With our much abbreviated timeline, now is indeed the time to register for X Change. What makes X Change special? The answer is simple. The format. When I started X Change eight years ago, my idea was pretty simple. I go to a lot of conferences. I speak at a lot of conferences. I’ve gotten to almost enjoy the speaking (I’m a nervous Nellie by nature) and I try to add real value. But sitting in an audience listening to anybody’s presentation is, even at its best, a somewhat dissatisfying experience. There are questions you’d like to ask, things you’d like to explore that simply don’t get addressed. And there’s the open question about how much of what is being talked about could apply to your own unique situation. So it always seemed to me that the most interesting parts of most Conferences lived in between the presentations – the hallways conversations where you got to explore directly with the speaker what they’d talked about. To ask your questions, bounce the speaker’s ideas against your real world experience, and see if there are places where your situation changes, shapes, or deepens the learnings. My goal with X Change was to capture that experience as the conference.
So X Change is all conversation. Throughout the conference you break-out into small discussion groups led by leading enterprise practitioners. There’s no presentation, no speech. Just a deep-dive into the topic chosen by the leader and selected by the participants. Perhaps an opening salvo by the leader. Or a question to the group. Then it’s off to the races. You’ll hear real points of view. Unvarnished experiences. Honest reflection. I’ve sat in X Change discussions where there was sharp disagreement about key questions in analytics. I’ve been part of those discussions. And what I’ve learned (in addition to what I’ve learned) is that the very process of discussion drives clarity. I’ve spoken on topics and thought I’d understood them in depth, only to have a simple question pivot my understanding and force me to reconsider what I know, articulate it more clearly, change is subtly, or even abandon it altogether.
Having to explain and defend what you know is the best test for how well you actually know it.
I always learn things at X Change. Always. And I often learn the most when I engage around topics I’ve thought deeply about and think I fully understand.
With so much to choose from it’s always a challenge to pick which ones to attend or talk about, but here are the conversations I’m most excited about joining at this year’s X Change:
Big data is, well, a big issue at X Change. The degree of hype, the role of big data technologies, and the impact on classical digital analytics have been hotly debated in past X Change sessions. Tom Betts’ brings all of this forward with his Huddle: “On Cloud Nine - 'big data' technology - the digital analyst friend or foe?” I won’t deny to having a strong bias in this discussion and I know that Tom has done more than his share of exploring big data at the Financial Times – but I’m definitely curious to hear how this discussion is trending in our community and see who’s made friends with big data technologies.
In a similar but even more detailed vein, I’m looking forward to taking it down a level with Brady Lauback and his Huddle on “The most useful data warehouse aggregations for ad hoc analysis.” Where else but X Change can you discuss aggregations for ad hoc analysis with folks from the largest social media site in the known universe? Worth the price of admission alone – this also happens to be the key question in some of our most interesting engagements right now. Once again, I have plenty of strong opinions, but this is an area where’s there no one right answer, just lots of potentially interesting avenues to explore. Great topic.
In past years, Andy Ma has been voted an X Change MVP (Most Valuable Participant), and I’m particularly intrigued by this Huddle of his: “Building a sustainable analytics program for mobile apps”. I’m sure our own Greg Dowling will sign up for this, so I may not make it into the discussion, but this has been an area where I’ve been both perplexed and disappointed by the failure of our clients to measure mobile apps at anything like a reasonable level. Like VoC, this is a huge area of inexcusably under-invested measurement territory and I’m anxious to hear what the folks in Andy’s huddle have to say about building something real and valuable in the mobile apps space.
Kyle Keller and I shared a deeply invigorating conversation this past year in Germany on the future of reporting. If his Huddle “Is the future of reporting…less reporting?” is anything like that discussion, then you can expect fireworks. If you want to start a real argument in digital analytics, say something like “90% of Dashboards aren’t looked at, 90% of the dashboards that are looked at are misunderstood, and 90% of the dashboards that are correctly understood aren’t acted on. Naturally, we spend 90% of our time building dashboards.” This happens to be my own 90% rule – but I can assure you from personal experience that my views are NOT universally shared.
Like many of us, Rob Liebscher is going through the sometimes challenging transformation project that leads him to ask in his Huddle “Is it possible to transform a "business person" into a "data scientist" on the fly?” It’s a great question and it’s central to how we think about data democratization and what I sometimes call knowledge democratization. We’re all still learning about whether/when/how this can be done and I’m anxious to hear what the folks at X Change think.
Finally, how about sitting in on June Dershewitz’s Huddle on “Taking All the Credit: The Promise and Challenge of Marketing Attribution Technologies.” If you’re reading this, you probably already know that marketing attribution is high on my list of interesting and controversial topics. June is a former Semphonic veteran who left us a couple of years before the EY transition. We still miss her! She’s focused on the platform side of things in recent years and in places like attribution and CRM integration, analytics begins with understanding the technology.
The truth is, I could have picked twenty other sessions and been just about as happy. X Change really is that rich.
Check it out. You can see all the Huddle sessions, all the leaders, and all the great stuff you can be a part of it.