Summit is by far the biggest event in our industry and it’s always been a unique, exciting blend of high-powered marketing, great entertainment, flawless execution, and product news. I spent almost the whole week there, since the Customer Advisory Board (CAB) starts on Monday and I flew out late Thursday afternoon.
Like Engage, Summit is most interesting as a reflection of where the parent company is heading – which products are top-of-mind and what’s the long-term (18 months in our industry) roadmap and vision. If Webtrends is a product and company moving through a fairly fundamental transition, the story for Omniture is -at the same time - simpler and yet more complicated.
Much of the product news is of the “more of the same” variety – logical extensions of existing products and integrations between the ever expanding Digital Marketing Suite. Most of the products are getting this sort of evolutionary treatment.
In my own CAB, for example, the biggest news around the Developers Connection and API products is a substantial increase planned in the number of free tokens allotted (2k to 10K) to users. It’s good news, but not revolutionary. The token system has been a huge drag on API adoption and I’ve pushed for a fundamental change in the system (to throttle overuse but make it free in all other cases) for years. I feel like I’m preaching to the choir when talking to the API team at Omniture, I think they’d love a more generous approach. In large companies, however, you live with what you can get and Omniture has consistently taken a very conservative approach with the API. 10k is a lot better than 2K, so I’ll live with it.
There’s no doubt that the biggest product evolution discussed at Summit is to the most important part of the whole suite – SiteCatalyst. After last year’s Summit, I complained that SiteCatalyst, the flagship of the Omniture Suite, wasn’t getting enough attention. Throughout this whole year, Omniture’s been working on a very substantial revamp to the core architecture designed to bring the single most important yet challenging feature in digital analytics to SiteCatalyst – advanced segmentation. Omniture has always had a great segmentation engine – in many ways the best and most capable one in the industry.
Until now, however, that segmentation engine has been confined to data warehouse and Discover (Insight is a separate sort of beast that deserves its own category). Both are very powerful tools but each has important limitations. Data Warehouse queries usually run over-night and the output is basic delimited text; the long lag time makes the Data Warehouse problematic for exploratory analysis. Discover is designed to fix that problem and it’s a genuine pleasure to use. But Discover samples larger clients, is licensed by the seat, doesn’t integrate as well with outbound reporting tools (like ORB or the API) and is fairly expensive. So if you’re organization can’t afford Discover or wants to integrate segmentation into reporting (a critically important capability I’ll be discussing in my ongoing series), you’ve been out of luck.
Version 15 of SiteCatalyst will change all that by integrating a common segmentation engine into the product. It’s a huge win – and that’s the good news. It promises to bring the best segmentation capabilities in the industry to the core tool in the Suite.
Now here’s the bad news – to get that capability into SiteCatalyst, Omniture has to re-engineer the underlying platform (which may enable many similarly valuable capabilities). Unlike previous versions of SiteCatalyst, it isn’t simply a matter of flipping the switch on the software to upgrade to a new version. In fact, it looks like the lead-time for rolling out Version 15 is going to be substantial and it’s also likely to be dependent on your server volumes. So if you’re a high-volume Omniture user, you could be looking at many, many months before you have access to V15 - conceivably a year or even more. I got no clear sense of the actual timing of the rollout and how incremental it's likely to be. Nor is it clear whether clients should expect issues with performance and latency. That’s not really the aggressive rollout news I was hoping for.
In the rest of the product suite, I think the two biggest developments weren’t quite product announcements at all. Demdex, Omniture’s recent acquisition, got lots of attention. It’s a very interesting offering and well worth looking at – very much a part of the type of Digital Database Marketing we’ve been seeing so much of here at Semphonic. You can read more about this (particularly with regards to privacy) in my colleague Phil Kemelor’s blog…
Omniture also showed an early(alpha) version of a Social Media Measurement tool with tight integration into SiteCatalyst. While that’s an appealing idea, I’m skeptical of Omniture’s prospects in this market. Integration of Social Media data with SiteCatalyst is attractive, but it’s not, in my opinion, a decisive advantage. This is a market with intense competition and products that are rapidly maturing and well ahead of what Omniture showed in terms of features and capabilities. Omniture hasn’t proven to me that they can develop product rapidly enough to compete with companies like Radian6 and they haven’t shown the ability to bring secondary products in the suite up to levels of integration that might justify the comparative loss of functionality. I’d be quite surprised if this product evolves rapidly enough to gain traction in an increasingly crowded and sophisticated marketplace.
On the whole, it feels to me like product development at Adobe/Omniture is getting back on track after a substantial acquisition-related dry-spell. I think the priorities are mostly in the right places (SiteCatalyst, platform, T&T) and acquisitions like Demdex are directionally both bold and appropriate. If I have any broader concerns, it would be that Omniture, perhaps driven by Adobe, seems increasingly focused on Media&Publishing. Almost every general session speaker (including a surprisingly excellent speech by Michael Eisner) was media focused and the bulk of the interesting announcements were media-related.
That’s certainly not an issue if you’re in that vertical, but for Retail, B2B, Travel, Public Sector, and Health&Pharma, it might leave a bit of chill. One of Omniture’s traditional strengths has been its wide appeal across verticals and I hope that’s not at risk. I would have liked to have seen a bit more balance.
On to eMetrics!