It’s the battle of the Tag Management…Conferences these days. I was down in San Diego for Tealium’s Digital Velocity this past week and I'm looking forward to Ensighten’s Agility Conference this week. Even the names are kind of the same! I don’t generally favor scheduling competing Conferences so close together (Jim Sterne and I, for example, work to keep a nice separation between X Change and eMetrics events), but that’s kind of the way things are in the Tag Management world these days. It’s growing, it’s crowded, it’s competitive and it’s not all lovey-dovey.
That’s a shame really, because I admire all of the companies in the space. Tagman pioneered this space years before the rest of us saw and understood the need. And though Ensighten wasn’t the first TMS, to my mind they were the first to understand the unique application of Tag Management for Web analytics. They saw and helped popularize the idea that Tag Management was more than universal tagging and their GUI was the first that specifically targeted Web analytics and it’s particular and special challenges. That triggered a wave of great products that have steadily leapfrogged the state-of-the-art (and each other) to deliver vastly improved capabilities and experiences in a very short time. BrightTag’s Server-to-Server methodology is a fundamental re-think of the potential for digital data collection and they serve that atop a robust platform for analytics and non-analytics tags. Satellite’s elegant and comprehensive GUI for Web Analytics tagging has re-defined what a TMS can do in the interface – greatly extending the scope of the TMS and lowering the bar on the expertise you need to implement. Tealium’s newest release continues the trend in both directions – greatly improved user interface AND advanced data collection (DataCloud). We’ve seen these companies almost continually re-define what Tag Management is and can be.
Maybe friendly is over-rated.
Here’s a few thoughts from Digital Velocity. The core of Tealium’s new release is fresh evidence of the rapid advancement in the user interface for tag management – both in fixed and increasingly in mobile Web. For hands-on users of these systems, it’s a huge boon.
For me, though, the most exciting new product is DataCloud.
What makes DataCloud potentially important? With any tag management system, you have the ability to direct data to your own servers. To create, in effect, a real-time event-level data feed that frees you from the necessity of getting a data feed with 24 hour latency from your Web analytics vendor. There is a bit of cost to be paid of course – you lose some of the processing that happens vendor-side and is incorporated into those feeds. Which means you have to do a bit more work getting the feed setup and clean.
DataCloud, however, is more than this simple re-direct capability. The beauty of DataCloud is that it captures ALL of the event streams (e.g. from all of your tags) and routes them to a single, cloud-based location. But that’s not the whole story either. DataCloud creates a universal key across all those streams. In other words, your ad serving tags (for instance) will now have a keyed identifier that matches your web analytics tags - visitor to visitor! For everybody. Anonymous visitors and logged in customers. Every tag, every visitor. That’s cool. This is Genesis done in a completely different, simpler, cleaner fashion. It’s a great idea.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t issues with this approach as well. Naturally, it only works well with tag-based feeds. You still have to integrate your non-tagged data the old-fashioned, sweaty way. Nor is it a panacea for all tagged data. After all, not everything you need to know about the event is necessarily captured client-side at the tag. So you are still likely to have to integrate feeds from digital vendors. But that integration will be internal key to internal key (their own keys) and you’ll have already solved the cross-system join which is, after-all, the trickiest one.
One other thought from Digital Velocity. Like all the TMS companies, Tealium has been growing like gang-busters. With their recent hiring of Jeff Lunsford as CEO (and not just Jeff – it felt like a Veterans Day re-union down in San Diego with all the WebSideStory guys there), it’s clear that they’ve upped their game as a software and technology company. This is a team with deep roots in SaaS development and they are putting together a lot of the same pieces that helped build WebSideStory. That makes for a tight-knit and highly professional technology team. That’s not an easy thing to build from scratch and it may prove to be a critical differentiator. When you’re evaluating enterprise software it is as much about the company as the code, and Tealium looks to be building a great company.
As one of the Tealium guys remarked to me, “We’re putting the band back together!”
It sure looks that way. And if they aren’t quite on a mission from god, they are nevertheless on a crazy wild, Blues Brother’s kind of ride.