Is Actually Adobe Analytics Advertisement Hoc Evaluation A Business Intelligence Tool – This post will be a departure from the “normal” content of this blog. Its purpose is to address one of the questions I received most often from many who read my posts. The title may already give away what that question is: “Frederik, in your opinion, should companies buy Adobe Analytics or Google Analytics?” And I think there is something fundamentally wrong with this question.
I think the question above can only be answered through some absurd level of generalization that doesn’t do justice to both tools. There are some agencies or consultants who end up doing this comparison to either appear neutral and independent or to drive SEO traffic to their own websites. This annoyed me to the point where I started writing this post to have my personal answer handy in the future.
Is Actually Adobe Analytics Advertisement Hoc Evaluation A Business Intelligence Tool
Bear with me on this one. To make my point, I need to first go through what annoys me so much about existing comparisons, then completely ignore the title and actually compare what kind of tools we’re really talking about, and what the real question should be. . Buckle up!
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Let me start by mentioning my favorite comparison between Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics on the QA2L blog. I like it so much because it really goes into detail about the differences between both tools on multiple levels. While that comparison strikes me as the most complete I’ve seen in a while, it doesn’t cover the most important point: whether and how these tools are comparable in the first place and, if so, should they actually be compared at all.
What do I mean by that? It may seem corny, but to me GA and AA just don’t add up
. The two categories are not the same to me, and I will explain the difference a bit later. While tools like Google Analytics may be good enough for web reporting, Adobe Analytics is not
Analysis. However, that hasn’t always been the case, so let’s quickly look at the history of both tools.
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To start our little comparison, I want to show you a very old screenshot from Google Analytics. In fact, it is from 2012:
It looks pretty familiar, doesn’t it? It should, because this is what GA 360 looks like, today, in 2020:
On the upside, they really did a good job of keeping the interfaces consistent. Apart from some reorganization of the layout, someone who has worked with GA eight years ago would still feel right at home today. This interface and the reports available within it have influenced the way web reporting has been designed for many years, setting standards and expectations for our entire industry. It also didn’t change much with GA4, where Google is now trying to create a new set of reports and metrics that website owners should focus on instead of the rather old reports we see above.
Let’s see what the past looks like for Adobe Analytics. Luckily, I don’t have to google for any old screenshots, because the past is just around the corner in Adobe Analytics today with your old Reports & Analytics interface:
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It looks like GA, but a little more bare-bones. This bareness is also something I gave Adobe feedback about many years ago, as GA always offered a higher default information density on each report. At the same time, the choice of
Made GA much more standardized than AA. Due to similar mindsets and interfaces, GA and AA really felt quite comparable at the time.
But even then there was something more to AA, my favorite analysis tool of all time: My beloved Ad Hoc Analysis (formerly Discover). This is how it looks in 2020:
We see something that feels quite familiar to users of Adobe’s Analysis Workspace: A flexible workspace with a drag-and-drop interface, unlimited breakdowns, attribution, and highly flexible tables. Building segments and calculated metrics was super fast. I’ve used this interface since day one of working with Adobe Analytics because it gave so much more flexibility. It was also significantly faster than the Reports & Analytics interface. Because of all this, it allowed me to interactively delve into my data in a way that Reports & Analytics (or any other tool) didn’t support. I even used it for dashboarding, as I could just rearrange the tabs and even segment them separately:
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With this interface, I can also develop my way of working with my business stakeholders. Instead of preparing a sophisticated analysis in R&A or Report Builder and presenting the results in a long-planned meeting, I could just invite them over to my desk and work on the data with them while discussing the implications of what we see. And they were happy: The results were far better than anything I’ve done with the traditional process before. Not only could I really understand what the business is trying to achieve, but the stakeholders also really understood what is possible with the data and how it can work with. I loved it!
But there was one problem: Ad Hoc Analysis was a dedicated Java application that had to be downloaded to the user’s computer. On top of that, it wasn’t really meant to be used by everyone in the company, so collaboration and democratization in the tool wasn’t really a thing. But then something big happened: Adobe brought Ad Hoc to the browser with Analysis Workspace.
Analysis Workspace now allows any user to dive deep into data without needing an analyst by their side. There is no difference between the tools an expert analyst would use and what we would train our business users on for their daily use. Because of the way the interface works, there’s also no distinction between reports, dashboards, or deep diving anymore: Any of the three can be used in any of the other two ways, or can evolve into them. We can schedule projects to arrive in our mailbox exactly as they would appear in the browser. And because we can share projects and edit them together, there’s no limit to how deeply a user can immerse themselves in their data.
Tools require expert users to set defined views of data for a specific use case. Any changes to these reports would require these experts to come back in and change the report. Then multiple reports can usually be combined into dashboards, which is exactly what GA does and AA did with Reports & Analytics. In this context, self-service means access to pre-built reports and limited opportunities to create dashboards on top of existing reports. At the other end of the spectrum,
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Tools can report just as well, but do not limit the user in how this data should be presented or analyzed. These tools make it possible to fluidly move between reporting, dashboards and deep diving for each user. Since both experts and novices work in the same interface and can collaborate on data, there is no limit to how far each user can go as long as they have someone to continuously enable them further. That means, of course: to get the most out of a true analytics tool, companies need to put significant resources into the right tools, people, and dedicated time for analytics. If they are not available, the complexity may even make a reporting tool the better choice.
This brings us to the point where many comparisons go wrong. They claim that Big Query and Data Studio would make Google Analytics comparable to Adobe Analytics with Analysis Workspace. But in doing so, they completely ignore the implications for workflows, collaboration and democratization. In my eyes, Big Query and Data Studio make GA more comparable to data in a Big Data data lake with a BI tool like Tableau or Power BI as the front end. They still require experts to create reports or dashboards for users, raising the barrier to entry to the point where almost no business user can pick it up without going astray, making analysts the bottleneck for the entire enterprise. We can see this in the job descriptions of GA-heavy companies, where SQL is often mentioned as a necessary skill. This is not at all comparable to Analysis Workspace! And on top of that, Adobe now has a similar (but better) offering with Experience Platform and Customer Journey Analytics.
Of tools. Until Analysis Workspace was a thing, Adobe Analytics wasn’t much more than Reports & Analytics, making a comparison possible. But since those days, Adobe Analytics has evolved into a different kind of tool: An
Tool that truly deserves its name thanks to the kind of processes and workflows it allows. Google has not evolved much and left it on the web
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But wait, wouldn’t that mean Adobe Analytics is the better tool if it allows all the fancy analytics features to be used by the entire company? Not necessarily. Look at GA
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