In 2011, Nucleus Research concluded that a dollar spent on analytics programs produces an average of $10.86 in return on that investment. If you’re reading this blog, you probably know that a good analytics practice is a competitive advantage to the company in which it resides. To me, the really compelling finding from the Nucleus Research report is in this statement: “The highest-ROI analytics deployments made data more available to decision makers and enabled them to find ways to increase revenues or reduce costs.”
In other words, if you want to take your analytics practice to the next level, you need to empower your business users (marketers and others).
This sounds great in theory; I think we would all agree that we want our colleagues to make data-informed decisions. But there have always been a number of practical issues with simply putting data in front of business users. For example:
- Analytics tools are overwhelming, providing far more data than business users need
- Business users require a “storytelling” or narrative approach to data
- It’s impossible to expect business users to understand the underlying implementation well enough to explore the data
Each of these factors and several others limit analysts’ attempts to democratize analytics. The result is that business users flood the analytics team with tactical, ad-hoc requests, and the analytics team cannot get to the truly strategic projects that represent more significant opportunities for the business.
We looked closely at this reality as we were developing and planning Analysis Workspace, which released to all customers of Adobe Analytics and Adobe Analytics Premium on 17 September 2015, and we saw a better way to enable the broader organization with data so that it can more frequently self-serve and make better decisions with data.
Welcome to Analysis Workspace
If you’ve played around with Analysis Workspace while it was in public beta (beginning in March 2015), you’ve seen that it is a flexible, project-based environment where analysts can use a set of drag-and-drop interactive tools to find insights. It enables users to build reusable projects that are customized to their unique questions and blend different views of data to tell a powerful analytics story. Response to the public beta has been overwhelming, with users saying things like, “Analysis Workspace has already completely changed my analysis process,” and my personal favorite: “Tis the future.” Bringing advanced analysis capabilities to the web was no small feat, but it became clear early on that this would be tremendous boon to analysts and business users alike. (If you haven’t explored Analysis Workspace, you can read about it here and here to get up to speed. We also have a YouTube channel with a bunch of short videos to help you get oriented.)
Now that Analysis Workspace is out of public beta, it has a bunch of new functionality that I want to briefly walk through in this blog post.
Curation and Sharing
With a lede like the one above, the first new addition to Analysis Workspace that I will describe here has got to be the ability to curate and share a project. By default, admins have access to create new Analysis Workspace projects; they can also grant this ability to non-admins using group permissions in the Admin Console. The idea is that either proactively or in response to a request from a stakeholder, the analyst can create a rich, flexible project like this one:
It might look a bit like a dashboard, but the big difference is that I can still drag-and-drop any visualization, dimension, metric, segment, time range, or granularity just about anywhere on here in order to do a breakdown, perform a comparison, or reorganize my view. Once I’ve got it looking the way I want and containing the right data for, say, my merchandising team, I can curate the dimensions, metrics, and segments that the team can use in this project, before sharing it with them.
This curation process does nothing to stunt the flexibility of my project. When I share, business users will be able to use the components I add to the project to perform any breakdowns, comparisons, etc. that they want to do, so that they can explore the data just as the analyst might. But instead of feeling overwhelmed by far too many irrelevant dimensions, metrics, and segments, their experience is tailored to their roles and their unique questions.
Once I curate a project, I can share it with my entire organization, specific groups, or individuals. The recipients of the project will receive a notification in Adobe Analytics letting them know that they have a new project available, and they can go to Analysis Workspace to launch the project and begin to perform their own reporting and analysis within the bounds that the analyst has set. As such, this becomes an environment that these teams can return to over and over again to drive their decisions with insights.
With this release we have also introduced Cohort Analysis, which allows you to bucket your users/customers according to the time periods in which they performed some action (such as placing an order, installing an app, or generating a lead), then see how each of those groups engage (or don’t engage) with your brand over time. In the world of customer intelligence, Cohort Analysis is a fundamental tool for understanding retention and churn.
One of the really nifty features of Cohort Analysis in Analysis Workspace is the ability to select any number of cells in the table (as shown above) and right click to create a new segment based on your selection. For example, if I selected all of the cells in the “Month 2” column above, and created a segment based on those, I would get all users from this cohort analysis in their second month after purchase. I could then apply that segment elsewhere in Adobe Analytics to better understand these customers and their behaviors during their second month after placing an order on my site.
As with all tools currently in Analysis Workspace (i.e., Freeform Analysis and Cohort Analysis) as well as those coming soon, Cohort Analysis is available to business users when included in a project that you share.
Fresh New Visualizations
We’ve added a bunch of new visualization types to Analysis Workspace. Some of them are what you would expect, but some are firsts in Adobe Analytics:
- Summary Number: Shows a “big number” (such as total revenue or conversion rate) which allows the user to focus on the KPIs that matter.
- Summary Change: Just like Summary Number, but shows the percent change (for example, month over month change in revenue).
- Text: Add any custom text to the project (such as a description, copy for a marketing campaign, etc.).
Here is what these three visualizations look like within a project:
A Rich Analysis Application on the Web
Our team has done a tremendous job building a true application on the web, rather than just another web site masquerading as an analysis tool. This approach means that there is a lot more functionality, and many more possibilities for you as you interact with your data, than we could possibly offer with a more static application approach. In other words, Analysis Workspace is even more powerful than it may seem at first!
For example, you can right click all over this thing to perform a wide variety of commands to extend your analysis.
Analysis Workspace is also responsive to keyboard shortcuts, all of which are listed in our documentation available directly from the UI.
Create and Tag Components in Your Workflow
Often when you’re working with an analysis project, you realize that you need a new segment, metric, or date range (for comparison) that doesn’t exist yet. We’ve made this really easy. Just click the “New” link above the set of Segments, Metrics, and Time. The best thing about this is that creating a new component does not take you out of Analysis Workspace; a builder slides up from the bottom of the screen, and as soon as you save your component, the list on the left rail refreshes and you can use the thing you just created in your project.
This is also where tagging begins to make a big difference in how you work with your data. I can select a handful of dimensions, metrics, and segments, and right-click to apply a tag. This allows me to search for these items later by using the tag. For example, maybe there is a group of components that are relevant to projects I build for the campaign marketing team. Using the left rail, I can select all of these components and apply a tag all at once. Then, later, when I am curating a different project for that team, I can search on the tag to retrieve just the components that I want to add to the project during curation.
Data democratization is key to analytics success, and as we continue to build out Analysis Workspace, you will see more features aimed not just at making data available to business users, but making the right data available to the right people in the right environments and workflows so that you can meet and exceed any ROI-on-analytics numbers you might come across. Of course, we’re no less focused on creating tremendous advanced analysis experiences for those more comfortable with data. Analysis Workspace represents the unification of workflows for these two different personas.
There is already so much more in Analysis Workspace that I cannot cover in this blog post, and you’ll definitely be hearing more about it on this blog in the near future as we continue to add functionality to this exciting new environment.