And this is however exactly what I did last week at X Change, the high-level Web Analytics event organized by Semphonic, held in San Francisco on August 18 and 19.
I attended last year’s first edition, which was quite a success, especially since my friends at Semphonic put it all together by themselves. But this year was even better; the quality of those attending (yours excepted) impressed me a lot. I sat in discussion groups with analytics people from the likes of Yahoo!, Microsoft, IBM.com, Intuit, American Airlines, Cisco, American Express, AIG, Capital One, Best Buy, and many others (ah! don’t I love name dropping!).
Imagine: no presentation, just a few thoughts fired by the huddle leader, and 90 minutes of deep discussions. Yes, we regularly all left the discussions with more questions than answers, but this is one of the reasons why X Change is great. No prepackaged truisms repeated ad nausea. I find it refreshing to learn new questions, visit new interrogations. As an analyst, I believe that the quality of my answers depends deeply on the quality of my questions. Questions are the true tools of discovery; and X Change leaves room for them, in fact, it encourages them. We don’t have to know. This is why in each huddle I quickly introduced myself as a consultant; no frills, just to get it over with, even hoping people would forget. I wasn’t participating to play the pundit; I was there to be a student.
It was painful not to be able to attend all the huddles that interested me, and they almost all did. I particularly liked the one on B2B Analytics, divided in half with people like myself, Eric Peterson, Feras Alhlou, Matthew Langie, and bright people from IBM.com, Intuit, and Cisco. Those guys measure, let me tell you, but they also face the same problems everybody does, and lately acting upon the insights seems to be at the very top of the list of concerns.
People and processes.
I also enjoyed a lot Data Integration: Myths & Realities, led by John Lovett of Jupiter Research/Forrester. I had the pleasure to talk a lot with John between huddles, and he was kind enough to explain is rating of WebTrends in his new study (how did the trip to Portland go, John?). I got it, but still think it didn’t deserve it. Back to data integration: boy! that stuff’s not for the faint of heart! Of course, the organizations at the table being mostly very large ones, a lot of factors impact the odds that an integration project will succeed.
I participated in “tete-a-tete” sessions in which people from Williams Sonoma, Latter Day Saint Church, and National Institute of Health asked me questions about very specific problems they had. They all had their specific preoccupations, but I found it amazing how similar problems preoccupy web managers from totally different organizations.
You’ll forgive me if I don’t comment the contents of the discussions in more details. I want to keep this post short. No, strike that; I want to keep that to myself.
Selfish, isn’t it? Sure!
I guess you’ll just have to come next year, then.