The 2006 Washington DC Emetrics Summit

The October 2006 Washington DC Emetrics Summit was ground breaking in terms of its size and its breadth of focus.

These Emetrics Summit reviews are becoming a tradition on my part, but there was something quite special about the industry maturity and scale that this conference reflected.

For the first time, the sheer number of attendees (in excess of 400) meant that multiple content streams were available. As a result, my Emetrics Summit experience is likely to differ from the reports of others.

So, here's my personal take on what I felt were the top 5 burning topics from the 2006 Washington DC Emetrics Summit.

The Public Sector stream

“The world belongs to those who ask really good questions”

Jim Sterne

The reason I crossed the Atlantic to attend this conference (London is my usual choice) was the draw of this stream. I spend much of my time working with non-profit clients and government sites and their success cannot simply be measured in half-baked variants of transactional KPIs. So the draw of NASA, the Getty, FirstGov and many more was enough to make me pack my knap-sack and credit card and head West.

Throughout the duration of the conference we wrestled with the questions of how do you measure success from touches that are not sales related and how do you overcome the challenges in building a non transactional measurement framework, particularly in an environment of limited IT capacity and lack of access to broad expenditure data that would allow calculation, for example, of money saved.

What was fascinating is that we shared learnings, saw great examples of current practices, but by no means did we walk away with definitive answers. We recognised that probably the best KPI is the proportion of visitors who achieve their goals - but with these goals varying so much between sites. It is a fact that the measurement tool set is not as complete, or requires far greater customisation, than for transactional scenario.

Jim Sterne stated at the start of the conference "the world belongs to those who ask really good questions". Right now, I think some of the most interesting questions are coming from those measuring non-transactional, public sector sites.

The WAA public sector committee, meeting for the first time in Washington, has the opportunity to be instrumental in taking this area forwards and I look forward to making a contribution to this.

The 30 second attention window

Data overload and the critical importance of the 30 second executive attention window was again a strong theme. One of the terms that particularly appealed to me was the power of metrics moments, coined by Linda Hetcher, Senior Web Intelligence Manager at Avaya.

Linda explained how the web analyst's role was that of teacher and storyteller, whose objective is to get beyond the provision of intelligence to attaining understanding. Personally, I found this line of discussion quite compelling - not to demean detail, data and validity in anyway - but to recognise that without the ability to communicate this imaginatively to others, it will remain gathering dust as oppose to fuelling strategic decisions.

“You don't have to do everything, but at least do something”

Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne's new order of things

Reflecting the progress we have made as an industry, Jim explained how we move from data overload, to reporting overload, to decision fuelling analysis towards to holy grail of predictive analysis.

We're by no means completely there, but as Jim says "you don't have to do everything, but at least do something"

It's not web analytics (and websites are dead anyway)

For the second time in a year, this time more concertedly, web analytics declared itself dead. (Hey, I always thought it was a market research function, so I'm not arguing!) A number of preferred terms were knocked around, including web value optimisation and online customer understanding, but I don't hold your breath on the WAA becoming the OCUA just yet.

The web page is dead too with Bryan Eisenberg arguing that what we should be looking at is not the website but the series of processes that the customer wants to accomplish - so "for you to achieve your goals, your visitors must first achieve theirs".

Bryan Eisenberg added "do you focus on measuring and optimising pages, not events, without context to the different personas it may impact?"

Clarity of purpose

From Xerox to Coke to the Getty to Nasa, possibly the most important point of the summit was clarity of purpose. Clarity of purpose in terms of understanding your own goals and those of your customer, of pulling out measurables where you can and tying everything back to your definition of success - even if you have to write your own definitions for what this is!

Many thanks again to Jim Sterne for a great event.

Vicky Brock of HBR is International Co-Chair of the Web Analytics Association and can be contacted at:

View the report from the 2006 London Emetrics Summit and the 2005 London Emetrics Summit