Xchange 2011: Think Tank and Harbor Cruise

Sunset over Coronado Island - 9/12/11

The Xchange 2011 Think Tank sessions are represented as a mini-conference before the conference, allowing participants the ability to discuss topics in web analytics and measurement with no more than 10 of their industry peers.  With such an intimate set-up, each participant was assured that they could contribute meaningfully, and I can say that my 3 sessions were all extremely valuable…

Xchange 2011 Think Tank 1:  Managing a Digital Analytics Program- Phil Kemelor

My first topic of the day was around issues relating to managing a digital analytics program, no matter whether the program is in its infancy or quite sophisticated and moving to the top rungs of the web analytics maturity model.

I quite enjoyed this session, as the web analytics programs I’ve worked with have all had what I perceived as a gaping hole or two; this Think Tank session gave lots concrete tips on how to build web data ambassadors within a company, to improving documentation practices, and ultimately creating a governance model that allows a digital measurement program to minimize future roadblocks to success.

Xchange 2011 Think Tank 2:  Measurement and Analytical Approaches to Visitor Engagement- Paul Legutko and Chris Meares

Like session 1, this Think Tank session was extremely valuable.  Unlike Phil’s talk, which focused more on business structure, this discussion focused on how to measure engagement on a website.  While the topics discussed primarily focused on content sites like news aggregators and subscription services, I was still able to derive great value from the discussions around building engagement segments using Omniture Discover.

For example, it’s generally considered that using page views as a key metric of success is pretty amateurish, at least in terms of all of the great data that is collected as part of industry-standard web analytics tools.  Same goes with Time Spent on Site/Page; it might be useful in some cases, but it’s limitations (i.e. not recording single access visits or time spent on the last page of a session) also prevent the metric from being universally useful.  But if you combine the two metrics into an engagement segment definition, such as “10 page views and time on site greater than 300 seconds”, then use this definition to segment OTHER metrics, you can start to see some interesting trends in what content is more engaging than others.

Xchange 2011 Think Tank 3: Using Web Analytics to Influence Executive Digital Sponsorship- Lisa Welchman

By this point in the afternoon, I was pretty much spent.  Jet lag had started to kick in, and 4 concentrated hours of stretching the web analytics side of my brain started to induce a minor headache/cloudiness.  Nonetheless, Lisa’s talk was a great extension of Phil’s discussion on governance, discussing strategies for gaining an executive sponsor for key intiatives (or an entire program in general).

Harbor Cruise on the California Spirit

After a quick hour break, the Think Tankers and early arrivals for the Xchange conference took a boat ride in the San Diego harbor.  If my learning from the 3 Think Tank sessions wasn’t enough, I had an amazing time networking with my peers and learning along the way.  From the fantastic Mexican food, having dinner with the Keynote speaker, and even meeting a few colleagues from other business units, this was a great event to end the evening.

After the 2 hour (?) ride around the harbor, everyone then proceeded to a wine and chocolate reception for dinner.  A little almond champagne, a few Corona’s, and it was time to hit the sack…at least for me.  I see from Twitter that some of you are party animals!  ;)

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