Usually in the blogosphere someone will write a blog and other people will comment. I am responding to my own blog, "The Future of Omniture's Excel Client" because:
A.I have more to say that didn't seem appropriate in the more journalistic style blog (couldn't you tell I once wrote microscopic blurbs for a 200,000 copy a day paper?).
B.I fear though that the overwhelming popularity of my blog (Google Page Rank 4/10!) has labeled my writing as untouchable.
My interview with Ray Rauch left a lot to be desired. Extracting exact details from him was a bit like pulling teeth with no Novocain. I tugged, he made some noise, but nothing substantial came out.
On one hand his silence gave me no clear sense of the product line, but on the other hand he left me plenty of room to speculate. Emphasis in the last sentence should be on "speculate." Other key words to keep in mind as you read this blog are "guess," "hypothesize" and "don't sue me."
From the interview I truly got the sense that Omniture has done and will continue to do their client needs homework (or they simply read my "Open Letter to Omniture"). In promotional materials and conference speeches, preaching about product development based on client requests sounds great, but I have fears that the process isn't as democratic as it sounds. The interview left me with worries that Omniture has unequally weighted the needs of the most engaged Report Builder users. This is perfect for me and the other supertool users, but I have worries that this direction will create substantial barriers to entry for infrequent users. In addition to committing to adding complex features it probably would have been wise for Omniture to focus on making Excel Client more smooth and intuitive.
The main takeaway clients or potential clients should have about the client induced direction of the tool is be vocal about your desires. Omniture has promised that if they get enough momentum behind a request it will be put in place (assuming it is possible). Make them put their money (actually YOUR money) where their mouth is.
The additions that will come first in the "sooner than you think" update are anyone's best guess. Based on some of the emphasis in the conversation I would think the ability to copy and paste request, with both absolute and relative references, is what we should expect. Rouch made it very clear that copy and paste was a request they had received from many, many clients so it seems logical it the capability would be in the initial update. The update also makes sense because Excel Client already has limited copy and paste functionality, so it should not be a stretch to enhance it.
It seems very possible that copy and paste functionality will be integrated into an Excel Client without complementing additions, but I'm going to give Omniture more credit than that. I trust that Omniture will recognize that without adding the ability to add data blocks without accompanying text, the ability to copy and paste them is significantly less valuable. The Omniture mandate that all data blocks come with text showing the date range, metric type, etc. in relatively inflexible formats make data blocks big and clunky, difficult to reference and nearly pointless to copy and paste.
The strength of Report Builders copy and paste functionality come from the ability to set up the cells data blocks will references, whether they be with page names, dates, segments, etc. in advance of building a single data request. Then being able to build one data request, copy and paste it over and over and have a neat, tidy and compact report before you know it.
In order to get this type of speed and flexibility with Report Builder my guess is Omniture will install a check boxes or toggle button to allow users to select non-data, written items they would like included in each data request. Or at very least Omniture will provide an all or nothing button so users can either include all the usual text or none of it.
In addition to adding robust copy and paste functionally, I would guess the next generation of Excel Client will have one other change, the look and feel. Although, Omniture acknowledge they were aware Report Builder users loved the interface and process of building data blocks, I have serious doubts an updated Excel Client will resemble anything close to Report Builder. Given the direction of the Omniture family of products I would guess the look and feel changes would mostly be used to make the tool more inline with the new Omniture Suite.
This partially makes sense because Report Builder has promised to add functionality to extract Discover data in the short run and probably will add it for other products in the long run. But unlike the Omniture Suite, Report Builder would probably be better suited for seamless integration of other Omniture products where users are only conscious of the data they want, not whether it is coming from Discover, Search Center, etc.
The look and feel changes that I'm projecting might slightly improve the flow and usability of the tool, but not bring it anywhere close to that of Report Builder. In my perfect world an updated Excel Client interface would be 80% Report Builder, 10% old Excel Client and 10% Omniture Suite, but I would expect a distribution more along the lines of 50% old Excel Client, 40% Omniture Suite and 10% Report Builder.
When the dust settles on the next round of Excel Client updates I expect to see a prettier tool that is no easier to use but has one significant HBX/client inspired addition. It will be one step in the right direction, but no giant leap for webanalyticskind. Omniture will probably still need two more years and two more updates to catch the Excel Client product up to and (maybe) surpass Report Builder. Sigh.