Analytics Pandemonium

The old saw goes, “A man with one watch always know the time. A man with two is never quite sure.” The same is especially true of analytics. Many moons ago, I worked for a company that had a homegrown analytics system that, while serviceable, was no longer able to scale. It was time to look for a new system.

After much research (and about a billion hours of meetings and discussions) the field was narrowed to two: one free solution, and one paid. The free solution had its pluses—namely the price—but the executives didn’t have full confidence that a free product could do all they wanted. The other option had a hefty cost, both in terms of price and implementation, but had loads of capabilities. Since there was no clear winner, it was decided that we’d implement both, while maintaining the old.

Lemme help you out if you find yourself in a similar situation. Never, NEVER do this.

We still had the old system, plus the free system, as well as the purchased solution. Since the old system was tried and true, both new solutions were expected to show similar numbers as their baselines. Instead what we got was analytics pandemonium. Nothing matched. Our tried-and-true produced one set of numbers, and the others were wildly different. The execs trusted nothing.

In the end, after months and months of trying to get everything to sync, it was decided that we’d ditch all but the free solution. The price was right, and it worked well enough. We were able to tweak the implementation and find numbers that passed the execs’ gut checks. As far as I know, that company is still using the free solution.

Oh, and that free solution? It became what is now Google Analytics. Isn’t life funny?

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