[One last plug for my Webinar this week on our ETL and Data Model for Digital Data in the Warehouse - I highly, highly recommend this content if you are thinking about or pursuing a digital data warehouse!]
Between the Omniture Customer Advisory Board (CAB) and the Summit, there was a good deal to chew on from this past week. Despite the acquisition by Adobe, I (and I don't think I'm alone here) have continued to think of the event as the Omniture Summit. But truly, after this year, I may finally be over that. It isn't just that Adobe combined multiple product-line conferences (and with their recent acquisitions there's a considerable number of these) into the Summit. That makes a difference, but what's far more important is the degree to which the significant content discussed transcended the traditional analytics suite. This was as true in the re-organized CAB as it was in the broader Conference.
In particular, I found the product demonstrations and discussions of the latest CQ5 release to be the single most interesting and compelling part of the CAB and Summit discussions. That's not because Semphonic does consulting around Web Content Management (WCM) - we don't. But the integration between a WCM system, testing, tagging, and analytics has become deep enough to be both interesting and, potentially, differentiating.
For several years now I've argued that the idea of having testing systems separate from the Content Management System (CMS) makes no sense. It's an historical artifact - a case where start-ups were able to deliver a capability that established CMS vendors should - but didn't - provide. That's changing, but slowly.
You had to have Omniture buy Offermatica, and then Adobe buy Omniture and Day. And you still need Test & Target along with CQ5. But at least the integration is tight enough that you have the appearance of a fairly seamless product. Frankly, if I'm a CMS-vendor, I'd be looking to make these capabilities native in the CMS (like they should be), and looking at the broader CMS market, I think it's moving (slowly) in that direction. The days of independent testing tools are (or should be) numbered. And thank goodness. You shouldn't have to pay to run tests on your own site!
I just don't understand the concept behind paying for a system to serve Web content and then paying for another system to over-write that content. It's clumsy, tedious, inefficient, and expensive. A quadfecta of hurt.
There are deeper reasons why siloed testing tools are an endangered species. As I've been arguing this year (in places like the recent Whitepaper on the Future of Digital Measurement and Personalization), Web content experiences must become more personal. That happens only when a "Customer Profile" can be used to drive content experiences. But who owns that profile and where does it live? With the Testing tool? I don't think so! Does it live in the warehouse? With the CMS? With Omniture/Adobe across the suite? Probably the single most interesting discussion at my CAB focused on just this issue and while I can't share the discussion, I can at least say that this decision is going to be central to your analytics ecosystem and to Adobe's future.
The integration of analytics is a different story. Analytics isn't a natural function of a CMS the way testing is. But some level of integration is clearly advantageous - allowing content creators to quickly review and understand content performance. I'm not sold that the loop is really all that tight or ever will be, but there's no doubt that at least in some organizations having tightly integrated high-level analytics embedded in the CMS view is desirable.
On the other hand, tagging is most definitely a CMS function. And again, I think the level of integration of SiteCatalyst tagging with CQ5 is starting to be pretty interesting. In some respects, it's significantly more interesting that Adobe's independent tag management efforts; efforts that still trail the broader TMS industry.
As with testing, tag management is clearly a function that SHOULD be part of a Web Content Management System but just hasn't been. Once again, you shouldn't have to pay extra for dropping content onto a page. That's what your Web CMS is for, right?
Longer term, all tag management capabilities really should be embedded in the CMS. But Adobe can't afford to assume that every SiteCatalyst shop will be a CQ shop or that every CMS will support analytics and tag management. So there's legitimate reason to have a separate tag management product. Still, I'd like to see it positioned seamlessly with CQ5.
But will CQ provide identical support for other analytics tags (such as GA)?
Not so likely. That highlights both the advantage and disadvantage of integration in a single suite. As the current crop of Tag Management Systems have proven, if you can support SiteCatalyst tags it's quite easy to support a broad range of other vendor systems. There's no reason why a CMS shouldn't be able to support ALL of the functionality of the current generation of TMS systems (buy or build is their decision - there are some pretty good acquistion candidates out there).
Product suite integration gives Adobe a reason and incentive to drive these capabilities forward, and that's a good thing for the whole market. Right now, I think Adobe is the vendor leading the push to integrate both Testing and Tagging. That's fantastic. But it also gives them a reason to be vendor-specific and to keep products as separate revenue (Test & Target / TMS / CQ5) that really should be unified.
This isn't a problem unique to Adobe. It runs across all types of enterprise software suites where the benefits of integration need to be weighed against the inevitable cost, limitation, and "stickiness" trade-offs. There isn't a "right" answer for every enterprise.
For now, I'm happy that the level of integration between Web Content Management Systems and our world is becoming serious and seriously interesting. That's a trend that's all to the good, and it's a trend that promises to fundamentally re-shape the way we think about the analytics eco-system.
On a personal note, I have to say how much I enjoyed my Customer Advisory Board sessions. Brent Watson and Chris Wareham do a terrific job keeping the sessions interesting, focused, and useful. It's always my favorite part of Summit and this year was no exception. Adobe re-grouped the CAB - going from single products to logical groupings of products. The reorg was both necessary and sound, but it seemed to impact some CAB groups more than others. The Analytics & Reporting Group is now huge (probably too large). I suspect Adobe will have to do some trimming.It's near impossible to have a strategic discussion with 50 people - it's hard enough with 10! CAB is always a reminder to me how challenging it is to get people (maybe especially measurement folks) to think strategically instead of focusing on tool nits.
My group (Suite Enablement & Development) now includes Integration, API, Tag Management and Platform issues around Big-Data (there was a great Big-Data discussion in our CAB). Perfect for me - and still not too large. In fact, we could probably use a few more Customer members. If you have an interest and a deep engagement with that toolset you should ping out to Brent! I often wish I could sit in on Analytics & Reporting too (our Greg Dowling sits on that CAB), but I'm not jealous, just greedy!