self- and industry-govern, legislative action is likely. All it takes is one company to be caught doing something unsavoury, and everyone is quickly tarnished. But it doesn’t even take action. Just collecting data with no clear intention of what you’ll use it for, and how that will benefit consumers, is a recipe for disaster. So stop and think – would you stand up in a court of public opinion and be comfortable defending how you use and protect customer data? Are you treating consumer’s data with the reverence that you should?

In the end, “Information can be very powerful, but it’s what we use it for that will define us.”

The Return on Investing in Training and Education

Across different companies, there are differing attitudes towards the value of conferences, training and industry events. Sometimes (more commonly on the agency or consulting side) attendance at conferences is considered to be of benefit to the business, as it is considered marketing, and may lead to new clients. However, an employee’s desire to attend events and up-skill often goes unsupported. Or, if education is begrudgingly permitted, the time is almost treated as if the employee is “on vacation.”

In my humble opinion, the best digital analytics professionals want to attend conferences or training, be constantly learning and growing. It’s a sign that you hired well! These are the analysts who will go the extra mile, and do more than you even thought of.

But companies do the wrong math. They think about the price of a conference plus travel and accommodation, and think, “What’s in it for me?”

Here’s what’s in it for you. Think of the cost of conferences and training for your employees. Now think of the cost of employee turnover, recruiting, time spent understaffed, and retraining. Now add in the number of times you’ll do this, as you continue to lose great people (in an industry where 51% have changed jobs in the last 12 months!) – people to whom continual growth and education is critical to their job satisfaction.

The math seems pretty simple to me.

#eMetrics Boston 2012: Key Takeaways

Last week was another great eMetrics, this time in my (new) hometown, Boston. In case you missed the 10,000 tweets, here are a few of my key takeaways, as well as a few of the giggles that entertained me.

Top themes:

1. It’s (still) about people

If you are reading this, I don’t need to tell you about the challenges of attracting, nurturing and retaining talent in this industry. However, while the focus was absolutely on the people within an analytics team (with an entire track was devoted to recruiting and career advice!) other sessions highlighted the need to focus on people more generally. From building your team to communicating with others to building a culture of analytics, here were some of “thoughts of the day(s)”:

  • It’s critical to take time to train users, but on what they need to know, rather than just generic training. – Chris Johannessen
  • Analytics can’t be successful without goals, but it’s critical that goals are politically aligned. – Jim Sterne
  • Building an analytics culture requires you to play both offense and defense. Play offense by messaging exceptions and continually getting your message out. Playing defense by ensuring data quality – for example, making sure you have alerts set up. – Chris Johannessen
  • Regarding hiring: “Buy talent, rent skills.” If you’re filling very specific skill gap, use consultants. To build team, hire talent. – Corry Prohens
  • But, Shari Cleary made it clear it’s also critical to hire people who complement your team, and bring new skillsets in.
  • A question was asked: “Why is it so much easier to argue for tools than for people?” Jim Sterne’s answer? “Because there are very few vendors selling people.” Absolutely the truth. Which leads me to …

2. It’s not about the tools

As Gilligan said, “Do not ask – which tools do we need? Ask – what data do we want?” Recruiting advice (and practices!) are even moving away from the tools. As Eric Feinberg said: “Hire for mindset, not toolset.” Keep in mind that in the end, “all the tools in the world can feed your brain but they’re not going to give you insight. Your brain creates insight.” – Jim Sterne. And: “I don’t care if you have a Formula One in your driveway if you can’t drive it” – it is critical to be leveraging tools, technology, and integrating them! – Stephane Hamel.

Speaking of tools, while tag management vendors have been around for a while, this was certainly the first eMetrics where they stole the show.

In case you live under a rock missed it, Google announced a free tag management solution, and eMetrics was crawling with assorted tag management vendors. It’s easy to think of tag management as the newest “fad” or the newest shiny tool. However, I hope it allows us to move away from focusing on “the tools”, put them into the context and the process they need to be, and focus on the outcomes we’re driving and the value we’re delivering.

3. It’s not even about data

The term “big data” is being thrown all over the place these days, but I think Eric Feinberg said it best: “It’s not about big data, it’s about big judgment.” Using the data, making big decisions and taking big actions is what matters – no matter how big or small your data is. After all: “Research without insights is just trivia.” – KD Paine

Parting thoughts

But in the end, this really stuck with me:

“My key takeaways from eMetrics were: 1) I am not alone and my problems are shared. 2) The tools for success are there but the balancing act is on you.” – @doubleks (for someone with only four tweets, he sure made them profound!)

PS. There’s always time for fun
(And the people in our industry are tons of it!)

A few of my favourite moments:

Rocking the Satellite Bandana

Fenway Park

DAA Fenway Event

If you didn’t get to attend the DAA Fenway event, I have to say … you missed out. Speaker Tim Zue was fascinating talking about how the Red Sox use data to manage everything from ticket prices to understanding no-shows and more, and even gave out valuable prizes for questions! The feedback from DAA members and event attendees was that it was a resounding success, so check out the next member event near you!

Lobby Bar

Chocolate, eMetrics Style - Thanks Rene!

Oh yeah, and …

'Nuff said...

Until next time, eMetrics … “Where did you go?!”


#eMetrics Boston: Twitterific!

A few fun facts about eMetrics Boston on Twitter:

  • During the conference timeframe, there were 2,726 tweets from 499 users, averaging 5.5 tweets per user. (For comparison, eMetrics San Francisco saw 3,241 tweets during the conference from 622 users, but it was also a more heavily attended conference.)
  • The top 20 contributors to the #eMetrics hashtag were:

MicheleJKiss 295  (don’t judge me)
BloggerKrista 189
measurefuture 138
june_li 112
eswayne 76
andrewjanis 75
rdo 67
RachaelGerson 66
deniseburns 65
jimsterne 47
Stuart_Wood 45
AnyaPrimavera 43
LdsWebAnalytics 43
codydbailey 40
iwanttobesocial 40
SashaVerbitsky 39
tgwilson 39
Wilson_Lopez 39
johnlovett 35
emetrics 33
JoseAnalytics 33

The tweet that reached the furthest (thanks TweetReach!) with over 430,000 impressions was:

(And in case you’re curious, the second highest also mentioned Gilligan.)

And in case you’re curious what we were talking about:

Thank you to the lovely and clever people at TweetReach for the spiffy data!

#eMetrics presentation: Communication

For those who might be interested, check out my presentation from eMetrics Boston: “The Most Undervalued Analytics Tool: Communication”


Note: The presentation is fairly visual, with few words, but you can view the speaker notes below the presentation by clicking through and viewing on SlideShare. Select the Notes tab to view notes for the slide:
This presentation covers the material in my Communication series. If you’d like to read more, check out: The Most Undervalued Analytics Tool: Communication

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