I’ll start with a simple premise: convergence is inevitable.
Convergence is inevitable across every technology and every industry. Businesses can’t choose from an infinite variety of vendors and technologies, they need simple choices. Simple usually means two or three. Convergence is part of the fabric of how we make logical decisions in chaotic situations.
Convergence can’t arrive fast enough for the world of online analytics, media, and optimization. There’s just too much data, too many vendors, too much left to interpretation, and too much piecing things together ad hoc. Why should you spend money with Omniture to get Web analytics data, Google to buy PPC (define) search terms, DoubleClick to serve online media, Interwoven to manage site content, and Offermatica to optimize landing pages and sites? Each provides unique nomenclature, interfaces, data formats, and so on. Here, convergence is essential.
Someone designs a site for you. Then, it’s implemented. Once it’s running, you focus on demand generation and eventually look into SEO (define) to help shape demand. You might then install some analytics tools and begin to see what’s really happening on the site. If it appears to create enough interest in your organization, you might take the plunge into site optimization. This is all very divergent.
The typical business does each of these steps in a very discrete fashion, often engaging different consulting and tools vendors along the way. It’s just like the first time you try to make fried chicken for the family.
When you first learn how to cook, you focus on each step of the process: read the recipe, get the ingredients, chop and slice, cook, compose on the plate, serve. You might call Aunt Mary for the recipe and ask your friend Wayne which knife to use. After many years of cooking, it becomes a seamless process from end to end. You also realize the way in which you cut the chicken impacts how long it takes for the pieces to cook.
Convergence is inevitable, both on a conceptual and a tool level. Thinking about design, implementation, analytics, and optimization as discrete steps is a lot like frying that chicken. The ability to understand the integration and convergence of these pieces moves toward a gourmet meal.
There are a lot of great tools out there. Many do a few things really well. Few do a lot really well. There’s an adage from the dot-com boom about start-up companies: “They’re not selling products, they’re selling features.” Over the long run, the products companies buy need a full set of capabilities and must solve a comprehensive set of problems.
In his recent book “Blink,” Malcom Gladwell writes about experts who can take in a piece of art or a battlefield situation and immediately have enough information to make an accurate decision. This ability to digest a vast quantity of information in a few seconds and know exactly what it means comes from years of experience and a deep understanding of the subject matter.
Fortunately, progress is being made. Jason Burby wrote last month about the power of integration, and he hit the mark. Omniture has done a great job with its recent release of Genesis, which integrates multiple data sources into its reporting platform. Google’s also working on this problem with its Google Analytics and Website Optimizer technologies. There’s still work ahead to accomplish the simplicity marketers deserve and should demand.
Next time you think about the discrete steps, separate teams, multiple reports, and endless meetings involved in running a great online business, remind yourself of convergence. Are you leading the charge to take a holistic view of your business, or are you continuing to look at each piece individually? Can you see the potential customer outcome quickly, or do you need to spend endless hours surveying every piece of data?
Knowing you can steam a chicken before frying it to make the batter crisper is pretty sophisticated. The same is true of knowing you should think about analytics and optimization before you even begin to design a site. Realizing all these pieces are converging faster than you can imagine is the recipe for success.