PilotWeb™ 2004 Summer was released in late September by Pilot Software. A packaged, customizable Web channel performance management solution, PilotWeb includes template solutions for typical channel business models, including brand/awareness building, lead generation, and customer support. Based on its established business objectives-driven deployment paradigm, Pilot is targeting PilotWeb for what it sees as an under-served Web channel audience. Ventana Research lauds Pilot's extension into the Web analytics space, but also sees challenges to its gaining traction in this relative niche market. Nevertheless, Ventana Research recommends that organizations looking to more closely manage Web channel initiatives to further promote marketing objectives look into PilotWeb and Pilot Software's performance management approach to business intelligence.
PilotWeb™ 2004 Summer is designed to take advantage of Pilot's experience with customers and domain expertise gained with "hundreds of Web channel deployments." Most important, in the opinion of Ventana Research, is the unique performance management approach Pilot consistently brings to its offerings, always putting business objectives first and foremost.
Unlike virtually any vendor in the business intelligence market, Pilot Software has created an exclusive performance management deployment paradigm. Theirs is not a data access and reporting mechanism as much as it is an intra-day business objectives management and functional alignment tool for aligning execution to strategy. This solution brings the same paradigm to Web channel analytics.
Recognizing that an organization's objectives in Web channel deployment are varied, Pilot has included templates for several of the more prevalent Web channel business models, most notably lead-generation, branding/awareness building, and customer support. Each of the templates includes suggested strategy plans with relevant scorecards, metrics, and dashboards. Live reporting links from dashboard output include rather unique self-adjusting funnel reports that immediately highlight bottlenecks in visitors' page progressions through the site and abandonment rates. The same funnel report paradigm will find its way soon into pipeline analysis reporting for sales.
In a pre-announcement briefing with Ventana Research, CEO Jonathan Becher indicated the marketing function remains, in Pilot's estimation, an under-served performance management user community. Execution on specific Web channel objectives, either on a stand-alone basis or as part of multi-channel initiatives, tends to be spotty outside of those organizations that focus on it. With multiple departments and disparate agendas controlling the channel, along with an absence of clear ownership, Web channel potential is often neglected. Perhaps this is so, but Ventana Research still believes Pilot faces an awareness challenge in this channel, which is often not well integrated within demand chain planning and operations, let alone performance management solutions.
There are literally dozens of Web channel traffic data management and reporting tools. Probably best known among these are Webtrends, WebSideStory, NetGenesis, IBM, SAS, and many others. IBM's Tivoli Web Site Analyzer and SAS Web Analytics were recently cited by readers of Intelligent Enterprise as the best in class. These offerings tend to focus solely on processed Web-log data management and reporting: visitor counts, page visits, process abandonment, etc. As adjunct applications to Web deployment platforms, their value proposition is quick, low-cost, and relatively low-maintenance solutions.
All of the horizontal BI solution vendors, including Business Objects, Cognos, MicroStrategy, and Siebel Analytics, can certainly manage Web channel metrics within their solutions. None has seen fit to offer a targeted solution designed specifically for the Web channel niche.
In the short term, neither group of competing vendors should be impacted. While it also brings Web traffic metrics to the user community, Pilot's solution clearly tackles the issues from a different perspective. Its performance management approach sets it apart from the others, and should its market penetration increase in this niche, competing vendors will feel the impact and respond in kind.
Any organization that purports to execute Web channel initiatives that are linked to broader marketing objectives would do well to at least take a lesson from the PilotWeb deployment strategy. Clearly linking metric definition, activity reporting, and web initiative processes to strategic objectives reflects a solid performance management approach that Ventana Research strongly recommends.
Current Pilot customers, especially those of you with Web channel performance objectives not being actively managed, have no excuse for not examining PilotWeb as a natural extension of its deployment. Even Pilot customers now using some other solution for the Web channel should take a close look at the benefits of bringing this channel into the Pilot fold, as it were.
If you are not a Pilot Software customer, you'll need to weigh the PilotWeb functionality and price point against your objectives and investment threshold. If your organization has a priority but is not sufficiently addressing performance in the Web channel, you may find PilotWeb to be a solution with the right TCO and functionality for your needs.
Jack Hafeli is VP & Research Director - Customer Intelligence & Demand Chain Performance at Ventana Research.