This year, we’ve been tracking Huddle sign-ups with more than academic interest. One of the ideas we talked about at last year’s X Change was to create a closing series of wild-card huddles. The idea was to repeat some of the Huddles that had the highest interest to give more folks a chance to share in them and deepen the discussion even further.
With the Conference already more than 2/3 full, we’ve got a pretty good sense of where the highest interest is running – and I thought it would be interest to take a quick look at the topics that are drawing the most attention.
Here’s a list of the top seven topics by session sign-up as of this weekend:
- Big Data moving beyond the hype ( Jon Francis / Nike)
- Landing your insights: Analytics and the art of storytelling ( Peter Sanborn / Microsoft)
- Analyzing data that matters - is there ever a silver bullet? ( Matt Kaminksi /Constant Contact)
- Tying customer devices to customer journey ( Katie Reagan / Marriott)
- Does big data mean the end of analytics? ( Peter Kobsa / WebMD)
- Use predictive analytics to get more out of your data ( Brandon Bunker / Sony
- Focusing your analytics team on making an impact ( Brady Lauback / Facebook)
It’s a pretty revealing list. First, what a great list of leaders and companies and topics! That's always been the best thing about X Change – the ability to sit down and talk with terrific people – not in a presentation format but in true conversation - about really cool stuff. That's what it's all about and I think looking at a short list like this just put's the spotlight on how special an opportunity X Change provides.
But what does it tell us about our community?
Obviously, big data continues to be a huge topic. Every year for the last 3 years we’ve seen significant growth in the number of Huddles focused on behavioral analytics outside the core set of tools (like SiteCatalyst, Webtrends, GA, etc.) and this year is no exception. What’s more, the interest in those Huddles has grown steadily. Almost half of the most popular topics are big data related.
Of course, both Jon’s “Big Data – moving beyond the hype” and Peter’s “Does big data mean the end of analytics?” suggest some of the community’s unease with big data and the lurking fear that we’re being carried along by a wave that we cannot fully control. It’s easy to imagine that wave either pushing us aside in favor of a new generation of data scientists and machine learning folks or, perhaps even worse, leaving us stranded in the same old place but having to deal with a vastly expanded set of enterprise expectations.
I’d also classify Katie Reagan’s Huddle "Tying Customer Devices to Customer Journey" as, in essence, a big data topic. Katie did a brilliant job two years back with big data Huddle – and she is deeply hands-on with this topic. Creating full customer journeys is the ultimate goal of most big data digital analytics systems and it’s no picnic. The nature of effective join strategies changes with detail level data (a key part of what I think defines big data), and it’s no longer enough to simply dump data streams on the same box to achieve “integration”. Part and parcel of the problem in digital joins is identifying customers across channel – and that’s an exercise in tying customer devices together. So if you are serious about big data and customer journey, this topic will necessarily become a key part of your thinking. That’s it’s one of the most popular Huddles at this year’s X Change tells me how serious people are getting about their big data systems in digital.
Looking at the other four leading Huddles, they seem to capture two fundamental issues in the digital analytics landscape. The first is a dramatic growth in the sophistication of analytic methods being deployed. I look at Brandon and Matt’s Huddles as reflective of this. Predictive analytics has grown steadily in interest over the last couple of years. Partly, of course, because digital data has become accessible outside of tools that limit one’s ability to do real analytics. Partly because our industry is simply maturing and becoming less consumed with the needs of data quality and basic reporting.
Certainly within our practice and especially since joining EY, I’m seeing far more demand for advanced analytics, true modeling, and more aggressive uses of the data. All great stuff.
The second fundamental issue I see these remaining Huddle’s address is a continuing concern that we aren’t making enough impact in the organization. Peter’s “Landing your insights: Analytics and art of storytelling” and Brady’s “Focusing your analytics team on making an impact” both seem to me to focus on how we can make our analytics a driver of change.
It strikes me that these two issues are ultimately related. Predictive analytics and modeling embody one answer to the question of how we can drive change (better analysis) while these other topics focus more on how we can create more impact with the analytics we already have (better process).
I’m certainly sympathetic to the idea that we don’t drive enough change. I ALWAYS feel that way – even with our most successful efforts. But sometimes change can sneak up on you as well – we may all look back in five or ten years and see that enterprise decision-making has fundamentally changed to be far more data-driven without any of us ever feeling like we really succeeded.
What’s missing here? From my perspective, the missing piece is around analytics for personalization. Segmentation and modeling to drive actual conversations (whether real-time or otherwise) is, to me, the opportunity to make the biggest and best answer to the question of how to drive impact. Yet progress on this front has been agonizingly slow and, at least as measured by top Huddles at X Change, is still not front-and-center in the community's mindset.
Maybe next year.
I've also been deeply struck here at EY by the power of combining analytics with customer experience practices to create a deeper type of experience engineering. I'm hoping to get some conversation around that this year and maybe next year see it as a more developed topic.
We’re still more than a month from X Change and some of these Huddles are already nearly full. Joining these great conversations is the very best reason I can give you not just to come out X Change, but to register now!
See you there.
[If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’d like to invite you out to a very X Change like half-day session hosted by IBM. Their EMM Thought Leadership Thursday Roadshow on Marketing Attribution is on August 22nd in Silicon Valley. I’m going to be giving a presentation on preparing for an Attribution Analysis that will cover techniques and considerations for data collection and execution of an attribution analysis. It’s a part of the topic that rarely gets discussed, but it’s the real bricks-and-mortar of getting the analysis done and done right. What I think is particularly interesting about the event is the one-hour collaborative white-board session that follows the two presentations. Very cool idea – and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works. If you’re in the area and you have an interest in Marketing Attribution – check it out.]
[I get so much SPAM on Typepad these days that I often miss real comments. So if you have a real comment, please drop me an email directly and let me know you've posted. Thanks!]