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Maximize Returns on Digital Investments

About the Video

Watch Aaron Rudger at Velocity Europe, where he describes the importance of performance and how it can impact key business indicators.

Video Transcription

Aaron Rudger: 

Thanks to O'Reilly for bringing us here to Barcelona.  This is awesome.  My talk is actually going to be a little bit along the same lines as Steven's just was, about language.  And, it will probably be riddled with a lot of human errors, as well.  I'll go ahead and start my presentation here.

My name is Aaron Rudger.  I work for Keynote Systems, and I have a problem.  I have three kids, and don't get me wrong.  I love them dearly.  But, they're all teenagers.  And, most often, I just can't understand what they're saying.  I'll go to my son's bedroom in the morning to wake him up, and he'll say things like, “Come on, Dad.  This is entirely negative chill.”  And, I don't know if that means that it's cold in the room, or maybe he's just grumpy.

My daughter will bring somebody new home; a boy.  And, I'll ask her about him, and she'll say, “Well, he's facey and all, but, like, I don't know.  It's not like that, you know?” But, I don't know.  I don't know what you're saying.  And, conversely, the same thing happens when I try to talk to them.  It seems like they don't understand me.  If I'm asking them how school went today, I get a lot of blank stares.

So, I try to find common ground.  Maybe music.  I ask them what they think about the latest Coldplay album.  And, then they look at me with kind of a cross-eyed stare.  And, then I go for some other conversation material, like global macro-economic trends, and geopolitical issues, and they just can't understand that.

So, things have been getting bad, and I decided I needed to escalate.  So, I tried something new:  SnapChat.  Now, I'm having mixed results with this, so I can't say that this is bridging the communication gap very well.  And, you're  probably beginning to wonder what the heck does all of this have to do with us at velocity?  And, the thing of it is that I think there's kind of a similar situation that we in the performance community experience.  And, it's not with regard to kids, or SnapChat, although some of you in the audience may well have some of those issues, as I do.

But, it's more in terms of getting the business to understand performance.  When I talk to our customers, I hear a lot from them about trying to manage performance is like herding cats.  The business wants more.  It wants more advertisements; more social connectors; more tracking pixels; way more larger images.  It's hard.  And seemingly, all of this additional content that's coming at us, largely from places that are out of our control, are coming at us with the customer experience being not considered very well.

I had a customer of ours who was telling me that he's in the media industry.  They run a large automotive marketplace.  He compared his website, occasionally, to that one house in the neighborhood where the lady with the 50 cats lives.  It looks okay from the outside, but nobody wants to go in it.  So, we have to ask ourselves, “Why does this happen?”

One reason is that marketing, especially marketing, tends to distrust IT.  A recent Forrester’s survey found, just this past year, that 43 percent of marketers actually believe that IT hinders business performance.  That's just not right.  Fundamentally, I think more over that the way that the business thinks about performance and their digital assets is just different from the way that we do.

This can lead to a bit of a hard time relating it back to performance.  When we talk about things like the median time to interactive page for my six page configuration transaction is exceeding the 28 second SLA.  That can get lost in translation.  Do we really expect the business to understand what all of our user experience metrics mean?  Do we really expect the business to understand what 28 seconds means?  Why not 30?  Why not five?

Fundamentally the business is monitoring a different set of KPIs.  They care about things like engagement; loyalty; growth, and so we need to start thinking about those things.  So, to get marketing and the business on board, it really takes building a narrative that describes the influence and the impact of performance on those key business performance indicators, that people in the marketing and business organizations care about.

It's just not enough to talk about latency, or errors, outside of context.  We need to be able to relate those to the business context.  So, it's more clear to say things like, “When a change that has been introduced to the website has increased the average time to first paint.”  I can see that it correlated to an increase in exit rate.  Well now you're starting to talk about abandonment.  Or, perhaps when you see a slight increase in errors that compares to a decrease in average session time.  Well, that relates to impression count that IP delivered, which relates to user engagement and revenue.  And, now we're starting to talk about things that the business cares about.

I'm exciting to announce that Keynote has been thinking about this a lot.  And, one of the things that we've just recently introduced is a new real user monitoring service, that is purpose-built to help you do just that.  It analyzes in real-time, both performance as well as user behaviors.  So, you can understand in one view, the impact of performance on these key business metrics.  I encourage you to come by the booth and check it out.

The other thing that really brings people together is rallying against a common enemy.  So, competitive comparisons are great at bringing attention from the business to your cause.  One of the first changes that the performance team made at Walmart, which is a large U.S. Retailer, was to install, on their executive office level, large flat-panel displays.  And, on those displays, they had a performance index.  For the retail industry, highlighting where Walmart fell relative to their peers.  I won’t reveal where they stood at the time when they did this, but suffice to say that they've come a long way, and made a lot of improvement.

So, appealing to the competitive instinct is a really great way of rallying around a cause.  Lastly, you really need to stimulate the senses.  Let's be real.  Business people and marketing types – they respond to shiny objects.  So, it's important to make sure that you invest the time and energy in delivering your data and your message in clear, and yet beautiful ways so that people can really understand them.  A picture says 1,000 words.  And, doing it with beautiful design goes a long way.

So, my final thoughts are:  Keep performance in context.  Use it to help elevate the conversation.  You need to get beyond talking about the behavior of technology, and beyond talking about anecdotes of performance success that might be held by other people; other organizations.  Start adopting your own language.  Create your own sense of ownership around performance that's driving business impact in your organization.  And, start talking to your marketing peers.

As my colleague Ben Rushlo said, in Santa Clara, “Come out of the Bat Cave.”  You can start, maybe, by telling them you're still a fan of Coldplay.  But, I'll leave it to you as to whether or not you decide to friend them on SnapChat.  Thanks for your time.

Duration: 10 minutes

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