Okay…I’ve been quiet about the Coremetrics acquisition by IBM for long enough now. While the dust still won’t settle until sometime in Q3’10, when this deal passes FTC scrutiny, I’m compelled to weigh in and offer my $.02 USD mainly because there’s been some good dialog in the blogosphere from people I respect like: Eric, Joe Stanhope, Akin and more recently Brian Clifton.
I’ll take a slightly different approach and use the acquisition to talk about the state of the web analytics marketplace. For starters, let me just say that this acquisition was inevitable. So too will Webtrends be acquired by some player looking to incorporate metrics into their overarching set of technology capabilities. And as I blogged earlier this spring, yet another even bigger fish will eat the existing big fish and we’ll utter oooh’s and ahhh’s as the analytics technology market evolves into a vital organ for all businesses with a heartbeat. While not immune to arrhythmia, this course of events shouldn’t really take anyone by surprise. I’ve been saying this for a while now and even penned “Web Analytics is Destined to Become an Integrated Service” back in May 2009 when I wrote the Forrester US Web Analytics Forecast 2008-2014 (subscription required). I’ve been advocating web analytics as a function within the marketing organization, which seems to be a logical orientation. However, it’s interesting that the consumption of analytical technologies has come from a smattering of different perspectives.
Here’s how the post-acquisition landscape looks:
Adobe’s acquisition of Omniture undoubtedly took many by surprise (myself included – although you’re never allowed to admit surprise as an analyst). The promise Adobe made to investors was that they would incorporate the market leading web analytics technology into the creative life-cycle by enabling measurement at the point of content creation. Perhaps that’s not exactly how they positioned it, but that was my impression and they’re now executing on that promise. Say what you want about acquisitions and the slow moving integration process, but Creative Suite 5 debuted in April just six short months after the deal closed, with measurement hooks from FlashPro and Dreamweaver into both SiteCatalyst and Test & Target. They’ve also accomplished this remarkable feat using a visual interface allowing content editors and non power-users the ability to begin measuring their digital assets. This utilization of analytics places measurement at the operational level, yet by and large it’s still within the marketing group.
The Marketer’s Toolbox…
Enter Unica with their rebranded Marketing Innovation product suite where NetInsight (formerly Sane Solutions) web analytics sits at the core. While both Omniture and Coremetrics made pre-acquisition strides to amass a truly effective online marketing suite, they were merely playing second fiddle to Unica Campaign, Interact and Marketing Platform solutions. Unica is widely acclaimed as a leading Campaign Management tool and sits proudly in the marketing departments across many an enterprise business. They’ve worked web analytics into the DNA of their overall marketing perspective and use it to power the automation and decisioning that many organizations strive for with lust and admiration. Their utilization of analytics really does empower analytics as a lynchpin for integrated marketing.
With speculation still swirling about the how’s and why’s of IBM’s intended use of Coremetrics, it’s tough to ignore Coremetrics’ strength in the retail vertical. While Coremetrics has an impressive client based outside of retail, including publishers and financial institutions among others, they’ve clearly got some good mojo going with their triple-A retail clients. Just thinking of how Big Blue will assimilate the nimble teams of relentless Coremetrics marketers in San Mateo and Texas makes me slightly nervous. Not for any loss of focus by the Coremetrics team on their dedication to client support or from their delivery of leading analytical capabilities that they offer – rather – where will this newly acquired asset live within the IBM estate? The way I see it, two possible scenarios can play out here:
1. First is the scenario that Akin speculates upon whereby IBM is folded into the Websphere group and serves to illuminate the value of customer interactions within website platforms across IBM’s customer base. This would greatly benefit Websphere customers although it would narrowly define a finite application of a technology that is so much bigger than just online commerce.
2. The scenario that Eric envisions (and one that I believe would benefit our industry exponentially) is the one where IBM becomes the “business analytics” juggernaut in the enterprise. If this were to occur, IBM would need to integrate its SPSS and Cognos acquisitions to get really crafty about delivering extremely high value digital insights.
These are two very different outcomes and both speculatory, but I’m rooting for the latter simply because it has the potential to push analytics so much further along. My sources tell me that some long-time IBM’ers feel this way too. One confidant with access to IBM brass even shared with me that internally the acquisition will be deemed a failure by some at IBM if Coremetrics isn’t integrated with SPSS and Cognos. That’s great news, because wholesale failure of business analytics isn’t an option.
So here we have Webtrends as the only standalone web analytics player remaining from the set of truly original US-based technologies. They’re doing a good job of playing the part of Switzerland as they not-so-quietly establish a platform of Open Analytics whereby data flows in -and- out of the interface fueling other operations around the business. While this is not the same as an integrated approach, Webtrends is taking a strong stance on have-it-your-way analytics. Their open APIs and REST URLs make it easy to leverage their data collection and pump data to any application within the enterprise. Thus, they too offer an integrated approach yet do so by maintaining a position that supports rather than delivers the adjacent marketing functions.
The Low End Theory…
Any post about the state of the analytics marketplace would be remiss if Google Analytics wasn’t included in the conversation. I include the Big Googley in the Low End Theory – not because they’re trailing – but because they’re sneaky smart. Just in case you haven’t been watching, since Google acquired Urchin Software, GA has been quietly amassing millions of installations across businesses large and small adding to the democratization of web analytics. I’d argue that they’re not doing this in a concerted enterprise-wide way, but they are probably gaining the most ground across the enterprise by sheer adoption and hands-on utilization. What this means is that pockets of users are deploying Google Analytics for very focused use of the data and the organization is becoming more accustomed to seeing GA data and using it to make key decisions in their day-to-day operations.
Many other analytics programs are delivering similar value to business users, yet in an extremely isolated manner with tools like KissMetrics, Twitalyzer, Visible Measures and Radian6 just to name a few. This is truly the low end theory because the data is rarely seen by anyone outside the marketing group, but it’s driving key activity around specific marketing functions without the larger business really taking note. Think grassroots baby – under the radar – with potential super smartie effectiveness.
Can Marketing Come from the Heart?
By now you should be asking yourself; So where’s this all going? Despite how each of the companies I described above fit into the overall aspect of a company’s business, I think that we can all agree that analytics is about understanding business performance. Here is where Eric’s vision of the Coming Revolution in Web Analytics fits into the story and the quietly powerful behemoth that’s already penetrated the enterprise garden sits in wait down in Cary, North Carolina. Whether it’s SAS, another player, or an amalgamation of services from multiple players – analytics needs to be at the heart of the organization. Here’s where my analogy pays off…because if this is to happen, then data becomes the lifeblood of the enterprise and analytics allows companies to relate to their customers and offer more tuned in and relevant products and services. Marketing should control this blood flow but use it to power the brain and the working limbs of the organization. While this may start to look like Business Intelligence, I believe it’s different because it requires real-time information, automated decisioning and ultimately creativity. These are qualities that I have yet to see from a BI tool. But maybe I’m naive.
Before this diatribe gets any longer, and you dear reader need resuscitation I’ll call it quits. But I’ll offer fair warning that this is just the beginning of my thoughts on the matter and there’s more to follow. I’d also love to hear what you think.