Here are a few of the goodies I expect to unwrap…
It starts, of course, with the Huddles. Small conversational groups are what X Change is all about. They are the big presents under the tree with everything else just stocking stuffers. Here’s a few of the Huddles I’m particularly looking forward to:
Tom Betts’ Huddle on Democratizing Data. With the overwhelming trend toward data warehousing systems, the tools for democratizing data are changing. There are huge new opportunities around data visualization and dashboarding – but it’s hard to know what tools are really well suited to digital data and it’s rather unique profile. Obviously, this is an area where we at Semphonic have been active - particularly with our embedded segmentation and Pentaho and Tableau work. So I’m anxious to hear what people have been experimenting with and see who’s pushing the boundaries.
Kiele Cauble’s Huddle on Big Data, Big Deal. Big data has been occupying a huge amount of my time in 2012. Right now I have five different strategic plans requiring technology stack definition on my plate. Each will have some form of data warehousing in the mix, but only three involve what I would call big data. So for me, deciding on appropriate technologies and understanding the lines between big data and traditional analytics is more than just an academic exercise. I love Kiele’s title for this Huddle because I think it gets at the suspicion we may all have that there’s a little too much hype around big data solutions right now. It doesn’t mean there is no there, there; but whenever there’s so much smoke, it’s easy to get burned because you couldn’t see the fire!
Rhoda Ingberman’s Huddle on Monetizing Social Traffic. As it says in the Huddle description, “most social media campaigns end up being targeted toward the acquisition of relationships. But how valuable are those relationships?” That’s really the question when it comes to social media, and the methods for answering that question are complex and fascinating. Social pushes digital measurement into a deeper consideration of customer engagement and brand and is driving whole new approaches that transcend typical engagement scoring.
James Robinson on the Seduction of Real-time Analytics. Any Huddle with “seduction” in the title has to be good, right? But seriously, real-time is one of those things that just seems to capture the enterprise imagination. The lure of real-time drove the adoption of Web analytics tagging and it’s driving widespread adoption of tools like Chartbeat even as Web analytics tool become a little less real-time. As I’ve noted in the past, real-time puts tremendous demands on infrastructure and technology stack – and while I’m firmly in the real-time camp (for some things) – those demands mean that real-time always comes with a true price. Knowing when that price is too high to pay is valuable knowledge indeed.
Tastes may vary, of course. But with 60 or so to choose from, I think there's plenty for any analysts' tastes. And though this year’s X Change promises to be the largest ever, we added more than enough Huddles so that I think the overall group size is going to be truly optimal. We cap Huddles at 18 participants. Most will be in the 12-15 range I think is ideal. It should make for great conversation.
What else is on the table?
There’s the Think Tank Training day next Monday. A full slate of classes by Semphonic consultants on everything from Jesse Gross’ now famous “User-Driven Excel” to Allison Hartsoe’s brand new “Getting to Quick Insights with Tableau.” Paul Legutko has been spending quite a bit of time lately thinking about attribution, and that’s reflected in a considerable revamp to his “First Touch, Last Touch, Don’t Touch” deep-dive into Attribution. Similarly, Greg Dowling has taken another rich year’s worth of experience and turned it into a focused and more detailed look at "Mobile Application Measurement".
My own two classes (yes, I stuck to my resolution and I’m only doing two) are "Building a Customer Analytics Testbed" – a primer into building a cheaper POC data warehouse, and the "Web Analytics Toolkit" – in which I’ve stuffed a whole grab-bag of analytics techniques into something that looks like Santa’s sled struggling to lift-off from the North Pole.
And how about the Analytics Challenge? Our second year of inviting two non-profit organizations in for a half-day analytics barn-raising on the day after the formal end of the Conference. It was a blast last year. Informal. Fun. And pretty darn worthwhile too. I think both organizations walked away far richer in analytics strategies and I’m hoping we can repeat that bounty for this year’s candidates.
I’m also excited to hear from our Keynoter, Jon Farrar on “New Skin for the Old Cat: Building Better Analytics’ Mousetraps”. Jon’s background, like mine, is on the Customer Analytics front. He cut his teeth in Customer Scoring for Financial Services. In his keynote, he’s going to map the evolution of customer analytics and show how it parallels what we’re seeing today in digital analytics. With so much attention focused on big data, it’s easy to forget that a host of powerful analytics methods and a great amount of organizational knowledge about how to do analytics already exists and is available for its own form of data mining.
As always, we’re also doing Tete-a-Tete’s. These are opt-in one-on-one meetings with vendor experts. They are a chance to sit down and pick the brains of leading technology and consulting vendors. X Change isn’t a Semphonic client conference. It’s an industry conference that draws all of the classic tool vendors (Adobe, IBM, Webtrends, Comscore, and Google) plus a host of ecosystem and new technology companies (Ensighten, BrightTag, Tealium, SAS, Clicktale, InfoBright, iJento, Bango, Brooks Bell, etc.), and even a goodly number of Semphonic competitors (eClerx, Digitaria, Keystone, etc.). These participants add enormously to the conversation, and because we discourage selling or propaganda in Huddles (and have no booths or sponsorships), we like to provide Tete-a-Tete’s as a way of meeting the legitimate need for vendors and potential clients to meet and talk directly. I do these every year and always enjoy them.
And like last year, the DAA will be out at X Change. We’ve even added a great opportunity to take the DAA certification post X Change. What better test preparation could there be?!
Finally, of course, I’m looking forward to the event itself. Terranea in Palos Verdes is near the top of the list in terms of X Change venues and that’s saying something. It’s always great to see everybody. That’s true regardless of circumstance or weather. But what conversation isn’t better flavored by sun and salted by sea breeze, traded over good food and drunk with light wine? These are the seasonings that make even the best stew especially sweet.
Cheers – and see you there!