In my last post, I summarized how a company currently using Visual Sciences might start to think about options going forward. The key factors to consider were type of current product (HBX or Visual Site), type of usage (reporting focused, or analytics focused), and degree of satisfaction.
No matter where you fall in those buckets, however, there are really only a few roads you can actually follow. You can stay with HBX as long as possible. Indeed, until things like transition pricing, Omniture strategy, and product roadmap are clarified, that’s likely to be the wisest step. And unless your VS contract is expiring in the very near term, you don’t have to push the panic button on making a decision.
However, if your contract is expiring or you are the type of organization that is continually tagging new sites, then you really shouldn’t postpone making a decision about both short and long-term direction. And ultimately, your choices boil down to this - you can move to SiteCatalyst or you can move to another tool.
I believe that a significant majority of HBX customers will choose to move to SiteCatalyst. I’m less certain about Visual Site customers – and, of course, they may not have to move at all.
Why do I think HBX customers will mostly pick Omniture?
There are a host of reasons. Not the least of which is that Omniture was already winning most open tool evaluation battles. In addition, SiteCatalyst and HBX are, as I’ve already remarked, very similar products. So for most companies, the simplest and least difficult transition would be to SiteCatalyst. Finally, I’m assuming that Omniture will both incentive this behavior and make it even easier than it already is.
So what’s involved in an HBX to SiteCatalyst transition? Quite a lot actually.
The first step is transitioning your contract. You need to know what options you’re going to be using in the Omniture world and how to structure your contract appropriately. Many aspects of the Omniture suite are similar to those in Visual Sciences but there are important differences to understand as well. From a contractual perspective, key issues are likely to be the following:
• Should I buy Discover 2.x?
• Should I purchase extra ASIs (somewhat equivalent to Active Segments)?
• Do I need Data Warehouse?
• Should I maintain by current Account Structure?
Of these, I believe that the most important by far is the decision around Discover – a decision that will have a deep impact on your planning at every future step.
Some of the key tag elements to consider include:
• Should I implement a link tracking strategy?
• Do I need to modify my campaign tracking?
• How am I going to handle internal / tagless campaigns?
• Do I need to change Commerce and Cart tracking?
• How can I take advantage of Omniture’s much richer set of Custom (Prop) Variables?
• How can I take advantage of Omniture’s eCommerce Variables?
• How can I take advantage of Omniture’s events?
All of these are important, but the last three will probably take up more time than all the others combined. Most Omniture implementations spend a lot of time on these last three questions and there is no way to answer them from an existing HBX implementation.
After you’ve transitioned your tag, you’ll need to address some key roll-out issues including transitioning your existing management report set. This is actually one of the biggest and most difficult transition points if, like many HBX shops, you relied heavily on ReportBuilder. Omniture has similar (but clunkier) capabilities to ReportBuilder, and is promising to make this offering more attractive. That would be a big win, because otherwise you can expect some serious pain in this step.
Even if Omniture does improve the ReporBuilder tool, however, there are significant issues in reporting that revolve around Active Segmentation and ASIs. ASI’s in Omniture are much less used than Active Segments in HBX though they provide essentially similar functionality. Unfortunately, you tend to have many fewer ASI’s than Active Segments. And ASI’s are much less reliable – often lagging significantly behind current data. I don’t expect Omniture to improve this capability because I don’t see them cannibalizing Discover 2.x sales.
Unless you move to Discover AND Omniture provides Excel to Discover integration ala ReportBuilder, you may be faced with a difficult automation path for reporting.
Before you despair, however, be sure to check out the capabilities of correlations and sub-relations in SiteCatalyst. These provide cross-tabulation capabilities for specific variables. They don’t replace Active Segments per se – but they can often be used to replace specific reporting cuts that could only be provided using Active Segments in HBX. So depending on how you use your Active Segments, you may be able to emulate many reporting metrics without ASI’s in SiteCatalyst.
Also, be sure to consider the possible role of dashboards in your reporting. Dashboards are used in both HBX and SiteCatalyst – but are somewhat more powerful and more common in SiteCatalyst.
After reporting, of course, you’ll have to transition your users. For most users, the switch-over from HBX to SiteCatalyst shouldn’t be too difficult. The two products are – and always have been – awfully similar. In most cases, basic training on the GUI should suffice.
If you use datafeeds, the sql-interface or any of the other specialized tools that surround HBX, you’ll obviously have custom work around those as well. The use of those tools is too specialized to generalize about the difficulty in transitioning. Usually, you’d expect a fair amount of work around transitioning these more advanced capabilities – but that won’t always be the case.
If your organization is serious about web analytics and is a current VS customer, then it’s already time to be thinking about the best going forward strategy. Don’t just assume that the decision can be put off till it’s contract renewal time. That may in fact be possible, but if you are regularly tagging new sites, then every site you tag in HBX will be that much more work when it comes time to transition over.
It’s not a bad idea to start considering your options immediately. Keep in mind that the two companies are (and will be for a while) at arm’s length. You can’t negotiate with them together and you can’t get a contract that will specifically take into account the transition. However, you can negotiate with Omniture immediately and you can work with them to develop a transition strategy that will make both technical and financial sense. And even if you’re not ready for that, you can at least begin to understand where your company needs to move and what resources and planning need to be marshaled to keep – and improve - your web measurement effort through the inevitable transition.